45 Million Slaves

Quarry rescue in Chennai, India.

Quarry rescue in Chennai, India.


WDR partners with the International Justice Mission UK (IJM) whose aim is to eradicate violence against the poor. Their work involves working with local police to rescue those suffering violence, restoring them to their communities, restraining the criminals involved and seeking justice through the courts.

IJM targets those not sufficiently protected by their justice systems. This includes modern day slaves. It may still be a shock for many of us that slaves exist at all in our modern world. Up to recently I would have quoted the statistic of there being approximately 30 million slaves in the world but the Global Slavery Index Report ( for 2016 states that it is much higher than previously thought; 45 million. 30 million of these are in Asia with North Korea having the highest relative incidence with 4.4 of its population being enslaved. India has the highest number for any one country with a figure of 18.4 million. 58% of slaves are in five countries: India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Uzbekistan. However, as the report authors say themselves’ “Slavery’s hidden nature means actual numbers are likely to be far, far higher”.

Before quoting any more figures, it is maybe best to define what we mean by slavery. Slight variations on a definition exist but the Global Slavery Index (GSI) refers to situations of exploitation that a person cannot refuse or leave because of threats, violence, coercion, abuse of power or deception e.g. their passport may be taken if they are in a foreign country or their family may be threatened. I am conscious that by using the term ‘modern day slavery’, it may seem to diminish the horror of what people suffer, compared to what we may assume (indeed know) what the ‘trans-Atlantic slaves’ of centuries gone by had to endure. This would be a huge error.

Here is recent action taken by IJM in relation to the rescue of some modern day slaves:

CHENNAI, INDIA, May 24, 2016

On Tuesday, IJM helped local authorities rescue 10 children, women and men from slavery at a grueling rock-crushing facility in southern India. These families had taken small monetary loans from the quarry owner, who then used impossible interest rates and constant violence to keep them under his control. He moved them around wherever work was available and forced them to work from dawn to dusk, breaking heavy rocks for hours on end. One family had been trapped in bonded labour slavery at this quarry for the last six years. Two of their four young children were born in the facility, and the harsh conditions were all they had ever known. On the day of the rescue, injuries on their small bodies showed they, too, had been forced to work. The second family had previously escaped the facility, when the owner allowed them to leave and take care of their sick father. Once he found out the father had died, however, he tracked the couple down, beat them, and brought them back to the facility to work.

The families lived in extremely poor conditions, with no electricity, proper shelter or adequate food. Children were not allowed to go to school. Everyone faced constant verbal and physical abuse from the quarry owner.

The IJM-trained government officials working on the case were deeply moved by the harsh conditions these families faced, and they moved quickly into action to bring them to safety. All six adults were issued official release certificates to absolve the false debts used to control them. The labourers also received rehabilitation funds to help start their lives in freedom.

From here, IJM will help the families return to their home villages and find safe housing and dignified work. They will join our two-year aftercare program to equip them with life skills, job training and hope for the future.


Our world is a very dark place for many millions of people. Most of us reading this blog are sheltered from the cruel reality of slavery and we should be thankful for that. However, we know it exists. Irish Methodist World Development & Relief will continue to work alongside International Justice Mission UK as it fights slavery across the globe. View the video of our partner’s work.

The Global Slavery Index report is compiled by the Walk Free Foundation and can be found at

International Justice Mission UK can be found at