Published each year by the Walk Free Foundation, the Global Slavery Index compiles data to estimate the number of people being trafficked globally.
The index defines modern-day slavery as any exploitative situation that an individual cannot leave “because of threats, violence, coercion, abuse of power, or deception.” This includes sexual exploitation, forced labor, and child labor.
It also includes forced marriages, the report said, noting that women make up 71 percent of people trapped in modern-day slavery today.
More data sources – including surveys and face-to-face interviews – in this year’s report resulted in significant increases in the estimates of people being trafficked in many developed nations.
The report identified North Korea as having the highest prevalence of modern slavery – with about one in 10 people classified as modern-day slaves – followed by Eritrea, Burundi, and the Central African Republic.
However, developed nations in the West, including the U.S. and UK, also have much higher rates of human trafficking than previously thought, it said.
The 2018 report estimated that some 403,000 people are trapped in modern slavery in the U.S. – seven times higher than previous figures. In the UK, that figure is estimated at 136,000, nearly 12 times higher than earlier estimates.
Last month, the U.S. State Department released its 2018 Trafficking in Persons report, which assesses countries around the world based on how their governments work to prevent and respond to trafficking.
In presenting the report, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo emphasized that the problem of trafficking is one that is found much closer to home than many people realize.
“Human trafficking is a global problem, but it’s a local one too,” he said June 28. “Human trafficking can be found in a favorite restaurant, a hotel, downtown, a farm, or in their neighbor’s home.”
The fight against human trafficking has been a priority for Pope Francis. In December 2013, he told a group of ambassadors that the issue worries him greatly, saying “it is a disgrace” that persons “are treated as objects, deceived, assaulted, often sold many times for different purposes and, in the end, killed or, in any case, physically and mentally harmed, ending up discarded and abandoned.”
In March 2014, Pope Francis signed an ecumenical agreement with Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby, by which the Church and the Anglican Communion agreed to support an anti-slavery, anti-human trafficking initiative, the Global Freedom Network.
(Story cotinues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
The following year, the pope focused on the theme in his World Day of Peace message. He appealed to “all men and women of good will” and to “the highest levels of civil institutions” who witness “the scourge of contemporary slavery.” He urged them “not to become accomplices to this evil, not to turn away from the sufferings of our brothers and sisters, our fellow human beings, who are deprived of their freedom and dignity.”
At a June 2016 summit, the Pope emphasized the importance of listening to victims of trafficking.
He reiterated that message earlier this year, telling young people that they are in “a privileged place to encounter the survivors of human trafficking.”
“Go to your parishes, to an association close to home, meet them, listen to them,” he said.
The Vatican has organized numerous conferences on human trafficking, focused on both raising awareness and discussing means of fighting modern-day slavery and helping victims reintegrate into society.