Confronting Modern Slavery, Indifference in the Middle East

Confronting Modern Slavery, Indifference in the Middle East
Photo via Megapixl

Amanda Benoy

Middle East Researcher

Global Human Rights Defence

The International Day for the Abolition of Slavery on 2 December is dedicated to raising awareness regarding modern slavery, including human trafficking, sexual exploitation, child labour, forced marriage, and forced recruitment of child soldiers. Globally, fifty million people worldwide are subject to contemporary forms of slavery. Despite efforts to raise awareness, estimates by the International Labour Organization indicate that the number of victims is on the rise. In 2014, the legally binding Protocol to the Forced Labour Convention of 1930 was adopted by the International Labour Organization. Estimates indicate that since the entry into force of the Protocol in 2016, ten million more people have become victims of modern slavery. 

Although the Middle East has the lowest overall number of victims (1.7 million), it has the highest prevalence of slavery. In 2021, the prevalence in the Middle East was 10.1%, followed by 6.9% in Europe and Central Asia. Notably, only Israel and Saudi Arabia have ratified the Protocol on Forced Labour. The 2030 Sustainable Development Goals establish target dates for ending slavery among children by 2025 and universally by 2030. If these targets are to be achieved, it is imperative that Middle East leaders ratify the Protocol on Forced Labour and implement national mechanisms on trafficking in persons to promote efforts to protect migrant workers and enhance accountability.

Sources and Further Reading

‘Global Estimates of Modern Slavery: Forced Labour and Forced Marriage’ (ILO, Walk Free, IOM, September 2022) <

documents/publication/wcms_854733.pdf> accessed 5 December 2022.

‘Ratifications of P029 - Protocol of 2014 to the Forced Labour Convention, 1930’ (ILO) <> accessed 5 December 2022.

‘Sustainable Development Goals’ (UN) <

development-goals.html#:~:text=Target%208.7%20%2D%20Take%20immediate%20and,labour%20in%20all%20its%20forms> accessed 6 December 2022,