March 19, 2020
Proposed Georgia legislation aimed at cracking down on modern slavery comes during a month when human trafficking is top-of-mind for many. Throughout January, awareness campaigns throughout the U.S. are alerting local communities to National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, an occasion that directs our attention to a problem that’s massive, pervasive — and far too often overlooked.
According to the International Labor Organization, there are approximately 40.3 million victims of human trafficking, or modern slavery, worldwide — including about 400,000 right here in the U.S.
This issue has become so widespread because its perpetrators exploit forced labor in a wide variety of industries. They also use a growing number of illicit tactics to execute and conceal their actions when necessary, facilitated in part by a collective lack of awareness and visibility into how specific legal, profit-seeking behaviors can help to enable exploitation. One need only examine recent news stories to observe the many forms this problem takes.
In November, police found 39 suspected victims of human trafficking in the back of a truck in England, having suffocated during an arduous journey from their home country of Vietnam. In December, a woman in Oregon sued six major hotel chains, alleging that they allowed her to be trafficked and abused on their properties.
Less than a week later, two Silicon Valley giants were named in a lawsuit over Congolese child cobalt mining deaths. And none of these stories touch on the alarming rate of labor trafficking in the construction industry globally, which the ILO has stated is a leading source of forced and trafficked labor.
The above examples have many causes, from an economic structure that prizes cheap labor, to laws that never conceived of the flexibility or reach of neo-banking and A.I. capacity that could play a vital role in addressing these issues and saving lives.
Trafficking is a transnational organized crime that is highly adaptive, and absent equally adaptive efforts to combat it; traffickers can exploit the letter of the law to defy its spirit. We have to challenge ourselves to question if we’ve settled for a quid pro quo that provides personal privacy at the cost of lives globally.
To read the full story by Tom Walsh and Julia Ormond on The Hill: Click Here
December 6, 2019
“I’m sorry Mum. My journey abroad hasn’t succeeded. Mum, I love you so much! I’m dying because I can’t breathe.” These were reportedly the last words of 26 year-old Pham Thi Tra in a text message to her parents, sent as she approached death with 38 others in the refrigerated truck found in Essex last week.
The horror of the slow death suffered by these lost souls is unimaginable. Trapped in freezing darkness her phone may have been the only light Pham Thi Tra had. Somehow she used the last moments of her life to apologise to her parents for her failure to reach the UK.
The hidden nature of human trafficking makes the task of defining its scale. Kennington-based charity Stop the Traffik cites an International Labour Organization (ILO) report that there are over 40 million victims of human trafficking worldwide. At 26, Pham Thi Tra was the average age for an identified human trafficking victim according to the Migration Data Portal, half of those identified being between 18 and 34 years old.
In the UK the National Crime Agency (NCA) leads the fight against modern slavery and human trafficking – the two are intrinsically linked. Between October and December 2018 the NCA reporting system showed that potential victims of trafficking originated from 84 different countries, with nationals from Albania, the UK and Vietnam being the most commonly reported.
Over the past few years, we have been exposed to all-too-frequent, disturbing stories and images of refugees who have perished during their journey to perceived sanctuary in Europe and the UK. Heartbreaking footage of parents cradling drowned children and, more recently, the incident where 39 refugees died in the back of a refrigerated container lorry, have shocked the nation. Most recently, 12 migrants of Syrian and Sudanese origin were find alive in a refrigerated truck in Belgium.
To read the full story by Rabina Khan on The Independent: Click Here
November 15, 2019
India, once thought of as a country of more than a billion people living in poverty, has seen its economy boom, and has emerged as a new force in global manufacturing.
But that is not the full story. According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), more than 150 million children and teenagers are victims of child labour around the world, and India has long been among the worst offenders.
More than 10 million children and teenagers between the ages of five and 14 are forced to work in the country, often through trafficking and bondage.
But over the last few years, things have been changing, in no small part thanks to the work of one man: Kailash Satyarthi.
He has fought against child trafficking for decades, freeing more than 87,000 children and teenagers and contributing to global conventions on children’s rights. He also won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 for his efforts, bringing the issue into the international spotlight.
More than a decade ago, Al Jazeera met Kailash Satyarthi as he led a march around the country to raise awareness for the cause.
At the time, Satyarthi was sure that the demonstration, which drew together thousands of people at each stop, was the largest of its kind.
Now, more than 10 years on, awareness has continued to grow. In a studio interview with Al Jazeera, Satyarthi says there has been progress, as mindsets have shifted and more legal protections have been put in place.
To read the full story on Al Jazeera: Click Here
August 13, 2018
As high-profile sports figures descend on Northeast Ohio this week, an 83-year-old nun arrived at the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Monday advocating for victims who walk among us hidden in plain sight.
