A Closer Look at the 50 Million Enslaved Worldwide

A Closer Look at the 50 Million Enslaved Worldwide

Every year, more than 50 million people are estimated to be living in enslavement worldwide, as reported jointly by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the International Labor Organization (ILO), and Walk Free, an organization dedicated to combating modern slavery.

In Latin America, a significant number of trafficking victims, especially women and girls, are exploited for sexual purposes. Additionally, many migrants crossing the continent become targets for human traffickers and those facilitating illegal immigration.

Recognizing the severity of this issue, the Catholic Church has designated Thursdays as a Day of Prayer and Reflection against Human Trafficking.

According to the 2022 Global Report of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), about 1 in every 150 individuals worldwide is enslaved, with approximately 35% being children.

The trafficking industry generates over $150 billion annually across 145 countries, with the majority of profits derived from sexual exploitation, according to a 2014 document by the ILO titled “Profits and Poverty: The Economics of Forced Labor.”

Human trafficking takes various forms, including forced labor, child soldiering, and the trafficking of human organs and fluids.

Child sexual slavery involves the exploitation of infants and the production and distribution of child pornography.

During the COVID-19 pandemic from 2019 to 2022, there was a significant increase in the production of child pornography, as reported by the Financial Intelligence Unit (UIF) of Mexico and the Mexican newspaper La Jornada.

The longevity of modern slavery is evident, with forced labor lasting for years and forced marriages often being lifelong sentences, according to the 2022 report from the IOM, ILO, and Walk Free.

The Church, through its pastoral commissions for migrants, focuses on the vulnerability of migrants to human traffickers and facilitators of illegal immigration during their journeys across Latin America.

Children make up a significant portion of migrants, with 1 in every 4 individuals migrating through Latin America and the Caribbean being children and adolescents, according to a UNICEF report.

Established by Pope Francis in 2015, the Day of Prayer and Reflection against Trafficking coincides with the liturgical commemoration of St. Josephine Bakhita, herself a victim of the slave trade.

The theme for this year’s day was “Journeying for Dignity; Listen, Dream, Act,” and young people from various anti-trafficking organizations worldwide participated in an anti-trafficking march in Rome.

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