Human Trafficking and the Dignity of Work

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Andrea Vicini, SJ

 Andrea Vicini, SJ
 Brett O'Neill, SJ / Mission / 13 January 2020


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The campaign against human trafficking is one of the most important and urgent global social responsibilities of our time. In order to deal with the exploitation and violence on which trafficking depends and which it promotes, it is necessary to examine the phenomenon of coercive labor and other dehumanizing working conditions.

In response to human trafficking in all its forms, Pope Francis has appealed to all people of good will for a “mobilization comparable in size to that of the phenomenon itself,” urging us “not to become accomplices,” but instead to “forge a new worldwide solidarity and fraternity.”[1]

To strengthen its mobilization against trafficking and to eliminate all forms of exploitation, the entire Catholic Church responds with a firm commitment to the appeal of Pope Francis, making use of its rich tradition of social teaching. This commitment is particularly important today as the anti-trafficking movement is facing some criticism on account of the imprecise ways in which this complex phenomenon is defined. As Pope Francis is organizing an important event for 2020 to examine economic dynamics, the consideration of recent magisterial documents on the theme of work allows us to reflect on this phenomenon, identifying appropriate ways to define and combat it.

A global concern

Since the turn of the millennium we have seen an increasing global mobilization against human trafficking. The highlight was the adoption in 2000 of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC)[2] and its Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (“Trafficking Protocol”).[3] This Convention was born out of international concerns over border integrity, given increasing irregular immigration and transnational crime, global phenomena that affect the quality of life and working conditions of many people of all ages.

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