Human trafficking victims on the rise during pandemic

Human trafficking victims need greater protection says the Vatican-based international network of Catholic charities.

Insufficient attention “was paid on the collateral damage of the ongoing pandemic, especially on migrants and informal workers, who are now more exposed to trafficking and exploitation,” Caritas Internationalis says.

Caritas voiced its concerns to highlight the plight of human trafficking victims in advance of the commemoration of the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, on 30 July.

It wants “urgent and targeted measures to support workers in informal sectors such as domestic work, agricultural and construction work, where most vulnerable workers (i.e. undocumented migrants) can be found,” it said.

Caritas also noted that according to the International Labor Organization, at present there are “40 million people in our world today” who are victims of human trafficking.

Human trafficking victims are even more at risk as a result of the current health crisis “due to lack of housing and job security resulting from government measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

“Lack of freedom of movement caused by lockdown and travel restrictions means that human trafficking victims in many countries have less chance of escaping and finding help when they are held in situations against their will,”.

“Among them, there are many victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation. Domestic workers face increased risks economically, and also physically and psychologically, as they are even more cut off from society during the pandemic,” it said.

Restrictive measures have made it difficult to identify cases of trafficking and an increase in violence against children, particularly online exploitation in homes “with little parental supervision,” Caritas says.

“At one point during lockdown in India, for example, 92,000 cases of child abuse were reported to authorities over the course of just 11 days.

“Children from economically vulnerable families may be also forced on the streets to beg, facing high risk of exploitation,” Caritas says.

The secretary general of Caritas, Aloysius John, says victims of human trafficking and exploitation “need immediate attention.”

He is calling on governments “to provide them with access to justice and to basic services, in particular shelters and hotlines, and also to put in place urgent and targeted measures to support workers in informal sectors.”

“We also call institutions and civil society organizations to protect children from abuse and exploitation, also through internet and new media, and we ask all people to be vigilant and to denounce cases of human trafficking and exploitation,” he says.


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