Turkey ranks fifth out of 151 countries in the 2023 Global Slavery Index, according to a study published on Wednesday by the Australian human rights organisation Walk Free. The study reveals that more than 1.3 million people in Turkey are living in conditions of modern slavery.
The index defines modern slavery to include forced labour, debt bondage, forced marriage, slavery-like practices, and human trafficking, practices often linked to conflict-ridden or anti-democratic countries.
North Korea tops the list with a prevalence rate of 104 per cent, followed by Eritrea, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey with a 15.6 per cent prevalence rate. Countries with the highest prevalence of modern slavery are often affected by conflicts, forced labour by the state, and weak governance.
Turkey’s government faces criticism for human rights violations, including restrictions on freedoms for journalists and critics. The country also hosts around 3.5 million Syrian refugees under temporary protection who are targeted and viewed as a source of cheap labour, exacerbating social and economic problems.
According to Gazete Duvar correspondent Ferhat Yaşar’s report, a Palestinian refugee faced dismissal from his job and eviction from his house after suffering a leg injury in a construction site accident. The individual has been enduring excruciating pain and inhumane conditions, waiting for assistance for several days beneath Istanbul’s historic aqueduct.
Additionally, with the highest proportion in Europe, over 40 per cent of workers in Turkey earn the minimum wage, leading to complaints about excessive working hours and undesired jobs.
While the index shows Switzerland, Norway, Germany, the Netherlands, and Sweden as the countries with the lowest prevalence of modern slavery, below 1 per cent, the study report emphasises that low prevalence among the G20 should not mask their responsibility.
The study estimates that around 50 million people were living under modern slavery conditions in 2021, a rise of 10 million since 2016. The report also highlights the importation of goods at risk of being produced through forced labour, amounting to $468 billion for the European Union and G20 countries.
The ready-made garment industry, palm oil, and solar panels are listed in the report as sectors that contribute significantly to this risk. However, modern slavery has permeated various aspects of society, the report concludes, from clothing to electronics, and food production, perpetuating exploitation without consumers’ awareness, the study report concludes.