‘Les Miserables’ for European domestic workers

   Ines is from a French-speaking African country where he works as a manicurist. She said she wanted to go to France to continue her studies, so her boss suggested she live with her sister near Paris. In the summer of 2016, 23-year-old Ines traveled to France with dreams of a new life. But it turned out that it was far from what she had hoped – the boss’s sister and partner with five children crammed into a dilapidated small apartment. “She told me she was going back to work after maternity leave and I was going to take care of the kids. I told her, ‘It’s okay, Auntie.’ I felt it was right to give back,” Ines said.
   It turned out to be a trap. Ines does all the housework and is not allowed to leave the apartment, she works almost 24 hours a day: whenever the child cries, she goes to coax; the whole apartment is cleaned at 4am, “even if it’s already clean”; The family prepares breakfast before waking up; sends the kids to school, then makes lunch and dinner. In addition, the boss’s sister and children often took her out, verbally and physically abusing her, and she even had to eat scraps to make ends meet. Later, with the help of the French NGO “Committee Against Modern Slavery”, she started a new life.
   Ines’ case is disturbing, but not an isolated one. According to the Global Slavery Index, about 129,000 people were in this situation in France in 2016. Some other European countries have even worse numbers. An estimated 145,000 people live in conditions of modern slavery in Italy, 167,000 in Germany and 136,000 in the UK.

   The scorching sun scorches the village of Dangamar in the Indian state of Maharashtra. The small village, about 140 kilometers from Mumbai, has no taps and relies on two wells at the foot of a nearby mountain. People have to trek for hours and queue for hours to get on the water. That place is always crowded. For many in Dangamar, there is only one solution: “water wives.”
   Saharam Bagget, a 70-year-old farm worker, has three wives. CNN reported that he did this not for dowry or lust, but for a very simple reason: to fetch water. “Someone has to fetch water for our family. My only option is to get another wife,” Baggett said. In India, polygamy is illegal for Hindus, but “water wives” are common.
   In summer, the weather is terribly hot, the sun cracks the land, dries the wells, and kills the cattle, and there is no river, no canal, and no running water in the village of Dangamar. It is located in a remote hilly area, away from other villages. For the villagers, transportation is a downright luxury.
   The only way is to walk to a well or river and fetch water from a can to carry it home. Back and forth, a trip to the water can take hours. “How does this work with the kids being left alone for so long?” Tukey asked himself. Bagg is particularly out of options. He got married a second time, then a third. Now, “Wife 2” Saki and “Wife 3” Bucky fetch water, while Tukey manages the house and children.

   Chinese businessman Chen Xianzhong has been operating in Iraq for nearly 40 years. He told reporters that the Iraq war launched by the United States in 2003 left untold wounds to this ancient civilization and oil-rich country. He is most concerned about the serious unemployment problem. Demonstrations continued in the capital Baghdad and in several southern Iraqi provinces. At the entrance of Tahrir Square and the “Green Zone” in the center of Baghdad, there are always young people holding placards and shouting slogans, and their demands are “work, fight corruption.”
   Due to the US invasion and occupation, Iraq’s infrastructure has been completely destroyed, and the destruction of infrastructure is reflected in the people’s water and electricity consumption. The southern city of Basra is Iraq’s largest port and second largest city, through which the Tigris and Euphrates rivers flow into the Persian Gulf. Chen Xianzhong lived in Basra for a while not long ago. The tap water in his residence was bitter and salty. It was said that it was taken from the water of the “two rivers” near the mouth of the sea, and it had only undergone simple purification treatment. In 2018, at least 118,000 people in Basra were hospitalized due to contaminated water.
   The power shortage problem has also caused Iraqi people to suffer. Especially in the hot summer, the power shortage has made Iraqi people angry. In June and July last year, hundreds of demonstrators in Wasit province in southern Iraq ran to the Aziziya power station to protest and clashed with Iraqi security forces. When the then Iraqi Minister of Electricity Hantoush was forced to submit his resignation, local media said that this was the 18th Minister of Electricity to step down in the past 10 years.

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