Poverty and Human Trafficking

The Syrian refugee crisis has been ongoing for seven years. It’s unimaginable that more than five million people have been forced to flee the homes they loved and the life they knew due to the conflict and violence in their communities. As they seek safety, they often lack food, shelter and medical care.

Children make up more than half of all Syrian refugees. They have witnessed violence, lost homes or loved ones, and most have been out of school for several years. Currently, the gross enrollment rate for primary school globally is 90%; however, among refugees, it is only 61%.

CRS has made education of refugee children a priority by investing in the provision of educational opportunities as well as child-friendly spaces, so children have a space to play, learn and be protected from human trafficking and forced labor.

In this 360-degree video, you can transport yourself to a classroom in Lebanon to see CRS’ work with refugee children. Feel free to move your cursor or finger around to explore!

CRS partners with the Good Shepherd Sisters to provide educational opportunities to refugee families in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon, which reduces refugee children’s risk of human trafficking, early marriage and forced labor.

Students learn traditional subjects like math and science, and take part in sessions on peacebuilding, which is important to addressing the trauma children experience. In fact, these spaces allow children to be children again.

Photo by Ismail Ferdous for CRS

While we cannot resolve this crisis overnight, our blessed nation can certainly take steps to uphold the dignity of children, provide and protect educational opportunities for displaced youth, and reduce the scourge of human trafficking.

The “Protecting Girls’ Access to Education in Vulnerable Settings Act” is a bipartisan bill that was introduced by Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) to help to ensure that refugee children, especially girls, have access to education. Specifically, this bill authorizes the Secretary of State and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to prioritize efforts to support access to safe, quality primary and secondary education for displaced children by working with civil society and other organizations. It will also increase host countries’ capacities to prevent discrimination against displaced children going to school, and incorporate measures to evaluate the impact of education on the lives of girls concerning reduction of child marriage, gender-based violence, trafficking and forced labor.

Here’s your update on how you prevented human trafficking:

Over the past couple of months, you spoke out to protect poverty-focused international humanitarian and development assistance from budgetary cuts, lifting your voice to protect a key mechanism to combat human trafficking, the Department of Labor’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs (DOL/ILAB). Your messages to Congress made lawmakers more aware of how critical ILAB is!

On March 23, Congress passed a Fiscal Year 2018 Omnibus Appropriations package, funding the U.S. government through September 30. We are pleased to inform you that after a long year of advocacy on Capitol Hill, Congress negotiated a bill that largely protected the core accounts you’ve worked to protect, including maintaining the funding levels for the Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB)!

Looking back, there is much to celebrate and many to thank, including you! Looking forward, we are already working on Fiscal Year 2019 advocacy, meeting with Congressional offices to share CRS’ story and advocate for just public policy that supports the most vulnerable and marginalized.

In the meantime, you can help prevent human trafficking today. Raise your voice in support of refugee children by calling on your Senators to provide access to education for refugee children!