VATICAN CITY (CNS) — At the request of Pope Francis, scholars and researchers belonging to two pontifical academies and representatives of the World Federation of Catholic Medical Associations will begin focusing on the phenomenon of human trafficking and ways to fight it.

A working group from the pontifical academies of Sciences and Social Sciences and the federation will meet at the Vatican Nov. 2-3 for a preparatory workshop examining the size of the problem, its causes and steps that can be taken to prevent trafficking and to help victims, said Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, chancellor of the academies.

No one can deny that “the trade in human persons constitutes a terrible crime against human dignity and is a serious violation of human rights,” which is fueling increasingly complex international criminal networks, the bishop told Vatican Radio Aug. 22.

In a May speech, Pope Francis said human trafficking is “a despicable activity, a disgrace for our societies, which describe themselves as civilized.” Refugees, displaced and stateless people are particularly vulnerable to “the plague of human trafficking, which increasingly involves children subjected to the worst forms of exploitation and even recruitment into armed conflicts,” the pope said.

Bishop Sanchez said the international group of physicians, scientists, lawyers, economists and other scholars participating in the meeting will look at ways their disciplines can help the victims of trafficking and fight the phenomenon.

For instance, he said, scientists can start a DNA registry of children whose parents have reported them missing, and it can be used for comparisons when children are rescued from traffickers.

The social scientists, he said, will look at trafficking as one of the “pressing economic, social and political problems associated with the process of globalization.”

The International Labor Organization has estimated that 20.9 million people are victims of forced labor globally; that number includes victims of human trafficking, Bishop Sanchez said. An estimated 2 million people — mostly girls — are trafficked each year for the sex trade.

“Some observers believe that within a few years human trafficking will surpass drug trafficking and weapons trafficking to become the most lucrative criminal activity in the world,” the bishop said.