Modern Slavery under the cloud of curry – by MEP Slavi Binev

We all take going out for a meal, to a restaurant or even having a takeaway as a little luxury, but rarely considering the people who made it.
In the modern post slavery world, where social movements of the past decades produced the modern civil rights, including the rights of just compensation, where numerous institutions have been established to protect workers and regulate employment, such as the International Labour Organization (ILO), and where the access of the media to every part of the social life is more present than ever, it would be expected that slavery would have no place.
The situation though is much different in reality. This has become apparent during the last years when the movement of populations between continents has become easier than ever before. Populations from Asia or Africa, dealing with poverty and war in their native countries, are moving to the “free” world, the world of hope and prosperity, in search for a better future of their own and their families.
This journey though is neither easy nor their destination is what they hoped or were promised it would be. On their way to the “promise-land” they face desperation and humiliation and even greater tragedy awaits when they reach their destination.
An example of this are the immigrants moving from South Asian countries, such as Pakistan, Bangladesh or Sri Lanka, to Europe or the USA in search for a better life, without the constant presence of violence and desperation. Most of these immigrants in search of a better life for them and their families, leave behind loves ones, promising to send back money until they can afford to send the money for tickets to be reunited. Many are obliged to sell their properties and take a loan with a particularly high monthly interest rate, in order to pay the fees requested by traffickers who then provide their temporary visitor’s visas and work “opportunities”. Some make it to their destinations of choice, but then face a reality much different than what they had been promised, in many cases even worse than that in their countries of origin. Having no official documents allowing them to legally seek employment, they become easy targets for exploiters who force them to work and live under inhumane conditions, deprived from sleep and food, while the wages provided to them is insanely low.
Recent cases which were brought to light highlighted the case of the “Indian Curry Houses”. The majority of the people being “employed” by such Asian food restaurants, “Curry Houses”, have been regularly targeted by immigration officers as their staff are brought over on legal work permits as “specialist cooks” but they then disappear through the myriad of operations ran by the trafficking gangs. It was found that many of those working illegally in Asian restaurants are put through a situation of constant fear and coercion, a situation of modern slavery.
Not having enough income to live a normal standard life and not being able to pay off the people who provided them with the travel documents, they live under constant stress and often intolerable living conditions. The way back to their homeland is no longer an option since, as many of them confess, their families there invested on them a great deal of money and going back would be considered a failure.
This is another world, an “underworld”, which exists beyond the eyes of modern society, beyond the lights of the modern human rights which the western world holds so high. Modern slavery is a fact, a present situation, and Europe collectively needs to deal with it taking effective and sustainable measures that will address the issue to its heart.
Europe is a union of values that needs to reflect the beliefs of its people. We cannot simply observe this situation happening without taking any action to tackle it. The European Union has the necessary mechanisms and experience to deal with this problem and the European leadership needs to stand up and take initiatives in this matter. Only if the problem is addressed collectively by all the European counties, focusing both in domestic measures and foreign policy, in assisting with the development and the human rights crisis in the countries of origin, will European policy have a real impact in dealing with this phenomenon

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