~ by Chris Herlinger, Global Sisters Report
Those involved in efforts to end human trafficking fear that the global pandemic and resulting lockdowns are increasing the numbers of people forced into human trafficking.
“The broad upshot is that we need to brace ourselves for 2021 and expect a huge increase in the number of people affected” by trafficking, Luke de Pulford, director of the U.K.-based anti-trafficking organization Arise, said during a Dec. 2 webinar by the Catholic Sisters Initiative of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation.
“We don’t know how bad the damage is yet,” de Pulford told the Global Sisters Report (GSR), “but when the statistics come in they are going to be deeply shocking and troubling.”
Those being lured into trafficking work – be it slave labor or sexual trafficking – are those “already struggling” and at risk due to poverty, Sr. Jane Wakahiu, Associate Vice President of Program Operations of Hilton’s Catholic Sisters initiative.
“COVID has exacerbated a dramatic increase in unemployment, reduced or loss of income for individuals working in informal or low wage sectors which leads to vulnerability, and at-risk individuals find themselves in precarious circumstances, Sr. Wakahiu told GSR.
In his presentation, de Pulford cited some grim realities:
In October, the World Bank said that global poverty is expected to rise in 2020, with the COVID-19 pandemic “estimated to push an additional 88 to 115 million people into extreme poverty this year.
“The principal underlying cause of human trafficking is poverty and the search for better economic opportunities. Prevention is impeded not just by levels of poverty itself but by a series of vulnerabilities, including armed conflict and migration, homelessness, disabilities, lack of supportive families, and racial and ethnic prejudice.”
Another concern, de Pulford said is the mass movement of people – with “lockdowns and business closures [prompting] millions of workers to try to return to their homes. Not all of the newly unemployed reach home. Many turn to illegal means to sustain themselves.”
Child trafficking is also likely increasing, de Pulford said, “with alarming trends indicating that worse is to come.” That is because an estimated 42 to 66 million more children “could fall into extreme poverty and nearly 1.5 billion children around the world have been kept away from school for three months under national lockdowns.”
“The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation supports Catholic sisters in the fight against human trafficking because sisters have taken a strategic leadership stance and pooled their efforts to create an international network of consecrated life against trafficking in persons,” said Sr. Wakahiu. “Sisters have not only demonstrated their capability but are in the frontline supporting in prevention, protection, prayer and rehabilitation of survivors. Survivors need a variety of support, including psychological, healthcare, spiritual, and connections to employment. Sisters recognize every person’s dignity; they don’t judge but walk with the individual in their journeys of healing and wholeness.”
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To access a PDF with the Missionary Sisters Guadalupe Province Corporate Stance on Anti-Human Trafficking. Click here