Four Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia and the UAE, ranked among the ten countries globally with highest prevalence of modern slavery in the 2023 Global Slavery Index.
The report indicated that the sponsorship system, also known as kafala, adopted by Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait restricts the rights of foreign workers, which raises the slavery index in those countries.
Mauritania, which in 1981 became the last country in the world to classify inherited slavery as illegal, ranked third in the index.
The basic principle of slavery, according to the index, is based on the “systematic removal of a person’s freedom”, from the right to accept or refuse to work, to the freedom to determine the desire to marry, when and with whom.
The report, whose data was collected by the Walk Free Human Rights Organisation, defines modern slavery as including “forced labour, forced or bonded marriage, debt bondage, forced commercial sexual exploitation, human trafficking, slavery-like practices, and the sale and exploitation of children.”
North Korea topped the list of global slavery index with one in ten people in modern slavery, followed by Eritrea and Mauritania. Other countries included in the top ten list are Turkiye, Tajikistan, Russia and Afghanistan.
According to the report about 50 million people lived in situations of modern slavery on any given day in 2021.
“Of these people, approximately 27.6 million were in forced labour and 22 million were in forced marriages.”