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Pope Francis: Human Trafficking is a Crime against Humanity

 

On Thursday, 12th December 2013 at the Clementine Hall, Pope Francis received Ambassadors who were newly accredited to the Holy See. On the occasion of the presentation of the letters of credence, Pope Francis addressed to them the problem of human trafficking. “Such trafficking is a true form of slavery, unfortunately more and more widespread, which concerns every country, even the most developed. It is a reality which affects the most vulnerable in society: women of all ages, children, the handicapped, the poorest, and those who come from broken families and from difficult situations in society”.
Pope Francis to the New Ambassadors – full text

Religious Women Link up to Fight Human Trafficking

 

TAGAYTAY CITY, PHILIPPINES by N.J. Viehland

A formidable multi-billion-dollar human-trafficking industry has driven Catholic religious women to collaborate among themselves and with other sectors of society to stop what Pope Francis has called “the most extensive form of slavery of the 21st century.”
Since International Union of Superiors General (UISG) established Talitha Kum (“Little girl, arise”) in 2009*, the anti-trafficking network of women religious, has developed a program of activities banking on partnerships established by the UISG central office in Rome as well as a network of local anti-trafficking teams.
Talitha Kum has also linked up with government, professional, faith-based and other organizations, said Sr. Estrella Castalone, its coordinator, at a recent Asia-Oceania conference of women religious in Tagaytay City, south of Manila.
In her presentation ahead of Thursday’s International Day against Trafficking, Castalone said, “My dearest sisters … We know that this slavery has a feminine face. It behooves us, women religious, to join hands and put a stop to it. Talitha Kum takes this commitment and we enjoin you to support us, individually or as a congregation.”
For Castalone of the Salesian Sisters of St. John Bosco, partnership is a “significant component” of Talitha Kum’s approach. Without this, it is impossible to combat the intricate web of syndicated operations she illustrated in her slideshow.
As religious, “we can only move and be involved within the parameters of our consecrated life,” Castalone pointed out to the more than 65 nuns and members of partner groups who joined the Asia-Oceania Meeting of Religious (AMOR XVI) in November.
Besides, victims of human trafficking often undergo a harrowing experience that requires a “long and difficult process of healing and recovery … needing interdisciplinary case management approach,” she said.
Partnering with government and private bodies also serves the need for job placement and alternative livelihood options for victims.
“We realize that as religious, we cannot be involved so much in the prosecution process,” Castalone said.
She acknowledged the help with funding provided by Conrad N. Hilton Fund for Sisters and the continuous training and support from International Organization for Migration.
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Report from the EU Civil Society Platform Meeting in Brussels

 

EU Commission at the Civil Society Platform Meeting in Brussels, 9-10 Dec. 2013
EU Commission at the Civil Society Platform Meeting Brussels, 9-10 Dec. 2013

EU Civil Society Platform was officially launched on the 31 May 2013 in Brussels. Civil society organisations from EU Member States, working against trafficking in human beings, were invited to apply for participation. Applications were examined by the European Commission ensuring a maximum number of participants with a geographical balance to include all Member States if possible and taking into account a diversity of areas of expertise and type of organisation in order to allow the EU to understand, with a comprehensive approach, the reality which could effect the EU policy. A hundred organisations were represented in the first meeting of the Platform.
The second meeting of this Platform was scheduled for 9-10 December 2013. Myria Vassiliadou, EU Anti-Trafficking Coordinator, welcomed new representatives from four non-EU Members States such as Albania, Turkey, Ukraine and Morocco. The aim of this meeting was to update participants with the recent developments of the European Commission and to present an outline of the Online Platform, and to discuss in the light of this information as a basis for assessing and further improving the policy.  The representatives also participated in workshops on topics suggested earlier by Members of the Platform. The three areas of discussion were:

  • Involvement of the Civil Society in the Implementation of the Directive on Trafficking in Human Beings
  • Victims-Centred Approach: Identification, Assistance and Protection, National Referral Mechanisms
  • Demand Reduction

There was an introduction to each working group done respectively by the speakers who participate in the meetings of the Informal Network of National Rapporteurs or Equivalent Mechanisms (NREM): Venla Roth – NREM Finland, Patricia Le Cocq – NREM Belgium, Romulus Nicolae Ungureanu – NREM Romania.
Full description of the workshops is available here.

