When Pope Francis spoke April 11, 2019, to participants of the International Conference on Human Trafficking: ‘A wound on the body of contemporary humanity’, organized by the Migrants and Refugees Section of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, he turned to the Gospel of John for the words to put the scourge of human trafficking into perspective:
“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (Jn 10: 10).
“This phrase of the Gospel of John summarizes Jesus’ mission: to offer life in fullness to all men and women of every age, according to the plan of the Father.,” the Holy Father said. “The Son of God made Himself man to show to all human beings the way of fulfillment of their humanity, in conformity with the uniqueness and unrepeatability of each one.
“Unfortunately, the world at present is sadly marked by situations that hinder the fulfillment of this mission. As highlighted in the Pastoral Orientations on Human Trafficking, ‘our times have witnessed a growth of individualism and egocentricity, attitudes that tend to regard others through a lens of cool utility, valuing them according to criteria of convenience and personal benefit’.”
Today, July 30, 2019, the Pope’s ongoing appeal for an end to human trafficking is joined by Church and secular leaders around the world, including the Holy Father’s native Argentina.
“We ask the God of life for the courage and decision to listen to the cry for help of so many sisters and brothers deprived of their dignity and their freedom, and to accompany them, defend them, looking for paths to a quick and lasting solution to this crime.” This is the appeal launched by the Bishops’ Commission for the pastoral care of migrants and itinerants (CEMI) of the Argentine Bishops’ Conference on the occasion of the World Day against Trafficking.
“The protection of minors is an integral part of the Gospel message hence there is need to create a safe environment for them, giving priority to their interests”, said the Archbishop of Blantayre, Malawi, Msg. Thomas Luke Msusa, addressing the African Bishops during the meeting, which has recently concluded, with SECAM (Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar).
Msusa, who is the Vice-Chairman of Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA), has exhorted African bishops to root out for causes of child trafficking, child labor and children soldier to ensure that children are well protected in all aspects.
Trafficking is a problem for children as well as adults, a point made especially clear in a just-released report. And the problem is growing.
A quarter of suspected or identified trafficking victims in Europe are children and the main goal of human traffickers is sexual exploitation – a new report released by Save the Children finds. Out of 20,500 victims who were registered in the European Union in 2015-16, 56 percent of cases were related to trafficking for sexual exploitation, while 26 percent of cases were related to labor exploitation. One in four victims is under 18 and two out of three victims are women or girls.
The report finds that 1,660 victims of trafficking were estimated to be living in Italy, with the number of underage victims increasing in a year from 9 percent to 13 percent. The growing trend was also confirmed by the assessment of operators of Save the Children’s Vie d’Uscita – Exit Routes project, which in 2018, in only five regions, have intercepted 2,210 victims of child trafficking who were either underage or just over the age of 18. This number grew by 58 percent, compared to 1,396 victims estimated in 2017.
“On this World Day against Trafficking in Persons, let us reaffirm our commitment to stop criminals from ruthlessly exploiting people for profit and to help victims rebuild their lives,” urged UN Secretary-General António Guterres.
Human trafficking is a crime that exploits women, children, and men for numerous purposes including forced labor and sex. Since 2003 the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has collected information on about 225,000 victims of trafficking detected worldwide. Globally countries are detecting and reporting more victims, and are convicting more traffickers. This can be the result of increased capacity to identify victims and/or an increased number of trafficked victims.
Every country in the world is affected by human trafficking, whether as a country of origin, transit, or destination for victims, according to the UN. Traffickers the world over continue to target women and girls. The vast majority of detected victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation and 35 percent of those trafficked for forced labour are female. Conflict further exacerbates vulnerabilities, with armed groups exploiting civilians and traffickers targeting forcibly displaced people. Data also shows that trafficking happens all around us as the share of persons trafficked within their own country has doubled in recent years to 58 percent of all detected victims, according to the 2018 UNODC Global Report on Trafficking in Persons.
In 2010, the General Assembly adopted the Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons, urging Governments worldwide to take coordinated and consistent measures to defeat this scourge. The Plan calls for integrating the fight against human trafficking into the UN’s broader programs in order to boost development and strengthen security worldwide. One of the crucial provisions in the Plan is the establishment of a UN Voluntary Trust Fund for victims of trafficking, especially women and children.
“All the actions that aim to restore and promote our humanity and that of others are in line with the mission of the Church, as a continuation of Jesus Christ’s salvific mission,” according to Pope Francis. “And this missionary value is evident in the struggle against all forms of trafficking and in commitment towards the redemption of the survivors; a struggle and a commitment that also have beneficial effects on our own humanity, opening the way to the fullness of life, the ultimate aim of our existence.”