A Derry charity worker has branded a “global scandal” the fact that more than 12 million people are trapped in slavery.
Lawrence McBride, Trocaire’s north-west development officer, was speaking as the world marked Human Rights Day.
“Over 60 years ago, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stated that no-one should be held in slavery, yet there are still millions of people trapped in forced labour because they are poor, powerless and vulnerable,” said Mr. McBride.
“The fact that, in 2011, a person can own and abuse the life of another is an affront to justice and everything the declaration stands for. The tragedy is that slaves can be any age and even include young children separated from their parents and forced to work on farms, in brick kilns or even making jewellery.”
Mr. McBride explained that poor people often become slaves when their only option to survive is to borrow from their employer under terms they can never realise or they inherit their slavery from a previous generation.
“They are denied their basic human rights every day, including education and health, and forced to work long hours in unhealthy working conditions. As many slaves lack literacy skills, their employer or debtor often abuses this by changing records to indicate greater debt exists, making it impossible to escape from slavery.”
Trocaire, he says, has freed 5,000 people from slavery since 2006 in Pakistan, an achievement that, according to Lawrence, is thanks to Derry people.
“We have been able to work through the legal system in Pakistan to free enslaved people and support workers unions in forming and standing up for their rights.
“Our work to protect such an important human rights is possible because people from Derry continue to support Trocaire so generously,” he said.
Trocaire has included the ‘gift of freedom’ in its Christmas Global Gifts range to raise funds to help free even more people caught in slavery.”
“Donations made to our gift of freedom will give enslaved people a gift they could never have imagined; ownership over their own lives so they can, with Trocaire’s support, build a better future.”
To buy a Trocaire Global Gift log onto www.trocaire.org/globalgift, call 0800 912 1200, visit an Avoca and Veritas outlet or the Trocaire centre at 50 King Street Belfast.