Environmental Disasters Can Lead to Human Trafficking

Myth: Environmental disasters aren’t linked to human trafficking.

Truth: Environmental disasters, like drought, floods, fires, and climate change create vulnerable situations which may lead to trafficking.

Imagine: Your family is experiencing a natural disaster and are unable to return home because it is no longer safe to do so. As you are leaving your home you take only what you can carry, you may be unable to take your vehicle or must leave behind important belongings and documentation like your passports. Time is of the essence to survive. You and your family make plans to travel to the evacuation site, but it is far away and will take time. Once you arrive, your family is tired and scared, unsure of what to do or what’s next. After a few days, you begin to feel the pressure of all that was left behind. Your home, your job, access to your bank account, your vehicle, your children’s school, family, friends, your social safety network, maybe your business. Perhaps your cell phone won’t work in this new place, maybe you lost touch with your family on the way and can’t locate them. You may not have a way to make money or ensure there is food for your family. The list of unknowns goes on. 

Source: Unsplash

Can you identify the vulnerabilities in this scenario? Can you identify ways a trafficker may prey on those experiencing a situation like this? Does this feel like a story from another country or could this happen close to your home? 

Traffickers may offer “too good to be true” job offers, offer to help arrange transportation, assist with food or other needs in order to play on the vulnerabilities of those experiencing displacement or loss of livelihood. 

Extreme weather events, climate change, and “climate-induced migration,” compound existing vulnerabilities to human trafficking, such as poverty and create devasting effects on livelihoods and food security [1].  

Source: Unsplash

As Christians, we are called to care for creation. It is essential that we recognize the connections between the misuse of creation, impacts on the environment, and how these factors impact communities across the globe. Families are losing their generational farms and homes and being forced into vulnerable situations due to flooding or drought [2]. Children are being separated from their parents due to natural disasters. Communities are being destroyed [3].

“Climate change reduces access to dwindling resources and contributes to natural disasters, like floods, droughts, crop failures, and famine. All of this increases conflict, drives migration, and breaks up families. “This is not a blip in history; it’s a trend we will have to live with for generations to come.” explains Hirokazu Yoshikawa as quoted in Why family separation is growing into a ‘global crisis. [4].

The importance of creation care is evident throughout scripture. Starting in Genesis we learn that God created the heavens and the earth, and He said it was good (Genesis 1:1-31), then later in the book of Genesis when Adam is placed in the Garden of Eden, he is instructed to “work it and care for it” (NIV, Genesis 2:15). Different translations of this verse call for him to “dress it and keep it” (KJV) and “to tend and watch over it” (NLT). The idea of tending, dressing, watching, and caring for God’s creation evokes a different sort of reverence, a call for respect and responsibility for the world we inhabit. This seems to be so often forgotten when we see the world as a resource to use for our profit and have dominion over.

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How heartbreaking to misuse and destroy a precious gift we were called to care for! How can we truly love people when our collective action (or inaction) is causing their homes, livelihoods, and communities to become barren and desolate? 

“The world cannot continue to turn a blind eye to the forced labor, modern slavery, and human trafficking that’s being fuelled by climate change. Addressing these issues needs to be part and parcel of global plans to tackle climate change.” says researcher, Ritu Bharadwaj, from the International Institute for Environment and Development, as quoted in “Climate crisis leaving ‘millions at risk of trafficking and slavery” [5].

Source: Unsplash

This is a huge conversation, with many competing and overlapping opinions, but much of it simply boils down to relationships: Our relationship with God, people, and creation [6]. The World Bank estimates that 216 million people will need to migrate within their own country by 2050 due to climate change [7]. How can we fill in this gap? How can we support those experiencing these challenges and protect those vulnerable to human trafficking? 

The link between extreme climate events and human trafficking is a staggering issue but let’s not lose hope. Let’s continue to learn and pray for those experiencing vulnerable situations caused by extreme weather events and climate change. 

Learn more with the resources below:

 

Sources:

[1]  Bharadwaj, R., Bishop, D., Hazra, S., Pufaa, E., Kofi Annan, J. (2021). Climate-induced migration and modern slavery: a toolkit for policymakers. IIED, London. Anti-Slavery International, London. https://pubs.iied.org/20441g

[2] Climate crisis leaving ‘millions at risk of trafficking and slavery. ​​(accessed, Jan 3, 2022)

[3] Why family separation is growing into a ‘global crisis’. (accessed, Jan 3, 2022)

[4] Why family separation is growing into a ‘global crisis’. (accessed, Jan 3, 2022)

[5] Climate crisis leaving ‘millions at risk of trafficking and slavery. (accessed, Jan 3, 2022)

[6]  Bible verses on Creation care: A discussion starter, Susan Passi-Klaus. (accessed, Jan 3,2022)

[7] Press Release #2022/12/CCG: Climate Change Could Force 216 Million People to Migrate Within Their Own Countries by 2050. (accessed Dec 22, 2021)

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