The Impact of the Pandemic on Human TraffickingMonday 8th February 2021
On February 8th each year, Pope Francis calls an International Day of Prayer for Awareness Against Human Trafficking. This day is recognised on the Feast Day of St Josephine Bakhita, who was kidnapped and sold into slavery at the age of 7. After she was freed in Italy years later, she became a Nun and has since emerged as a patron for all victims of trafficking. St Bakhita’s legacy remains in the work undertaken by the local anti-trafficking groups around the world.
This has been a year like no other. The Covid19 pandemic has put a strain on everyone but the UN states that “while at first sight, these enforcement measures and increased police presence at the borders and on the streets seem to dissuade crime, they may also drive it further underground.”
Measures relating to Covid19 are said to disproportionately affect certain categories of people at risk of exploitation, with undocumented migrants and seasonal workers facing more precarious working and living conditions which leave them at a greater risk of falling vulnerable to criminal networks.
In 2014, Pope Francis described Human Trafficking as “An open wound on the body of contemporary society, a scourge upon the body of Christ. It is a crime against humanity”.
Here in the Diocese action is being taken by the Caritas Anti-Trafficking project which was inspired by an initiative in the parish of Our Lady of the Valley which works with East Lancashire Police in raising awareness on the issue. The project also links more widely with Greater Manchester Police, the Medaille Trust and the Santa Marta Group in Westminster.
As we continue moving through this time of pandemic, let us remember the suffering of all victims and be aware of the signs to look for in our day to day lives and in our own communities.
If you are a victim of modern slavery or concerned about anybody who may be, the Modern Slavery Helpline continues to be open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – 08000 121 700.