Message of His Holiness Pope Francis for The 109th World Day of migrants and refugees 2023

Free to choose whether to migrate or to stay

Dear brothers and sisters! The migratory flows of our times are the expression of a complex and varied phenomenon that, to be properly understood, requires a careful analysis of every aspect of its different stages, from departure to arrival, including the possibility of return. As a contribution to this effort, I have chosen to devote the Message for the 109th World Day of Migrants and Refugees to the freedom that should always mark the decision to leave one’s native land.
“Free to leave, free to stay” was the title of an initiative of solidarity promoted several years ago by the Italian Episcopal Conference as a concrete response to the challenges posed by contemporary migration movements. From attentive listening to the Particular Churches, I have come to see that ensuring that freedom is a widely shared pastoral concern.
“An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said: ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him” (Mt 2:13). The flight of the Holy Family into Egypt was not the result of a free decision, nor were many of the migrations that marked the history of the people of Israel. The decision to migrate should always be free, yet in many cases, even in our day, it is not. Conflicts,natural disasters, or more simply the impossibility of living a dignified and prosperous life in one’s native land is forcing millions of persons to leave. Already in 2003, Saint John Paul II stated that “as regards migrants and refugees, building conditions of peace means in practice being seriously committed to safeguarding first of all the right not to emigrate, that is, the right to live in peace and dignity in one's own country” (Message for the 90th World Day of Migrants and Refugees, 3). “They took their livestock and the goods that they had acquired in the land of Canaan, and they came into Egypt, Jacob and all his offspring with him” (Gen 46:6). A grave famine forced Jacob and his entire family to seek refuge in Egypt, where his son Joseph ensured their survival. Persecutions, wars, atmospheric phenomena, and dire poverty are among the most visible causes of forced migrations today. Migrants flee because of poverty, fear, or desperation. Eliminating these causes and thus putting an end to forced migration calls for shared commitment on the part of all, in accordance with the responsibilities of each. This commitment begins with asking what we can do, but also what we need to stop doing. We need to make every effort to halt the arms race, economic colonialism, the plundering of other people’s resources, and the devastation of our common home.
“All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need” (Acts 2:44-45). The ideal of the first Christian community seems so distant from today’s reality! To make migration a choice that is truly free, efforts must be made to ensure to everyone has an equal share in the common good, respect for his or her fundamental rights, and access to an integral human development. Only in this way will we be able to offer each person the possibility of a dignified and fulfilling life, whether individually or within families. Clearly, the principal responsibility falls to the countries of origin and their leaders, who are called to practice good politics – one that is transparent, honest, farsighted, and at the service of all, especially those most vulnerable. At the same time, they must be empowered to do this, without finding themselves robbed of their natural and human resources and without outside interference aimed at serving the interests of a few. Where circumstances make possible a decision either to migrate or to stay, there is a need to ensure that the decision is well-informed and carefully considered, in order to avoid great numbers of men, women, and children falling victim to perilous illusions or unscrupulous traffickers.
“In this year of jubilee you shall return, every one of you, to your property” (Lev 25:13). For the people of Israel, the celebration of the jubilee year represented an act of collective justice: “Everyone was allowed to return to their original situation, with the cancellation of all debts, restoration of the land, and an opportunity once more to enjoy the freedom proper to the members of the People of God” (Catechesis, 10 February 2016). As we approach the Holy Year of 2025, we do well to remember this aspect of the jubilee celebrations. Joint efforts are needed by individual countries and the international community to ensure that all enjoy the right not to be forced to emigrate, in other words, the chance to live in peace and with dignity in one's own country. This right has yet to be codified, but it is one of fundamental importance, and its protection must be seen as a shared responsibility on the part of all States with respect to a common good that transcends national borders. Indeed, since the world’s resources are not unlimited, the
development of economically poorer countries depends on the capacity for sharing that we can manage to generate among all countries. Until this right is guaranteed – and here we are speaking of a long process – many people will still have to emigrate in order to seek a better life. “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me” (Mt 25:35-36). These words are a constant admonition to see in the migrant not simply a brother or sister in difficulty, but Christ himself, who knocks at our door. Consequently, even as we work to ensure that in every case migration is the fruit of a free decision, we are called to show maximum respect for the dignity of each migrant; this entails accompanying and managing waves of migration as best we can, constructing bridges and not walls, expanding channels for safe and regular migration. In whatever place we decide to build our future, in the country of our birth or elsewhere, the important thing is that there always be a community ready to welcome, protect, promote, and integrate everyone, without distinctions and without excluding anyone. The synodal path that we have undertaken as a Church leads us to see in those who are most vulnerable – among whom are many migrants and refugees – special companions on our way, to be loved and cared for as brothers and sisters. Only by walking together will we be able to go far and reach the common goal of our journey.

