Almost 75% of member states have witnessed a spike in modern slavery risks in the last year –– and it’s the exploitation of vulnerable migrants driving the rise in agricultural sectors.
According to the second edition of the Modern Slavery Index (MSI), the five EU countries posing the highest risk are Romania, Greece, Italy, Cyprus and Bulgaria, all of which are key entry points for migrants into the region who are extremely vulnerable to exploitation.
The research has examined 198 countries, including the 28 EU member states, looking into the strength of their laws, the effectiveness of enforcement and the severity of violations.
There has been a decline in the scores for 20 countries across Europe, including Britain which has shown a negative shift from being classified as “low risk” to now going over the threshold into the “medium risk” category. The same is true for Germany, which demonstrates how even the EU’s biggest economies are not immune to the rise in slavery risk, according to the report.
Which countries rank the worst?
The slavery situation in Romania is classified as deteriorating worse than any other country in the world, falling 56 places in the ranking where it is now placed as 66th highest risk.
Italy is ranked at 133rd at risk and fell 16 places to have the worst reported violations in the EU, including issues like servitude and trafficking.
More than 100,000 migrants have come into Europe by sea in 2017, 85% of which have landed in Italy, according to the International Organisation for Migration.
In contrast, arrivals in Greece have significantly declined since the 2016 signing of the EU-Turkey Refugee Agreement, however the country remains a “key destination for human trafficking”, according to the report and dropped 17 places in the index.
Verisk Maplecroft believes the presence of vulnerable migrant populations in the primary countries of arrival is a key contributor for increases in slavery across multiple sectors in the region, including agriculture.
Due to the geographic shift in migrant sea arrivals, Verisk Maplecroft expects the risk of modern slavery to worsen in Italy over the next year, with agriculture a sector of concern.
“The migrant crisis has increased the risk of slavery incidents appearing in company supply chains across Europe,” states Sam Haynes, senior human rights analyst at Verisk Maplecroft.
“It is no longer just the traditional sourcing hotspots in the emerging economies that businesses should pay attention to when risk assessing their suppliers and the commodities they source.”
What’s happening outside the EU?
Looking outside of Europe, the world’s second largest drop in the MSI is for Turkey which has fallen from 110th to 58th which means it is slipping into the “high risk” category.
Hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees have descended on the country in recent times, alongside Turkey’s restrictive work permit system –– two factors which have contributed to the risk rating as well as a lack of policing on labour violations in the country.
Forced labour is high in Asia and India
The risks of forced labour and other violations should firmly be on the radar of companies sourcing from Asia and other emerging markets, according to the report.
The chief Asian manufacturing hubs, Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines and Thailand, all feature in the ‘extreme’ or ‘high risk’ categories.
India and Thailand have made improvements in scores but are still rated as “extreme risk”, while manufacturing hubs like Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, and the Philippines all feature in the ‘extreme’ or ‘high risk’ categories.
Shifting from 15th worst to 49th, India has improved more than any other country and Thailand’s national programme aimed at eliminating slavery and trafficking is having an impact, moving it 21 places up the ranking to 48th highest risk.
China, ranked 21st in the index, remains firmly entrenched among the worst performing countries in the “extreme risk” category. North Korea, Syria, South Sudan, Yemen, DR Congo, Sudan, Iran, Libya, Eritrea and Turkmenistan are rated by the Modern Slavery Index as posing the highest risk of all countries measured.