Sister Barbara Catalano, a Dominican Sister of Peace, did not resemble many other visitors clad in shirts and jerseys of their favorite NFL teams. The diminutive woman was dressed casually in white pants and a shirt accented with a purple short-sleeved jacket. She also wore a look of determination, toting a satchel containing anti-human trafficking literature and a bag filled with bars of specially wrapped soap to the Canton football shrine.
“I want to talk with someone important,” said the Akron resident, who had not called ahead to make an appointment with a Hall of Fame executive.
Parked in an auxiliary lot a quarter-mile from the front door, Catalano eschewed a free shuttle ride and walked along a narrow backstreet as cars and golf carts transporting HOF workers zipped past. The nun moved with such pace, bounding down a steep flight of concrete steps, a freelance photographer assigned to chronicle her visit had difficulty keeping up.
She was eager to discuss the evils of the world’s fastest-growing industry. Human trafficking, according to the United Nations’ International Labour Organization, generated about $99 billion in profits in 2016. And it thrives on the peripheries of major multiday events like the ones being hosted in Canton and Akron this weekend, say some anti-trafficking advocacy groups and law enforcement.
From foreign-born laborers erecting scaffolding for pennies on the dollar to underage girls being forced into prostitution at nearby hotels, human trafficking takes different forms. In the past month, several survivors have told The Athletic nightmarish tales of beatings, gang rape, threats to family members and years of mental anguish associated with a life of sex slavery. Two women began being trafficked at age 15.
To read the full story by Tom Reed on The Athletic Ink: Click Here
October 1, 2016
Pray, Love, Act
by Carol Davis, OP
Globally, there are 20.9 million victims of human trafficking, with hundreds of thousands in the USA, per the International Labor Organization. Human trafficking occurs in every state and in Washington, DC. There is no single profile, no single way traffickers recruit. There is no single group being targeted; they come from diverse socio-economic backgrounds, varied levels of education, documented and undocumented. They are women, men, children.
When I think of the women I’ve had the privilege to accompany on part of their healing journey, there are some similarities. They carry shame, they desire healing, the light in their souls still shines or at least the embers are glowing. The pain is visceral and so is their courage. When they share their stories I feel sad, pained, angered, and grieved. I also feel deep gratitude for the privilege of being able to support a survivor on her journey of healing, speaking her truth, struggling to choose life. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed.
I remember the prayer of that amazing abolitionist, dreamer, and underground railroad leader who was born in the late 19th century. Harriet Tubman prayed: “I’m going to hold steady on You, an’ You’ve got to see me through.” I pray for the victims and survivors. I pray for myself and those who work for freedom. I pray also for the perpetrators.
It seems to me that the freedom is needed for all – the survivors and, yes, for the perpetrators. There are so many who do not remember who they are, who have lost their way, who have no idea of the holiness, the grace that is in their very soul at birth. If a person knew who they were as a son or daughter of the Divine, they could not commit such atrocities as enslaving another.
Pope Francis tells us that “Every state of life leads to holiness, always”, but only if we are open to the grace of God’s gift. “First, we must bear in mind that holiness is not something that we can procure for ourselves or obtain with our quality and our skills. Holiness is gifted to us by the Lord Jesus, when He takes us up with Him and clothes us in Himself . . .” (Vatican Radio, 9/11/14)
The gifts are at times squandered and there are those who barricade themselves against the gifts of grace. Even there, we must not lose hope. We must continue to pray for the wounded survivors of human trafficking and for the perpetrators.
There are those who have been so wounded they struggle to remember who they are. I’ve been asked by more than one survivor if God could still love her after all that she had been through, the rapes, the prostitution, the drug use and sales, the violence. I want to say to every survivor, “You are made in the image and likeness of the Divine. Yes, you are loved, you are loveable, you are holy”. I also know that my words will ring hollow if I do not live love. We know that faith without works is dead. (see James 3:14ff)
How are you being called to stretch out yourself in love for the sake of the Gospel?
And good will come to
Harriet Tubman reminds us to hold steady to God. Pope Francis reminds us of the universal call to holiness that is pure gift from God. To what action does God’s love impel you today? Is there one thing you can do? Will it be a personal prayer for survivors? Will you take action to get a prayer for an end to human trafficking read from the pulpit in your church or diocese? Will you call your congressional representative and request that they take action? Will you take the time to peruse the US Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking website for more ideas?
The prophet Micah challenges us: (6:8)
You have been told oh my people what is good,
to act justly,
to love tenderly,
to walk humbly with your God.