Many migrants wind up as slaves to human traffickers, thanks to a lack of “regular channels” of migration, Pope Francis said Wednesday.
In a special appeal for Thursday’s World Day of Prayer and Reflection against Trafficking, whose theme this year is “Migration without Trafficking: Yes to Freedom! No to Trafficking!”, the pope wished to explore the deeper causes of human trafficking and suggested that well-established paths of migration might ease the problem.
“Having few possibilities of regular channels, many migrants decide to set out by other paths, where they often encounter abuses of every sort, exploitation and enslavement,” he said.
“Criminal organizations dedicated to the trafficking of persons use these migratory routes to hide their own victims among the migrants and refugees,” he added.
The pontiff went on to invite citizens as well as institutions to join forces to prevent trafficking and guarantee protection and assistance to victims.
“Let us pray so that the Lord will convert the hearts of traffickers and give hope of liberation to all those who suffer from this shameful plague,” he said.
In recent years, human trafficking has become intertwined with uncontrolled mass migration, which allows traffickers to move thousands of people under the radar to be exploited for slave labor or prostitution.
As Breitbart News reported last summer, the practice of trafficking in Nigerian women as sex slaves in Europe has become one of the many examples of the deadly fallout from Europe’s migration crisis.
A 2017 study recounted the disturbing case of a Nigerian girl who was promised a job in a hair salon in Italy only to be told on arriving that she would have to work as a prostitute instead.
“The job was a lie,” the girl declared. “They forced me to become a prostitute. That was the only way to pay off the debt of the journey, which they had told me before I left that I did not need to pay for.”
Unfortunately, the woman’s case was far from uncommon. At present, nearly 80 percent of Nigerian females migrating into Italy end up in forced prostitution, a form of sexual slavery from which the girls and women have no recourse. In other words, for every ten Nigerian girls entering Italy, officials can be fairly certain that eight will become sex slaves.
Moreover, roughly half of all prostitutes working in Italy are Nigerians.
From 2014-2016, more than 12,000 Nigerian girls and young women arrived in Italy—six times as many as in the preceding two years. Of these, some 9,400 wound up as sex workers, reports indicate.
Nigerian people smugglers have exploited Europe’s open borders to take girls across the Mediterranean into Italy to sell into prostitution.
Because of Italy’s slowness in curbing the practice of illegal mass migration, its leaders have become complicit in one of the most egregious examples of systematic human trafficking in the world today.
“I call for the commitment of all so that this horrific plague, a form of modern slavery, may be adequately dealt with,” the Pope said in an anti-trafficking message last July.
In commemoration of the UN’s World Day Against Human Trafficking, the Pope said that each year, thousands of men, women and children fall victim to labor and sexual exploitation as well as the sale of organs.
Although this may seem normal to us because it has become so common, the Pope continued, it is in fact “ugly, cruel and criminal” and must be stopped.
It remains unclear, however, whether the true cause of trafficking lies with a lack of regular channels of migration. It may be more plausible to suspect that open borders and uncontrolled mass migration are in fact the real impetus behind the growing problem of human trafficking.
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