By NADIA MARIA SMITH
CS&T Staff Writer
The Church’s efforts to combat human trafficking are getting a boost from the U.S. Department of Justice.
The Special Immigrant Peoples Project of archdiocesan Catholic Social Services will receive a $230,000 grant as part of the department’s $10 million increase in funding to assist in the work.
“The basic idea of this grant is to provide services for victims of human trafficking so that they can become self-sufficient,” said Phyllis Forman, administrator of the Immigration and Anti-Trafficking programs at Catholic Social Services. “Part of the grant is allotted for victim services, and part is for continued development of anti-trafficking awareness in the Mid-Atlantic region, talking to groups and building up an anti-trafficking coalition.”
The grant will help the anti-trafficking task force to provide social services such as medical assistance, mental health counseling, dental care, shelter, employment and legal and immigration services.
Philadelphia has been identified as a hub for human trafficking in the Northeast since 2004.
“It is a pass-through city,” Forman said. “People are transported and moved through Philadelphia on their way north or south.”
“Human trafficking is a serious crime and deserves the focused attention of law enforcement and victim service providers,” said Associate Attorney General Kevin J. O’Conner. “The task forces receiving funding are made up of both of these important elements. We will continue to use all of the resources at our disposal to make sure that traffickers are convicted and that victims receive the assistance they need to recover.”
Since 2002, the Justice Department has partnered with state and local law enforcement and victim service organizations to convict 342 traffickers and assist 1,300 victims from 80 countries. In the past year alone, the department has opened 154 new trafficking investigations.
Identifying victims of trafficking is a difficult task. Victims are hidden in illicit activities such as prostitution, domestic servitude and forced labor. That is why a key role of the archdiocesan task force is to train medical professionals, social workers, clergy, teachers and law enforcement personnel on signs of trafficked victims.
Currently, the anti-trafficking coalition consists of 60 members including social workers, local law enforcement, FBI, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, physicians, nurses and social service groups aiding various ethnic groups, whose aim is to support the work of the Justice Department in fighting human trafficking and helping victims at the local level, Forman said.
The coalition will meet in early December and those who are interested in becoming a part of it are welcome to attend, she added.
For more information contact Phyllis Forman at (215) 854-7010. To report a possible case or if you are a victim of human trafficking call (215) 313-9008 or the Trafficking in Persons Information and Referral Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.
CS&T staff writer Nadia Maria Smith may be reached at email@example.com or (215) 965-4614.