Rome, Saint John Lateran, 11 May 2023

Child Trafficking in Kenya.

Child trafficking happens when children and/or young people are tricked, coerced, or forced to leave their homes and are moved or transported and then exploited, forced to work, or sold. During the holiday's children become more vulnerable to abuse in ways such as child labor, Female Genital Mutilation, and Rape among other forms of abuse. Children trafficked are mostly subjected to sexual exploitation, forced labor, and forced marriage. The National Council on Children’s Services (NCCS) estimates that around 17,500 Kenyans are trafficked annually for domestic work, forced labor, and commercial sexual exploitation, of which 50% are likely to be minors.


Research highlights poverty and unemployment as the main leading causes of child trafficking. Trafficked children and young people experience many types of abuse and neglect and are likely to be physically and emotionally abused and may be sexually exploited. Children and young people can be easily manipulated and coerced. Traffickers, therefore, use physical, sexual, and emotional abuse as a form of control. Child traffickers prey on vulnerable children who are susceptible to being forced into the human trade.

Children and young people could be trafficked for either of the following reasons:
● Sexual exploitation
● Benefit fraud
● Forced marriage
● Domestic slavery like cleaning, cooking, and childcare
● Committing crimes like begging, moving, and selling drugs.

The recruiter(s) can be any gender, though most likely men recruit boys and women recruit girls. In most cases, the recruiters, a man or a woman is someone known to the child and/or parents (Family member or a relative, Friend, neighbor or someone the parents(s) or the child trust, Parent, Respectable individual in the society or religious leader ) member of a gang or a stranger, staff member of an employment agency or service provider

How to protect children from child trafficking

Trafficking violates human rights standards as defined by international law. Trafficked children are not only denied education and salary, but they are also physically, psychologically, and sexually exploited and exposed to harmful working conditions. Child trafficking drastically affects the child’s development, it is, therefore, paramount to ensure that as parents or guardians and other relevant stakeholders, children enjoy their rights.

Parents and guardians can protect their children from child trafficking in the following ways:
● Build and maintain a healthy relationship with their children-spend quality time together and check in often. Many victims of trafficking are vulnerable because they are lonely, depressed, and isolated. Healthy parental attachments reduce those vulnerabilities.
● Have conversations on trafficking with the children - have open conversations with the child on the dangers of trafficking and warn them about speaking and accepting free gifts from strangers. As highlighted, the recruiters are usually someone the family or the child knows, therefore teach the child to assertively say no to suspicious requests from family friends and teach them to seek permission from parents or guardians when they want to go visit their relatives.
● Be vigilant about online safety-We have witnessed cases of children who have been groomed and exploited by sexual predators and pedophiles online. As a parent and a guardian take the initiative and have parental control on sites not child-friendly and know what your child is accessing on their digital devices.

As parents or guardians spend holidays with their children, they need to protect them and uphold their rights and report any cases of child trafficking if witnessed.

