’Slavery’ rife in Brazil

The BBC and The Guardian media services have published findings from an International Labour Organisation (ILO) report, outlining the extent of the inhumane working conditions thousands of men, women and children are being forced into in the South American country.

Five ILO workers have conducted the study which was said to have found that the practice of forced labour was concentrated in the Amazon, where vast swathes of forest are being cleared to make way for livestock and crops.

The remote location of the hovels where many labourers are kept often precludes the chance of escape, along with the presence of armed guards.

The Amazon state of Para was reportedly the worst-affected area, with 534 rural worker deaths recorded over the past 30 years – 26 times the national homicide average.

Many others simply disappear.

“The scandalous fact is that many federal congressmen and regional politicos have been found using slave labour on their cattle ranches,” the report’s author, and former Guardian journalist, Jan Rocha told The Guardian.

Ms Rocha was quoted as saying Brazil’s government had caved in to pressure from the landowners’ lobby and delayed a bill allowing the confiscation of estates held by ranchers found to be keeping slave workers.

So far, President Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva’s government is reported to have freed 5,400 slave workers, and compensated them to the tune of £1.4 million ($AUD 3.56 million).

According to The Guardian, the report has concluded the only way slavery will disappear is if everyone regards it as a ‘national outrage’, all workers are registered, and tougher punishments are enforced.

Copies of the report were received by the BBC and The Guardian amid allegations it had been suppressed because of the shocking statistics it contains.

The head of the ILO’s forced labour program in Geneva is said to have denied the claims.

Roger Plant reportedly told The Guardian the report has been held up by the inclusion of updated statistical information ahead of its release next year.

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