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UN Holds Session on Slavery - 2002-05-30

The United Nations is holding a special session in Geneva to draw attention to what U.N. officials say is an increasing problem worldwide: slavery. International rights groups say that some 27 million people are forcibly employed around the world.

Officials at the U.N.'s human rights commission say slavery today can take many forms, but it is not all that different from the slavery of centuries ago. People are forced to do things against their will.

Mike Kaye is a spokesman for Anti-Slavery International. He says human trafficking - selling people from one country to another - is one of the most pervasive forms of modern-day slavery. According to Mr. Kaye, each year about 700,000 women and children are sold across borders, usually to be used as forced laborers or for sexual exploitation.

"With trafficking in human beings, no country can say that [it] has nothing to do with [them]," he said. "The vast majority of countries in the world are either sending countries, transit countries or destination countries. And some of them are even all three. So all countries have responsibility to deal with [trafficking]."

Mr. Kaye says Anti-Slavery International is urging governments to offer support and protection to victims of trafficking. It also wants governments throughout the world to grant victims of trafficking at least temporary immigrant status. He says this will allow them to stay in a country when and if the people responsible for selling them are prosecuted.

Though the U.N. says some countries, especially those in South Asia, are making advances in eliminating slavery, slavery continues to thrive in other parts of the world.

UNICEF, the U.N. children's agency, says there are between 10,000 and 17,000 slaves in Sudan.