To report any cases of human trafficking in and/or outside of Kenya, reach out to us at or
Call any of the following numbers:
Counter Human Trafficking Trust-East Africa (CHTEA) - +254 701 339 204
Religious Against Human Trafficking (RAHT) - toll-free – 0800 721 361
Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) – toll-free – 0800 722 203
ChildLine – toll fee – 116
Gender-Based Violence - 1195
Police – 999 and 112

Human Trafficking in Tanzania.

Every year, millions of men, women, and children are trafficked worldwide. Forced labor, sexual exploitation, and debt bondage are the most common reasons for this crime. Human trafficking happens in every country, even developed ones like the United States. Trafficking is modern-day slavery and affects women and girls disproportionately. About 71 % of Human Trafficking victims worldwide are women and girls.

 Status of Human Trafficking In Tanzania

Tanzania  is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of forced labour  and sexual exploitation. Boys are trafficked within the country for forced labour on farms, in mines, and in the informal business sector. Tanzanian girls from rural areas are trafficked to urban centres and the island of  Zanzibar  for domestic servitude and commercial sexual exploitation; some domestic workers fleeing abusive employers fall prey to forced prostitution.Tanzanian children and adults are reportedly trafficked to other countries including Mozambique, Uganda, Kenya, South Africa, Ethiopia, Yemen, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, the United Kingdom, the United States, France, Italy and China. Trafficked children from Burundi and Kenya, as well as adults from Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Yemen, are trafficked for forced labour in Tanzania's mining, agricultural and domestic service sectors, and are sometimes also subjected to sex trafficking.


Forms of Human Trafficking in Tanzania.

Human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Tanzania, and traffickers exploit victims from Tanzania abroad. Traffickers exploit men, women, children, and individuals from underserved communities—particularly impoverished children, orphans, and children with disabilities from rural areas—in forced labour in domestic work, mining, agriculture, and forced begging and in sex trafficking in urban cities, such as Arusha, Dar es Salaam, Dodoma, Mbeya, and Mwanza. Traffickers may exploit children in sex trafficking, including child sex tourism, in Zanzibar. Traffickers and brokers often fraudulently promise family members, friends, or intermediaries to provide their children with education, better living conditions, or employment, but instead they exploit them in forced labour and sex trafficking. Some unscrupulous individuals manipulate the traditional practice of child fostering—in which parents entrust their children into the care of wealthier relatives or respected community members—and exploit children in domestic servitude. Traffickers often promise Tanzanian women and girls marriage, education, or employment in Zanzibar, facilitate their travel from the mainland, and subsequently exploit them in forced labor in domestic work and farming.

Efforts against Human Trafficking in Tanzania

According to the 2022 Trafficking in persons Report on Tanzania by the US Department of State, Tanzania is classified as a Tier 2 country, that is the Government of Tanzania does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. Some of the efforts include the government of Tanzania has fully established and allocated funds for the Anti-Trafficking funds and allocating more funds for anti-trafficking programs led by the Anti-Trafficking Secretariat.

However, Tanzania’s recent efforts have been disappointing compared to those of previous years. Charges and punishments have remained light for traffickers compared to perpetrators of other major crimes. Many traffickers are not convicted, and if they are, their punishments are fines and short prison sentences. The country has not implemented victim identification or protection programs, leaving victims vulnerable to further exploitation. Tanzania has also made no recent efforts toward investigating fraudulent labor groups or commercial sex acts.

Hope for the future

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act involves many measures to protect victims with the support of trained workers. Trained workers will be able to identify the country’s more vulnerable populations, including orphans and impoverished children. In line with a Tanzanian anti-trafficking law from 2008, identified victims of human trafficking in Tanzania also receive professional counseling and a place to stay for the period immediately after their escape from a trafficking situation.

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act also involves more investigation of traffickers and corrupt systems. It will increase the likelihood of proper punishment for traffickers and will replace small fines with larger penalties befitting the seriousness of the crime. Tanzania saw great improvements in its trafficking situation before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, giving hope for the upcoming reporting periods.


A Woman of extraordinary courage.


