Nearly 40 slaves have been rescued after being forced to work against their will in an illegal gold mine in Brazil. Modern day slavery remains a huge problem in many countries, and labor authorities have warned that the perpetrators are becoming more sophisticated in hiding their practices, despite human rights efforts.
According to Al Jazeera, 39 slaves were rescued by Brazilian authorities after they were forced to work for Raimunda Oliveira Nunes, a known human rights offender, in one of her gold mines. Workers lived in open sheds and were not given drinking water.
The miners described how they got trapped into the scheme after coming to the mine under the impression that it was legitimate work. Stuck in an isolated location, they were given no food unless they agreed to pay inflated prices for the items -- which quickly got the workers stuck in debt. They were not allowed to leave until it was paid off, creating a system of indentured servitude.
It is not uncommon for corrupt figures in the South American country to rely on modern day slavery, and the Australian human rights group Walk Free Foundation estimates that around 370,000 people in Brazil are currently trapped as modern-day slaves.
Even more frighteningly, it is not even a great secret among the population. In fact, there is even a "dirty list" of figures who reportedly engage in the practice. Nunes was not only on the list, but also was found guilty of "enslaving workers" two years ago. Though she received a five-year jail sentence, she remains free and is appealing the verdict.
Labor inspector Magno Riga warned that though he and his team successfully completed the raid, it was becoming more and more difficult as slavery bosses have become better at avoiding detection.
"They attempted to hide what was happening," Riga said.
He explained that Nunes had created a fake workers' cooperative so that the miners would appear to be self-employed to authorities. She was not on-site when the mine was raided, but the miners identified her as their boss.
Experts have claimed that trafficking is a major problem that persists world-wide and that more than 40 million people are currently being held against their will.
"We believe that the global estimate of 40.3 million is the most reliable data to date, although we believe it to be a conservative estimate as there were millions of people we couldn't reach in conflict zones or on the refugee trail and places where we couldn't be sure of collecting robust data such as the Gulf states, where access and language barriers prevented us from reaching the migrant worker communities," said Michaëlle de Cock, a senior statistician at the International Labour Organization, per The Guardian.
In contrast, historians estimate that around 13 million people were captured and sold between 1500 and 1900. This means that more than three times as many individuals are trapped in bondage today compared to four centuries of history.
Experts have claimed that, despite outrage and social disgust at the practice, slavery continues because it remains incredibly lucrative.
"It turns out that slavery today is more profitable than I could have imagined," claimed slavery expert Siddharth Kara.
"Total annual slavery profits estimated to be as high as $150 billion," he concluded.