Greek lawmakers were presented with evidence that modern-day slavery is being practiced in the country today and were urged by experts to accelerate action to investigate the phenomenon during the presentation of a report earlier this week to a parliamentary committee on human rights and exploitation.
According to data from the Hellenic Police (ELAS) presented by Citizens’ Protection Ministry secretary general Konstantinos Tsouvalas, officers last year investigated 26 cases of slavery involving 47 victims, of which 20 were minors.
While this marked an improvement from previous years and shows a steady decline in the number of victims – which came to 31 in 2018, 38 in 2017, 46 in 2016, 50 in 2015, 64 in 2014, 99 in 2013, 94 in 2012, 97 in 2011 and 92 in 2010 – experts said the phenomenon cannot be played down.
“What is needed here is cooperation with local authorities, communities, community leaders, mayors, etc, in order to instill a mentality and a policy of zero tolerance,” said Linos-Alexandre Sicilianos, the president of the European Court of Human Rights, who was one of the event’s speakers.
The judge referred to the case of a group of Bangladeshi strawberry pickers in the Peloponnesian village of Nea Manolada who were shot at by their employer for demanding unpaid wages in 2013, accusing Greek authorities of failing to get justice for the laborers.
“We are not saying that Greece is responsible for the exploitation itself, but that Greece is responsible for delays in investigating the phenomenon,” he said.
“What we are facing is a culture of impunity, which is widespread and global, which concerns an invisible and rare crime, which concerns the exploitation of humans. This is an issue not just for law enforcement and judicial authorities, but requires the mobilization of society as a whole,” added Iraklis Moskof, the Greek Foreign Ministry’s national rapporteur for combatting human trafficking.