A lady called ‘Ruth’ came to me in May, 2013, I was at the close of a small project to rescue 40 women who were victims of Human Trafficking (one male was in the group, he went on to do well selling secondhand shoes).  At that stage my resources were appallingly low but still I asked the question ‘What would help you now’?  She said “if I had another flask, I could make more tea for the men in the evening” The poverty of her statement gripped me like a choke on my throat.  She was referring to the men going on night duty as security guards.

I enquired to know a little more of her story?  “My husband just walked out of our marriage, it was a heavy blow to take” I could see she was profoundly depressed.  “Imagine just then, my best friend suggested she could get me a great job in Mombasa, it sounded good.  I left my three children with my mother, I knew I would be able to send her money home to feed them”

Amid copious tears she told me “I was plunged into a highly secure brothel (it traded as gym & massage), we were 11 women and each of us ‘serviced’ more than ten men in each 24/7period’ There seemed to be no escape route at all, I became dead inside After eight months, one man there, we called him Mr. Ali (but he was an Italian) told me to pack my bags for 6pm. I was ready with one small plastic bag, it was all I had.  He drove dangerously through a maze of small narrow streets and I was scared – my mind raced to my children and my mother.  Till that moment none of us were ever given a single coin that I could send home.  Suddenly we were surrounded by robbers and he was hauled out – it was my moment to escape.  I just ran faster and faster, suddenly I stopped and I realized I was free.  I knew that only God could do such a miracle”.

 My Escape

My only thoughts were: how can I get to my children in Mukuru (2nd largest slum in Nairobi).  I waved down one ‘matatu’ (local transport), please, please, help me to reach the Nairobi bus station and he just waved to me, “it’s just past those lights, turn right” But I had no fare, I just pleaded and begged the ticket man and he said give me KShs  600/-  I had nothing, but a kind man in the queue behind me paid it.  “That was the second miracle in less than an hour” I was on my way and reached home next morning.  When I saw my children I knew immediately that they were malnourished”.  Then my mother handed me a note from the class teacher. I opened and read it, “Your children are sleeping in class, please come and explain yourself” I knew that they were sleeping due to malnutrition.

‘Ruth’ did her utmost to make her hot tea business a success and she had paid a small deposit towards school fees of her eldest daughter.  But she could not afford any text books to keep the girl in Form One secondary school.  As I learned later she had many struggles and worst of all was a persistent cough, I prevailed on her to visit a clinic.  She stayed in a corner at the back during the next time I was meeting with this amazing group of victims.  She waited for me and as she approached she just blurted out ‘Habari sio nzuri’ it meant the news is not good.  Ruth had just learned that she was HIV positive and worse still they were testing her for TB.  It felt like ‘the end of the road’ for this brave woman.   I received this terrible news with a determination that her bravery would not be in vain.

We did a lot of ‘walking together’ for a long time.  A seed was sown in my heart and unbelievably one brave woman from my parish had sent a donation to Medical Missionaries of Mary for Christmas for my work.  This was now the third miracle for Ruth.  I could not wait to share my Joy with a woman who was courageous beyond words. From that moment onwards I knew that faith and hope would see ‘Mwende’ through her secondary education.  A long Hug held both of us together in a ‘Mary & Elizabeth’ embrace. I knew very deeply now that my ministry of Healing was enchained to the ancient faith of Islam.  We remained locked in awe at this infusion of Joy.  For me Jesus and Allah were one as time stood still and in that moment my mission and ministry was reborn in a new and deeper way.  It was a moment of standing on the threshold of eternity, I knew that no matter the cost - nothing and nobody could hold me back from this pursuit of Rescue, Restoration, Reintegration and Repatriation of Victims no matter when or where I would meet them.


‘Mwende’ came top of her class with a B+ in her Form Four year.  In October, 2022, this young woman graduated from the University of Nairobi with a degree in Counseling Psychology.  She is now in her first job and in a position to educate three younger siblings.

 Sr. Mary O’ Malley, MMM