Human trafficking still widespread

SLAVERY conjures up imagery of shackled Africans dejectedly being led by white Europeans to quaysides before being shipped to plantations abroad. Most think of slavery as a past peculiarity put to rights by its abolition towards the latter part of the 18th Century. This is masterful self-deception as is much else on the controversial subject.

The first officially recognised slave dealer in Virginia, a state notorious for slavery, was Anthony Johnson. He was a freed indentured black man who in 1654 successfully argued in court that his servant, John Casor was his slave for life.

Johnson went on to become highly successful as a slave dealer. .

The term slave is derived from the Byzantine Greek sklabos, the name given to Slavs. The Spanish name for salves is ‘esclavos’ phonetically similar to the word’s origin.

The Vikings did a roaring trade capturing and selling Slavs to the Romans. There is no condemnation of slavery in the Bible though slave owners were reminded of their duty to treat their charges well.

Life in shackles moved on. In 1822 the African nation of Liberia was founded on the initiative of U.S. President James Monroe. The country’s capital Monrovia is named after him. Another twist in the neck-brace was that Liberian-Americans regarded Africans as savages; there was strict apartheid and natives were denied citizenship.

Slavery was widespread and perfectly normal in Africa long before the Europeans arrived. It still is in many parts. Historically they were well treated. The better they were looked after the higher the social standing of their owner.

The Europeans became notorious for ill-treatment towards slaves bought from African merchants.

Statistically there were more Europeans enslaved by African Arabs than the other way around. Along Europe’s Mediterranean coasts, forts and turrets are reminders. Entire towns and villages were depopulated.

There is hardly a nation whose peoples have not suffered slavery. It was condoned by the Catholic Church during the 15th and 16th centuries. Pope Nicolas V issued a papal bull: “We grant you (Kings of Spain and Portugal) full and free permission to invade, search out, capture and subjugate Saracens and pagans and any other unbelievers and enemies of Christ wherever they may be   …   and to reduce their persons into perpetual slavery.”

According to anti-slavery groups there are 27 million people currently enslaved throughout the world; more than at any time in human history.

Three quarters are female and over half of them children. This figure does not include indentured slaves; those working off a debt. A study at Berkeley University estimates there are 10,000 slaves in today’s United States.

Slavery is not a 17th Century phenomenon. All sides during World War Two practiced slavery in violation of Geneva Convention, Article 75. According to a congressional report; March 29 1946 the Russians were rounding up Germans in seized territories from where they transported an estimated 4 to 5 million, mostly civilians, to the USSR. These unfortunates were to supplement 20 million slaves estimated to be enslaved in the Soviet Union’s gulag.

This was approved by the allies as reparations. The British, French and American victors also used captives as slaves long after the war’s end.

The International Red Cross (IRC) revealed that 18-months after the war’s end France were using 680,000 German POWs as slaves.

The French government practiced a similar scheme to that of the British. They hired slaves to French employers at 150 francs a day for which the slaves received in return 10 francs and their upkeep.

Britain’s German POW slave population was estimated by the IRC as 460,000.

The last of these were released in late 1948.


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