he U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee recently approved $5 million in funding to address slavery in the West African nation of Mauritania, ranked by the Global Slavery Index as the nation with the highest percentage of its own people enslaved. This follows last year’s historic appropriation of $3 million for anti-slavery programs in the region.
It is estimated that between 10 and 20 percent of Mauritania’s 3.89 million citizens are enslaved and face horrific, inhumane conditions. A 2012 CNN special report, “Slavery’s Last Stronghold” shared the Mauritanian slaves’ plight with the world and spurred a group of activists to form The Abolition Institute.
The Chicago-based nonprofit is building on Illinois’ long history as a hub for anti-slavery movements and working with lawyers and human rights advocates to end the practice of slavery in Mauritania. Area Chicago attorneys, including Romanucci & Blandin partner Stephan Blandin, have volunteered their services to the Institute to aid in this effort.
“This grant and the Committee’s approval of $25 million for a new initiative to end modern slavery globally solidifies the message that policy makers are making a long term investment in addressing slavery in Mauritania and wherever this abhorrent situation exists,” said Blandin.