CRJ has featured several articles about the Syria Civil Defence in the last two issues, but speaking to its volunteers face to face at their training ground, and listening to the descriptions of their lives and the horrendous conditions they confront on a daily basis, was beyond humbling (p22).
Not far from where we were talking, thousands of refugees were massing at the border, desperate to escape the twin threats of ISIS and the al-Assad regime.
Our cover story (p18) deals with the odious issue of human trafficking, a growing societal crisis, which is likely to get worse in the face of increased global conflict, terrorism, climate change-induced disasters and severe economic hardship. When men, women and children are forced from their homes, for whatever reason, they can become prey to cynical predators.
This year has been characterised by tragedies in the Mediterranean, with dozens of overloaded migrant boats sinking or needing rescue. Meanwhile, the town of Calais in France struggles to cope with a near-overwhelming influx of people taking unthinkable risks to try to reach the UK. Thousands of unaccompanied children fleeing violence in South American countries have been making their way into the US. These are just a few examples drawn from a global pool of misery.
So, what is the common narrative that links these issues?
Exploitation and crime invariably stalk vulnerable people and communities. There is no shortage of criminals waiting to take advantage of the desperate, the dispossessed, those who have fled with nothing, or who have lost everything, people already on the limits of human endurance.
Slavery, child soldiers, bonded labour, sexual exploitation, forced begging – some of these crimes are more overt than others – much of this activity goes unnoticed by most people in their daily lives. But aside from the unspeakable damage to the individuals involved, these crimes also have the potential to harm society, business and resilience in general.
Authorities, communities and individuals ignore this cycle of brutalisation, exploitation and forced criminality at their peril; we could be building up even greater problems – and threats – for the future.
This comment was published in Autumn 2014