The business of modern slavery: forced migration and forced labour in a failed state

This seminar describes how slavery like situations may occur in transit states. It develops Arendt’s analysis of xenophobic crystallisation to show how under conditions of rightlessness, the interests of the ‘mob’ and capital may give way to economic exploitation and slavery. Drawing upon data gathered as part of an ESRC funded project which included a study of 300 migrants who crossed from Libya to Sicily, it describes how migrants may become increasingly vulnerable to abuse over the course of the migratory process and eventually find themselves absorbed into informal situations of forced labour. It notes how in the absence of governance, opportunistic and often small scale business has exploited the presence of labour in Libya, at times in concert with the police and government authorities and at times in opposition to them. This arbitrary situation is enabled as a result of a symbiotic relationship between employers and the police, built on the circularity of bribes and a shared animosity towards non-Muslim migrants.