Trafficking

Trafficking in Persons

"Human trafficking is an open wound on the body of contemporary society, a scourge upon the body of Christ…It is a crime against humanity."[1]

—Pope Francis

Human trafficking is modern-day slavery, with conservative estimates suggesting that 21 million people worldwide are caught in its web. Pope Francis calls human trafficking a "crime against humanity" that must be stopped.

The causes of human trafficking are complex and interlinked, and include economic, social and political factors. Poverty alone does not necessarily create vulnerability to trafficking, but when combined with other factors (such as civil unrest), these can lead to higher risk for being trafficked. This phenomenon, referred to as ‘poverty-plus,’ is a condition of so many people around the world, creating a vast "supply" of potential victims. Therefore, strategies to combat trafficking must address both supply and demand.

Under the scrutiny of an armed guard, Antonio Jose da Santos Filhio worked nearly 12 hours a day while becoming increasingly in debt to his employers before being rescued by Brazilian inspectors. Photo by Robyn Fieser/CRS
Under the scrutiny of an armed guard, Antonio Jose da Santos Filhio worked nearly 12 hours a day while becoming increasingly in debt to his employers before being rescued by Brazilian inspectors. Photo by Robyn Fieser/CRS

The U.S. government has led global efforts to address human trafficking since passage of the Trafficking Victims Protection Authorization Act (TVPA) in 2000. U.S. efforts are based on the "three P’s" of U.S. foreign policy: prevent trafficking, protect victims and prosecute traffickers. The U.S. agencies with projects currently addressing trafficking include the State Department, Department of Labor’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB), and USAID.

Catholic Relief Services has addressed human trafficking through more than 145 projects around the world since 2000. Our approach to combating trafficking is based on Catholic social teaching and mandates that we protect, preserve and promote human dignity. Our activities include corporate engagement, victims’ services, and trafficking risk reduction in development and humanitarian interventions.

Based on these experiences over the past 15 years, we make the following recommendations to the U.S. government in our joint efforts to eradicate human trafficking:

We urge the administration to:

  1. More fully and routinely use the toolbox of diplomacy to compel governments to address human trafficking, especially by conditioning trade preferences and imposing targeted sanctions.
  2. Update and disseminate the USAID counter-trafficking policy in countries where trafficking risk is high.
  3. Integrate appropriately designed child protection strategies into every Country Development Cooperation Strategy.
  4. Establish a task force to address trafficking and flight from Syria and its neighboring countries.
  5. Continue to provide livelihood opportunities for those most vulnerable to exploitation.
  6. Build the capacity of local institutions to pursue compliance of trafficking laws and policies.
  7. Take a "victim-centered approach," and develop minimum standards for the support of trafficking victims.
  8. Work with international allies to press for destination countries to take steps to address the needs of trafficking victims.

The U.S. Congress should:

  1. Robustly fund anti-trafficking programs through the Department of State/J-TIP, USAID, and the Department of Labor/ILAB.
  2. Pass legislation that reduces the demand for slave labor, such as the Business Supply Chain Transparency on Trafficking and Slavery Act of 2015 (S. 1968/H.R. 3226).
  3. Pass legislation that regulates foreign labor recruiters by requiring them to register and prohibiting recruiting fees.
  4. Reauthorize the Trafficking Victims Protection Authorization Act.
  5. Pass legislation that reduces irregular migration to the United States.
  6. Continue to include the prohibition against the worst forms of child labor as a criterion for country eligibility under the Generalized System of Preferences and other regional trade agreements.

For full policy paper, click here

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