Cecilia-Malmström-EU-Commissioner-for-Home-Affairs
Cecilia Malmström, EU-Commissioner for Home Affairs

All participants were invited to the networking dinner at the hotel. It was very kind of Cecilia Malmström, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, to express her interest and give attention to the work being done by the Civil Society Organisations. She stressed that the phenomenon of Human Trafficking is now more and more recognised even among youth. Having received many school/college groups she said that all had raised questions about Human Trafficking. This is a sign of a growing awareness consequent to many raising activities being undertaken by many stakeholders working in the field.
All groups had good discussions which brought many points for consideration and suggestions for future actions. Among the most important, there were:
GROUP No. 1.

  1. Involving civil society is fundamental for the fight against HT. It is good to have diverse ngos as members of the Platform.
  2. It is important to raise awareness of the Directive within society using the media to explain the role of the document.
  3. Directives should have a direct effect. However the experience shows that some countries who have been informed about transposition of the Directive have not really implemented it.
  4. Provisions and actions of the civil society to enable them to work and to prioritise for the benefit of the victims: non-punishment, access to assistance, right to protection, right to compensation, protection from the secondary victimisation.
  5. Shadow reporting from the different stakeholders working in the field of anti-trafficking would help the European Commission to see progress made on the implementation of the Directive. Full transparency is very important to get a real picture of the situation.
  6. Stress on prevention – important to use education.

GROUP No. 2.

  1. There is a lack of formalisation of the role of the ngos in the recognition of the victims of HT.
  2. Emphasis should be put on collecting evidence from the victims. Some victims are excluded from being identified.
  3. Promoting victim’s rights on the website banners.
  4. Address the lack of protection resulting from free movement.
  5. Need of training among social workers.
  6. Internal trafficking is on the rise. More victims of labour trafficking noticed.
  7. Mapping of ngos and services and what they provide would be helpful.
  8. Promoting new models of guardianship.

GROUP No. 3.

  1. Big challenge for many ngos is the issue of funding. EU funds are a chance for many but hard to access and manage (example of an ngo which had to close down).
  2. Different forms of trafficking – different groups of interests.
  3. Exit programme for labour exploitation.
  4. Problem of domestic servitude.
  5. The same demand for prostitution is equated with the same demand which results in sexual exploitation.
  6. Gender dimension when speaking about demand.
  7. Postulate to penalise/criminalise the demand on the EU level (directive) and harmonise regulations.
  8. Human Trafficking is the only violiation of Human Rights with money behind it.

 

Work in Groups, Brussels, 9-10 Dec. 2013
Work in Groups, Brussels, 9-10 Dec. 2013

Concluding the Second Meeting of the EU Civil Society Platform, Myria Vassiliadou led our attention to the day of our meeting, 10th of December which is Human Rights Day. We observed one minute of silence for all those for whom we work, victims of present-day slavery. She thanked all participants for their presence, work on the topics and reminded about the coming challenge for the EU Member States which are obliged to measure reduction of the demand.
Full report from this meeting will be public and available on the EU Civil Society Platform website.
Leaflets showing variety of participants
Leaflets showing variety of participants

Putting Victims First: Conference on Protecting and Promoting the Rights of Victims of Trafficking

 

Poland, Warsaw, 26-27 November 2013

Four members of RENATE attended a conference organised by the Ministry of Interior of Poland, the Governments of Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, the Council of Europe, and the International Organization for Migration. The aim of this conference was to provide a platform for the exchange of knowledge and best practices as regards protection of the rights of victims of trafficking in line in with the second “P” (protection) of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings.

