Caritas calls for a wave of solidarity against human trafficking
By Lisa Zengarini
As the Church observes the eighth World Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking, on February 8, Caritas Internationalis is urging all people of goodwill to help counteract the culture of indifference and exclusion that often surrounds the victims. “This requires a wave of solidarity to receive, accompany and defend the victims, who need to be received with unconditional compassion and must be protected”, said Aloysius John, secretary-general of Caritas Internationalis, noting that the victims are often “invisible”.
Addressing causes of human trafficking
John further points out that human trafficking cannot be eradicated without addressing its root causes, notably extreme poverty, also triggered by conflicts and violence, as well as environmental degradation and climate changes.
“As Pope Francis called us to do, we should be ‘promoters of an economy of care’, that ‘cares for work, creating employment opportunities that do not exploit workers through degrading working conditions and gruelling hours.’”, John added.
Caritas Internationalis, whose 162 members work with victims and is a member of COATNET –a coalition of Catholic NGOs engaged in the fight against human trafficking – also calls for concrete action to prevent human trafficking, as well as protecting those who suffer this crime.
It addresses itself specifically to governments asking them to implement the UN Palermo Protocol on human trafficking and other relevant conventions; to improve protective and supportive services for survivors of human trafficking among people on the move; to establish national anti-trafficking plans and to ensure that victims receive adequate care, qualified protection and access to justice.
The Day of Prayer against Human Trafficking was established in 2015 by the then Pontifical Councils for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People and for Justice and by the International Unions of Men and Women Religious Superiors (IUSG), following Pope Francis’ appeal to fight human trafficking and take care of the victims.
The international prayer service is organized by Talitha Kum, a global network organization of women religious founded by IUSG who advocate for and help victims of human trafficking. The day is significantly marked on the Feast of St Josephine Bakhita, a former Sudanese slave canonized in 2000 by Pope Saint John Paul II and patron saint of modern Sudan and of all victims of human trafficking.
A hidden crime
The number of human trafficking victims has significantly increased in the past decade and has further surged during the COVID-19 crisis.
Although found in every country across the world, human trafficking, either for sexual exploitation, forced labour, domestic servitude or other forms of exploitation, remains a hidden crime, with traffickers preying upon the marginalized and impoverished.
In 2020, 109,216 victims of human trafficking were identified worldwide. However, they only represent the tip of a much deeper iceberg. Indeed, the International Labour Organization (ILO) has estimated that there are over 40 million victims globally.
Women and children
Women and girls account for many of the victims trafficked especially for sexual exploitation. Also children living in extremely poor households are especially vulnerable. Globally, one in every three victims detected is a child, but in low-income countries, children account for half of the victims detected, most of them trafficked for forced labour.
Though more traffickers have been brought to justice since the UN Trafficking in Persons Protocol entered into force nearly 20 years ago, most cases still remain unpunished.