By Ayyaz Gulzar
Caritas Pakistan is warning youths to be on their guard against employment agents offering attractive job opportunities, saying they are likely members of human trafficking gangs.
“We are talking about eight million young Pakistanis who are vulnerable to such networks. Poor families must be educated and stopped from putting the honor and lives of their loved ones in jeopardy,” said Riaz Nawab, a program coordinator for Caritas Pakistan.
He was speaking at a two-day workshop aimed at combating human trafficking, which ended yesterday at Christ the King Seminary in Karachi.
More than 100 youths, most of them women, attended the event organized by the Catholic Church’s social arm.
It included a review of human trafficking in Pakistan’s largest city, a documentary on the illicit trade in South Asia and a debate on its causes.
Participants were also given a drama performance depicting the plight of young girls forced into prostitution and included a death scene involving immigrants falling victim to suffocating heat in a locked shipping container.
According to a US State Department report released last year, much of Pakistan’s human trafficking problem is centered on bonded labor (about 1.8 million people) working in agriculture and brick-making in Sindh and Punjab provinces.
More disturbingly, the report accuses militant groups of kidnapping children or coercing parents with fraudulent promises into giving away children, some as young as 12, in order to spy, fight or die as suicide bombers in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Caritas Pakistan Karachi chairman, Father Saleh Diego, said the high cost of living, poverty and unemployment make people easy prey and are providing a brisk trade for traffickers.
“People become desperate, borrow huge amounts of money and end up in despair or worse. It is a big challenge for us to combat a fast-growing industry that is nothing more than modern-day slavery,” he said.