A group of 50 young Nigerian women, promised a better life, had made it overland across the obstacle of the Sahara, run the gauntlet of exploiters waiting for them in Libya, and amazingly, made it to Italy in an overcrowded, barely seaworthy boat. Yet within days people checking on them found that all but two had disappeared.
All the others had been trafficked – taken quite openly by Nigerian women coming into the refugee centre, pretending to be a family member claiming to be taking them to a good job, but in reality selling them into prostitution in Italy and beyond.
Karim was a kid playing football in a village in Ghana. “This man said I should come with him to the Ivory Coast. He would sign me up for the national team and I would get lots of money and that I shouldn’t tell my parents.” Karim went, but luckily was intercepted by police. The man who planned to sell him into slavery in the cocoa plantations just slipped away…
These are just two examples of the realities of human trafficking and are typical of the situations SIM’s new anti-trafficking and exploitation ministry, For Freedom, is encountering. Human trafficking is occurring in every country in the world, and there are more people currently trapped in slavery and trafficking than ever before. Statistics released in September 2017 by the International Labour Organisation give an idea of the extent of the problem:
40.3 million people have been trafficked into slavery world-wide.
71% are women & girls and 25% are children under 18.
50% are trafficked for forced labour (the worst industries for trafficking and slavery include electronics, fishing, domestic maids).
38 % are trafficked for forced marriage (especially selling brides to other countries) and 12% are trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation.
In every country, human traffickers are targeting the most vulnerable: women, children and refugees/migrants. They’re more likely to be tricked with false promises than violently forced into slavery. Often, they are forced to witness someone being killed or tortured, and told this will happen to them if they leave; with human trafficking, fear keeps people enslaved more than physical chains.
What can we do?
Now, thanks to SIM’s new ministry For Freedom, mission partners around the world can receive training and be equipped to recognize and respond to trafficking situations they may encounter. For Freedom is a global ministry responsible for coordinating SIM’s response to the human trafficking happening in the communities and countries we work in. For Freedom sees human trafficking as ‘the exploitation of vulnerability’, and is focused on preventing human trafficking and exploitation, protecting the vulnerable, and bringing freedom to survivors.
Sarah Scott Webb, one of SIM’s two For Freedom point people, says, “Anti-trafficking is not just about rescuing victims and restoring survivors — by focusing on preventing trafficking and protecting those most at risk, we can all play a part in stopping this, no matter what ministry context we are serving in.
“Building relationships with vulnerable people in your community creates layers of ‘safety’ around that person – this makes it less likely for them to be trafficked, and provides them with protection from exploitation.” A great first step in this process is to simply ask “Who are the vulnerable people in this community?”, “What are we already doing that could build relationships with them?”, “What skills/talents do we have that could help to connect with them?”
Sarah also says that consumers here in NZ are in a powerful position to advocate for change, by finding out whether products they buy have been made by slaves and choosing to buy ethically-made products.
Perhaps your church could join with others in your area to have a training session with Sarah (firstname.lastname@example.org)