Cardinal calls on governments to keep their promises to victims of human trafficking

Cardinal Vincent Nichols called on all governments to act upon their commitments to assist victims of human trafficking at the conclusion of the Santa Marta Group conference for Latin America, held in Buenos Aires.

Over 100 countries signed the United Nations Palermo Protocol which calls on governments to catch and prosecute criminals and also to help trafficking victims with jobs, education and rehabilitation. Despite this commitment, Cardinal Nichols told delegates that this was not being carried out.

The Santa Marta Group Conference in Buenos Aires agreed to a series of measures in the ongoing fight against human trafficking. The conference was attended by Church representatives from across Latin America who work in the assistance of victims of human trafficking as well as the Argentinian federal police force, for whom this is a priority.

Cardinal Nichols said: “Most countries in the world have signed this protocol and ratified the measures to assist victims. However they have turned their backs on this responsibility and are not acting upon this agreed commitment. In the UK a hostile environment towards migrants has been created and victims of trafficking have been criminalised, despite promises to support victims of this horrendous crime which sees so many kept in slavery. There are over 40 million people, mainly women and children, trafficked and kept in slavery. As Pope Francis says this is a crime against humanity and a wound on the body of Christ.

“As the Santa Marta Group we will pursue this issue and continue to push for the victim to be at the centre of all we do. I have been inspired by the testimony of those working with victims in Argentina, and the leadership of Commissioner General Roncaglia head of the Argentinian federal police whose commitment to fighting human trafficking shows the way forward.

“This is not about public image, but about effective action and while there is much work to do, this conference inspires us on the way forward. This is an international crime, which is one of the most lucrative crimes in the world, and it requires an international response as well as the local care of the victim. Next week I will talk to Pope Francis about this meeting as we seek to increase cooperation between the Church, police and civil society to end this scourge.”

Cardinal Nichols also met with ministers of the Argentinian government, who have shown global leadership in this struggle by getting the fight against human trafficking onto the agenda of the G20 group of leading nations.

FULL CONCLUSION

Latin American Meeting on New Slavery and Human Trafficking “Together against Trafficking in Persons”

Tuesday, 12 Feb 2019

We want to thank all the organisations, institutions and individuals who work with dedication and commitment to eradicate human trafficking and to accompany victims and their families. Working together, with a clear framework, makes it possible to strive for a more human and just world.

Summary of Conclusions

At the Latin American Meeting on New Slavery and Human Trafficking with the slogan “Together Against Human Trafficking” we gathered representatives from across the region – the Catholic Church, other religious communities, civil society and law enforcement – with Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, England, President of the Santa Marta Group – the organisation instituted by Pope Francis in 2014 to fight human trafficking and modern slavery.

Delegates attended Mass in the Metropolitan Cathedral of Buenos Aires on Friday 8 February, the Feast Day of St Josephine Bakhita – a day of prayer for all those affected by the crimes of modern slavery and human trafficking, and the people that volunteer and work to eradicate this crime.

We feel impelled by the Holy Spirit, with prophetic voice, to highlight, value and defend the dignity and rights of every human person, supported in the biblical tradition. Life is a gift from God that nobody has the right to take or injure – every life answers to the Will of the Creator.

We join our voices with that of Pope Francis in saying:

“Even if we try to ignore it, slavery is not something of another time. In the face of this tragic reality we cannot wash our hands, but we don’t want to be, in any way, accomplices to these crimes against humanity. We cannot ignore that there is slavery in the world, as much or more perhaps than before.”

Every day we must strive to confront face-to-face the evil of human trafficking – this scourge of humanity that currently affects 40 million people in the world, violating what is expressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in various international conventions. We must prevent this crime and rescue, assist, protect and serve the victims of modern slavery prevalent in all our communities.

Our reflections have led us to assert the need:

• to promote as integral processes focused on the person and the unrestricted defence of their human dignity. The human person is at the centre of our work and our consciousness.

• for the Church and institutions attending the conference to promote initiatives between civil society, the various religious communities, law enforcement and government agencies to build confidence in all these institutions to eradicate this evil and help the victims. This commitment involves developing and sustaining practical cooperation on a shared vision.

• to encourage actions that accompany victims and allow them to collaborate with judicial proceedings without fear of consequences.

• to earmark more resources for the work to eradicate human trafficking and to press countries to have a specific budget for this purpose.

• to raise awareness in our communities so that we all open our eyes to the invisible reality of human trafficking – particularly the plight of the most vulnerable, including the migrant populations.

• to promote, at all levels of education, the dignity, equality and respect for every human person.

• to recognise that digital spaces and social networks are fertile ground for victim recruitment and to promote legislative and executive measures that prevent online exploitation.

• confiscate goods from those who profit from human trafficking and redirect these proceeds to assist victims. Whilst most countries have some form of legislation to tackle this, there is a need to implement it more effectively.

• to request a greater presence, in the member countries, of victim-centred services – efficient prevention, control and assistance agencies. Working towards more effective prosecution of the perpetrators of this evil organised crime.

In light of the disappearance of girls, boys and teenagers, especially for the purpose of sexual exploitation and organ harvesting, we call on the States to meet this reality with strong preventative measures. We also ask for effective and quick assistance for the victims’ children.

• to promote the need for countries to avoid buying goods and services when supply chains include slave labour and to set up an obligatory audit system for the provision of goods.

• to promote the founding of specialised prosecutors’ offices to combat human trafficking and swiftly bring perpetrators to justice.

• to strengthen the communications networks between institutions and organisations at diocesan, national and regional (Latin American) level, in order to build an effective network to share resources and to promote action.

• to initiate regional campaigns, focusing on promoting the value of the human person and raising awareness of the evil of human trafficking.

We entrust our work – and especially the victims and their families – to God, Father of Life. May the intercession of Mary, Mother of the poor and suffering, accompany us in all we do.

Buenos Aires, 11 February 2019 Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes

The Latin American Meeting on New Slavery and Human Trafficking “Together Against Human Trafficking” promoted by the Santa Marta Group, the Episcopal Conference of Argentina, through the Episcopal Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, the Episcopal Commission of Social Pastoral and the National Commission of Justice and Peace, along with the Latin American Episcopal Council – CELAM, through its Department of Justice and Solidarity, the Red Clamor and the International Forum of Catholic Action, in which more than 100 referents of this theme participated.