Forced migration is one root cause of human trafficking

Pope Francis calls human trafficking a crime against humanity because it “constitutes an unjustifiable violation of the freedom and dignity of the victims.”

Human trafficking is slavery. It involves the exploitation of vulnerable people, coercing them into forced labour.

A young Rohingya girl
Photo by Aurélie Marrier d’Unienville/Caritas

According to a 2012 International Labour Organization (ILO) report, 21 million people are victims of forced labour.

The Asia-Pacific region accounts for the largest number of forced labourers in the world with 11.7 million victims (56 percent of the global total).

How to combat Human Trafficking

A workshop of Taiwan’s National Immigration Agency on “Strategies to Combat Human Trafficking” was being held on 25 and 26 July.

Caritas Internationalis president Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle and its secretary general Aloysius John will speak, along with a trafficking expert from Caritas India.

An environment in which trafficking flourishes is created by conflict, forced migration due to the climate crisis and inequality, the sex trade, the demand for cheap labour and the profits that can be made by criminals.

“Human Trafficking is a question of injustice,” said Aloysius John. “Addressing this complex question leads us to first ask ourselves why people are leaving and what are the underlying causes that brings them to leave their homeland, their homes and families and take an unknown road t. It is here they fall prey to the unscrupulous human traffickers.”

Data tracking

Tackling human trafficking means tackling the root causes, introducing preventative measures, helping the victims and ensuring safe legal pathways for migration.

The Vatican’s Dicastery for Integral Human Development released its Pastoral Guidelines on Human Trafficking which emphasized the importance of speaking up and denouncing the suffering of millions bought and sold for labour and exploitation.

In one initiative, Caritas and other Church organisations have developed an anti-trafficking project along the migration routes of three countries: Malawi, Eswatini (Swaziland) and South Africa.

The project will raise awareness at the grassroots and allows communities to protect themselves, while identifying and addressing victims’ needs. It will also create a better understanding of human trafficking and challenges of anti-trafficking initiatives in Africa.

Caritas is working on collecting quality data to better understand trends and the needs of survivors, and to use that information to help governments implement better laws and better support for victims.

Supply chains

Many people and the media would identify human trafficking with the kidnapping and sale of women and children into the sex industry. And trafficking for sexual exploitation continues to be the most detected form.

According to the ILO, human trafficking generates a profit of $150 billion per year. While two-thirds is made from commercial sexual exploitation, the remainder comes from forced economic exploitation such as domestic work and agriculture.

Women and children uprooted by the drought in Somalia. Photo by Mohamed Sheik Nor/Catholic Relief Services

Forced labour is being used to fill labour shortages everywhere along supply chains. For example, East and South Asian migrant workers in the garment sector are vulnerable to forced labour and labour exploitation, including long working hours and forced overtime, especially during periods of high consumer demand.

“No one can wash their hands without being, in some way, an accomplice to this crime against humanity,”

Pope Francis – February 2019

Caritas is urging business and individuals to investigate the supply chains of the products they buy, to have codes of conduct and to work with suppliers and their employees to ensure compliance. It will also ensure that suppliers it uses don’t use forced labour.


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