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Pope asks pontifical academies to help fight human trafficking

A conference on trafficking held in Rome last year (Photo: Mazur/

At the request of Pope Francis, scholars and researchers belonging to two pontifical academies and the World Federation of Catholic Medical Associations are to begin focusing on the phenomenon of human trafficking and ways to fight it.

Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, chancellor of the academies, said a working group from the Pontifical Academies of Sciences and Social Sciences and the federation will meet at the Vatican on November 2-3 to examine the size of the problem, its causes and steps that can be taken to prevent trafficking and to help victims.

The bishop told Vatican Radio that no one could deny that “the trade in human persons constitutes a terrible crime against human dignity and is a serious violation of human rights”.

In a speech in May, Pope Francis said human trafficking is “a despicable activity, a disgrace for our societies, which describe themselves as civilised”. Refugees, displaced and stateless people are particularly vulnerable to “the plague of human trafficking, which increasingly involves children subjected to the worst forms of exploitation and even recruitment into armed conflicts”, the Pope said.

Bishop Sanchez said the international group of physicians, scientists, lawyers, economists and other scholars participating in the meeting would look at ways their disciplines could help the victims of trafficking and fight the phenomenon.

For instance, he said, scientists can start a DNA registry of children whose parents have reported them missing, and it can be used for comparisons when children are rescued from traffickers.

The social scientists, he said, will look at trafficking as one of the “pressing economic, social and political problems associated with the process of globalisation”.

The International Labour Organisation has estimated that 20.9 million people are victims of forced labour globally; that number includes victims of human trafficking, Bishop Sanchez said. An estimated two million people, mostly girls, are trafficked each year for the sex trade.

“Some observers believe that within a few years human trafficking will surpass drug trafficking and weapons trafficking to become the most lucrative criminal activity in the world,” the bishop said.