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Vatican provides support for ecumenical group that aids trafficking victims

Pope Francis has made clear his stance on human traffickers, denouncing them as "merchants in human flesh.â? POPE FRANCIS (January 20, 2014) "I would like to thank those who work with migrants, who welcome them and accompany them in their difficult moments, to defend them against those whom Blessed Giovanni Battista Scalabrini called 'the merchants in human flesh,' who want to enslave the migrants.â? It's hard to come up with statistics, and the total numbers of trafficking victims. However, it is possible to talk about a rise in cases, in large part due to poor living conditions in impoverished countries.  For over 15 years, COATNET, a group linked to Caritas Internationalis, assists and guides victims emerging from this nightmare. OLGA ZHYVYTSYA Organizer, COATNET "We work to raise awareness. For example, one of our partners, Caritas Armenia, has an awareness campaign in schools to talk about trafficking. Other assistance our network provides is to find refuge for victims. We also provide counseling, and legal aid.â? COATNET is an ecumenical network made up of 37 Christian groups. Its founders felt that if criminal groups establish networks among themselves, so must the people that fight against this crime. MARTINA LIEBSCH International Policy Director, Caritas "There were many groups active in fighting against this, but they didn't know each other. When victims from Eastern Europe began arriving, they needed to be sent to reliable groups to help them. That's where the idea came from. There were many Christian groups helping out, even though not all of them are Catholic. That's why we said: 'Why not form a network? If criminals work in networks, we should also form our own network to take on these crimes.'â? However, this crime has many different aspects. COATNET said one of the fastest growing forms of human trafficking is forced labor, fueled by the global economic crisis. MARTINA LIEBSCH International Policy Director, Caritas "According to the International Labor Organization, this is one of the least talked about topics, and a phenomenon seen all around the world, and which has grown because of the economic crisis.â? COATNET has called on governments for greater commitment to fighting human trafficking. They also push for the full application of laws to protect victims and to punish the criminals that benefit from the suffering of others.  AC/RCA MG VM -PR Up:PM