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July 28, 2017
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July 28, 2017

Combating the scourge of human trafficking

By Leela Ramdeen, Chair, CCSJ ( & Director, CREDI

“…Human trafficking and slavery radically strips a person of … fundamental dignity, reducing them to the status of a commodity. It is an evil crying out to heaven. That there are over 20 million people callously held in modern slavery in our world today is a mark of deep shame on the face of our human family that no words alone can remove.” (Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, UK, June 29, 2017)

Today, July 30, is ‘World Day against Trafficking in Persons’. The UN states: “Trafficking in persons is a serious crime and a grave violation of human rights… it exploits women, children and men for numerous purposes…The International Labour Organization estimates that 21 million people are victims of forced labour globally. This estimate also includes victims of human trafficking for labour and sexual exploitation. While it is not known how many of these victims were trafficked, the estimate implies that currently, there are millions of such victims in the world.

“Every country in the world is affected by human trafficking, whether as a country of origin, transit, or destination for victims. Children make up almost a third of all human trafficking victims worldwide, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s Global Report on Trafficking in Persons. Additionally, women and girls comprise 71 per cent of human trafficking victims, the report states.”

In April 2014, at a Vatican conference entitled: ‘Combating Human Trafficking’, Pope Francis described trafficking as “an open wound on the body of contemporary society; a scourge upon the body of Christ. It is a crime against humanity.” The Vatican reported that the conference was attended by Church representatives, law enforcement authorities, and humanitarian and social workers. At the conclusion of the conference, police chiefs from around the world signed the ‘Santa Marta Commitment’ to “eradicate the scourge of this serious criminal activity, which abuses vulnerable people”.

In September 2016, Alana Wheeler, Director of T&T’s Ministry of National Security’s Counter Trafficking Unit (CTU) stated: “‘What we do see in Trinidad and Tobago is Latin Americans coming in through Cedros and being exploited at brothels and different locations in Trinidad.” She said women were lured for jobs. In December 2016, she stated that most of the human trafficking cases identified by the CTU have been related to sexual exploitation. CTU’s Facebook page rightly urges the public to report this crime.

The US Department of State’s June 2017 Report from the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons states: “As reported over the past five years, Trinidad and Tobago is a destination, transit, and source country for adults and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labour….Police corruption has in the past been associated with facilitating prostitution and sex trafficking… The Government of Trinidad and Tobago does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore, Trinidad and Tobago was upgraded to Tier 2.”  Prior to this T&T was on Tier 2 Watch List. The US State Department judges the human trafficking industry on a scale of good (Tier 1) to bad (Tier 3).

Recommendations include: “Increase efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers, including complicit government officials; train law enforcement and prosecutors in proactively identifying, obtaining, preserving, and corroborating evidence; provide adequate funding for robust victim services and anti-trafficking efforts; improve co-ordination and communication between the counter-trafficking unit, relevant agencies, and NGOs; implement procedures to guide front-line officials in the identification and referral of potential sex and labour trafficking victims, especially among foreign women in prostitution, migrant workers, and children; improve regulation of private labour recruitment agencies; and raise public awareness, especially among the migrant population, about forced labour.”  (See

As Catholics, let us play our part in eradicating this scourge. Reflect on Pope Francis’ words in Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel): “I have always been distressed at the lot of those who are victims of various kinds of human trafficking. How I wish that all of us would hear God’s cry: ‘Where is your brother?’ (Gen 4:9) Where is your brother or sister who is enslaved? Where is the brother and sister whom you are killing each day in clandestine warehouses, in rings of prostitution, in children used for begging, in exploiting undocumented labour? Let us not look the other way.”



“Anyone who sets off on the path of doing good to others is already drawing near to God, is already sustained by his help, for it is characteristic of the divine light to brighten our eyes whenever we walk towards the fullness of love.” (35)

Pope Francis, Lumen Fidei

CCSJ Social Justice Education Committee