WASHINGTON — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Deputy Director Daniel Ragsdale traveled to Rome April 9-10 to attend the "Combating Human Trafficking" conference organized by the Catholic Church's Office for Migration Policy (OMP), International Affairs Department of the Bishops' Conference. Ragsdale was invited to the conference by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales.
As stated by the church, the aim of the conference was to build on its previous engagements with law enforcement agencies to raise awareness of the scale of human trafficking and develop ways of countering trafficking activities through Catholic networks.
During the conference, law enforcement agencies, including the Australian Federal Police, Europol, India's Central Bureau of Investigation, Interpol, the Italian State Police and the United Kingdom's Metropolitan Police gave presentations to the gathered attendees on various anti-trafficking strategies.
On behalf of the church, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, the Congregation of Adoratrices, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Vatican Gendarmerie briefed attendees on the measures the church is taking to stop human trafficking among members of its congregation.
Catholic Church leader Pope Francis, who held an audience with conference attendees, endorsed the event stating, "I exhort the international community to adopt an even more unanimous and effective strategy against human trafficking, so that in every part of the world, men and women may no longer be used as a means to an end, and that their inviolable dignity may always be respected."
Human trafficking is one of the most heinous crimes that ICE investigates. In its worst manifestation, this trafficking is akin to modern-day slavery. Human trafficking now ranks as the second most profitable worldwide criminal enterprise after the illegal arms trade. The International Labour Organisation estimates that 2.4 million people are trafficked globally at any given time and that annual profits generated from trafficking in human beings are as high as $32 billion dollars.
Victims can be forced into prostitution, involuntary labor and other forms of servitude. In certain cases, the victims are mere children. Trafficking victims often find themselves surrounded by an unfamiliar culture and language without identification documents, fearing for their lives and the lives of their families.
ICE is serious about ending human trafficking and works with its law enforcement partners to dismantle the global criminal infrastructure engaged in human smuggling and human trafficking. ICE accomplishes this mission by making full use of its authorities and expertise, stripping away assets and profit incentive, collaborating with U.S. and foreign partners to attack networks worldwide and working in partnership with nongovernmental organizations to identify, rescue and provide assistance to trafficking victims.