January is National Human Trafficking Prevention month, an opportunity to recognize the victims of human trafficking and bring visibility and awareness to the issue. The people JRS serves around the world, refugees and displaced people, are particularly vulnerable to trafficking. Forcibly displaced people flee from violence or persecution and are often separated from their support systems and family, without financial resources, in difficult legal status or position, and holding psychological damage from trauma they’ve experienced — all circumstances which could make them vulnerable to traffickers who prey on people lack security and opportunity.
As of 2018, the Global Slavery Index estimates that 40.3 million men, women, and children were victims in 2016. Most often, the victims come from already vulnerable populations such as migrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers. According to a 2017 report from the International Labor Organization (ILO), 71% of this number are women and girls. However, due to the limited data, even these statistics are widely known to be unreliable as this issue is difficult to track. Human trafficking takes on many forms, but the most reported include various types of forced labor and sex trafficking.
A top trend found in human trafficking according to the Global Slavery Index is that the most widely impacted areas are locations suffering from conflict—which also suffers from of a high level of forced displacement.
Our faith and our Church call us to pray for victims and raise awareness about the violence and injustice that impacts the victims of human trafficking. Pope Frances has said, “there are issues where you are morally obligated to take a side, such as human trafficking. You cannot be neutral. If you don’t take a stand against it, if you don’t do something to fight it, you’re contributing to the continued existence of this tremendous injustice. Open your eyes to reality.”
He declared February 9th as the International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking as it is the feast of St. Josephine Bachata, the patron saint of anti-trafficking who was kidnapped as a child and sold into slavery in southern Sudan and Italy.
JRS provides a variety of programs in these areas, allowing for safe spaces and opportunities for all refugees and other forcibly displaced persons and will continue to do so. However, it takes a variety of components to combat human trafficking including humanitarian action and government intervention. We ask that you do your part by opening your heart to these victims, including your displaced brothers and sisters. Find out more at the Vatican Dicastery for Integral Human Development’s Refugee and Migrants Section’s website.