Anti-Trafficking Advocates Warn That Pandemic Is Increasing Human Trafficking

December 13, 2020

Those involved in efforts to end human trafficking fear that the global pandemic and resulting lockdowns are increasing the numbers of people forced into trafficking.

“The broad upshot is that we need to brace ourselves for 2021 and expect a huge increase in the number of people affected” by trafficking, Luke de Pulford, director of the U.K-based anti-trafficking organization Arise, said during a Dec. 2 webinar by the Catholic Sisters Initiative of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. (The foundation is one of the funders of Global Sisters Report.)

“We don’t know how bad the damage is yet,” de Pulford told GSR in an email after the event. “[But] when the statistics come in, they are going to be deeply shocking and troubling.”

Those being lured into trafficking work — be it slave labor or sexual trafficking — are those “already struggling” and at risk due to poverty, Sr. Jane Wakahiu, associate vice president of program operations and head of Hilton’s Catholic Sisters Initiative, said during the webinar.

“COVID has exacerbated dramatic increase in unemployment, reduced or loss of income for individuals working in informal or low wage sectors which leads to vulnerability, and at-risk individuals find themselves in precarious circumstances,” Wakahiu told GSR in an email following the webinar.

“The principal underlying cause of human-trafficking is poverty and the search for better economic opportunities. Prevention is impeded not just by levels of poverty itself but by a series of vulnerabilities, including armed conflict and migration, homelessness, disabilities, lack of supportive families, and racial and ethnic prejudice.”

“Populations which are more vulnerable [to trafficking] include those who are homeless, unemployed, and struggling to support their families,” Jennifer Reyes Lay, another webinar participant who heads Alliance to End Human Trafficking, told GSR following the event. “As the pandemic continues with little economic relief or support in sight, we can anticipate that there will also be an increase in exploitation and trafficking as traffickers take advantage of these vulnerable communities desperate to survive.”

To read the full article by Chris Herlinger on Global Sisters Report: Click Here

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