The climate crisis is causing severe droughts, megafires, and floods across the world, forcing rural workers to migrate to urban centers to find new employment and income. Yet strict immigration policies and the lack of labor rights are increasingly put these workers at risk of trafficking, debt bondage, and sexual exploitation.
According to a new report published by researchers at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and Anti-Slavery International, drought in northern Ghana has forced young men and women to migrate from out of devastated rural areas to cities.
One woman in Accra who works as a porter (kayayie) explained that “Working as a kayayie has not been easy for me. When I came here, I did not know anything about the work. I was told that the woman providing our pans will also feed us and give us accommodation. However, all my earnings go to her and only sometimes will she give me a small part of the money I’ve earned.”
The Guardian reports:
In the Sundarbans, on the border between India and Bangladesh, severe cyclones have caused flooding in the delta, reducing the land available for farming. With countries in the region tightening immigration restrictions, researchers found that smugglers and traffickers operating in the disaster-prone region were targeting widows and men desperate to cross the border to India to find employment and income.
Trafficking victims were often forced into hard labour and prostitution, with some working in sweatshops along the border.
Fran Witt, a climate change and modern slavery adviser at Anti-Slavery International, said: “Our research shows the domino effect of climate change on millions of people’s lives. Extreme weather events contribute to environmental destruction, forcing people to leave their homes and leaving them vulnerable to trafficking, exploitation and slavery.”
The World Bank estimates that 216 million people around the world will be forced to leave their homes due to the impacts of the climate crisis, including poor crop yields, a lack of water, and rising sea levels. This new report comes ahead of the COP26 Climate Summit in Glasgow in November, urging world leaders to recognize the links between the climate emergency and modern slavery.
“The world cannot continue to turn a blind eye to the forced labour, modern slavery and human trafficking that’s being fuelled by climate change. Addressing these issues needs to be part and parcel of global plans to tackle climate change,” said Ritu Bharadwaj, a researcher for the IIED.