Conference in Warsaw, Poland, 26-27 November 2013
Putting Victims First, Conference in Warsaw, Poland, 26-27 November 2013

Clear and consistent protection of the rights of victims of trafficking in human beings is essential. The Council of Europe Convention sets specific rights including emergency assistance, safe accommodation, compensation, legal redress and rehabilitation. About 200 participants from 35 countries discussed the substantive content of these measures. In this regard, the discussions were focused on four related themes:
 
Identification of victims of trafficking with a specific focus on labour exploitation
Human trafficking occurs where there is a possibility for financial gain through the exploitation of persons for work. It takes various forms and victims may be found in many different sectors and activities. Even if over time there have been advances in the development of procedures for identification of victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation, there is relatively less experience with regard to identification of victims of trafficking for labour exploitation. Hence, one challenge rests in ensuring that representatives of institutions whose jobs involve contact with persons who may be trafficking victims have the expertise necessary to detect risk factors and refer this information to those competent to formally identify victims. Identification helps to prevent further exploitation and ensures that the victims are informed of their rights and can be referred to an appropriate specialized agency for further assistance.
Taking these considerations as the starting point, the discussion focused, among others, on:

  • The importance of formalised procedures for the identification of victims of trafficking;
  • The benefits of multidisciplinary approach to identification.

 
Standards of safe accommodation for victims of trafficking
One of the first steps to be taken in respect of victims wishing to escape from the control of traffickers is to provide a safe and secure shelter. Despite the prospect of continued abuse, many victims decide to stay with the traffickers because leaving can involve more danger and greater vulnerability. The lack of appropriate accommodation often results in victims returning to their abusers after an initial escape,. It is therefore crucial that real and practical options for safety and security are made available to different categories of victims of trafficking. Each victim is unique and requires and desires bespoke assistance.
The discussion focused on:.

  • The importance of shelter accommodation not being made conditional on the victims’ willingness to act as a witness or being linked to the duration of the criminal proceedings;
  • The importance of clear legal basis on which victims of trafficking can invoke protection and assistance;
  • Striking a balance between the need to protect victims and the respect for the victims’ rights and privacy.

 
Legal redress and compensation
A human rights-based approach puts the human rights of trafficked persons at the centre of all efforts to prevent and combat trafficking and to protect, assist and provide redress to victims. It also entails the effective prosecution of traffickers, putting the emphasis on the right to effective remedy for the victim. The Council of Europe Convention provides for the right of victims of trafficking to compensation from the perpetrators as well as compensation from the State. However currently, the challenge rests in the procedures that provide trafficked persons to receive redress and compensation in a holistic manner, but are only provided with ad hoc measures which are primarily aimed at facilitating criminal investigation. At present, even when there are possibilities in law for granting compensation to victims, in practice this right remains theoretical and few victims benefit from compensation schemes.
Taking these considerations as the starting point, the discussion focused on:

  • Access to legal assistance and free legal aid;
  • The importance of having different avenues for claiming compensation (both from the perpetrator and the State);
  • Building the capacity of relevant professionals to enable victims to benefit from the legal possibilities to claim compensations;
  • Guaranteeing the right to compensation across border (portable justice).

 
Ensuring victims’ rehabilitation and safe return
When it comes to discussing long-term solutions with the victims of human trafficking there are different options that should be made available to them: integration, move to another country in which the victim has a residence permit, return to the country of origin. All alternatives should be in principal equally accessible and valid to them.
Some victims of human trafficking might be vitally interested in returning home. The Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration programme offers them such a possibility. Such services are always based on victims’ informed consent and are extended only to those who have freely chosen to return home. Yet, return of the victim of human trafficking to the country or community of origin is not always the optimal solution. While considering return, all possible threats related to becoming victimised a second option should be always taken into account. Victims who express an inability or unwillingness to return should be offered alternative, safe and efficient options. Whatever alternative is considered, it should be analysed together with a risk analysis and, if necessary, a risk-management plan. In this regard mainstream social services and labour market also has a role to play. These challenges were addressed during the discussion.

  • Co-operation between countries of destination and countries of origin in order to ensure proper risk assessment and safe return, as well as effective reintegration of victims.

 
Full description including conference materials can be found here: Putting Victims First The summary of the discussions will be available in English, Russian and Polish at the conference website www.victimsfirst.pl at the beginning of next year.