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Opposing Human Trafficking

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Why is MIA focusing on Human Trafficking?

Mercy Global Action is focusing on Human Trafficking as one of its two major themes (the other being Cosmology/Eco Justice) for three main reasons:

1. Human Trafficking (HT) or modern slavery is a major issue confronting women, men and children.

Research studies indicate that the ‘root causes’ underpinning HT like sustained poverty, lack of educational opportunities and complex family issues render people vulnerable to being trafficked.

There are no boundaries for HT hence it exists at local, national and international levels. According to the annual ‘Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report of the USA’, every country is a source, transit or destination country for traffickers. Trafficking, akin to modern slavery is one of the most horrific crimes committed in today’s society, for it treats a human person as a commodity to be bought and sold. Once ‘bought’ a person no longer has rights but is forced to work in agriculture, or sweatshops, or domestic servitude or in sexual servitude.

'We were treated like slaves, all day and all night we had to work. I don’t want anyone else to have to face the same ordeal.' Nayto, Survivor.
In early July 2016, 14 migrant workers escaped a chicken farm in the Lop Buri region of Thailand. Their reports of harsh treatment, exhaustive hours and despicable work conditions made instant headlines.

The European Commission of Human Rights defines slavery as being forced 'to live and work on another person’s property and perform certain services for them, whether paid or unpaid, together with being unable to alter one’s condition'.

A person who is trafficked is held by her/his ‘owner’ through the threat of violence, or other forms of coercion, deception and abuse of power. This enforcement takes advantage of the victim’s vulnerability, by abusing for example the economic insecurity or poverty of an adult hoping to provide for her family in very difficult circumstances. In terms of children they can be enticed or ‘groomed’ to lure them into a situation to be abused in a paedophilia or prostitution ring. If those trafficked do not speak the language, or have had their legal documents taken from them they believe they have no option but to comply with the demands of the traffickers. Some are physically and sexually abused plus threatened that if they try to escape their families will be harmed, thus rendering them powerless and at the mercy of the pimp or trafficker.

The United Nations estimates that about 22 million people have been trafficked from 127 different countries for forced labour or bonded labour and sexual exploitation. Earning traffickers €150+ billion HT is now the second most lucrative illicit money making venture in the world.

2.The Global Mercy Family is already doing substantial work to combat trafficking.

The case studies presented in Mercy eNews highlight the work the Mercy Family is engaged in to prevent HT and to address the issue at grassroots level. In Ireland Sisters of Mercy provide safe houses and support to access education and new employment to survivors of HT. Members accompany women to court, and are also involved in advocacy and raising awareness about HT, working with the network APT (Act to Prevent Trafficking) to mobilise community support to eradicate HT. APT is lobbying for improved legislation at the national, EU and UN level and are part of the Global networks RENATE and UNANIMA. These networks run international campaigns to stop the demand for trafficking, focussing on women and children.

In the United States (US) Sisters of Mercy are the primary funders of the Willow Tree Justice Project in Kansas City, an organization which works with women who have been trafficked within the US. Members provide emotional support, drug and mental health programmes as well as advocacy and navigation of the criminal justice and social service systems. The Office of Social Concern in the Diocese of San Bernardino, California has set up a Trafficking Committee to raise people’s awareness of trafficking in many dioceses throughout the US. They also provide immediate help for trafficked people, whilst working closely with law enforcement agencies who provide support to their work.

Sisters of Mercy provide refuge for trafficked women in Moreno, Buenos Aires, Argentina. They also engage in the issue at the political level, with Sisters involved in advocacy and lobbying to end trafficking. They were part of a group of over 150 people in the small border city of Clorinda, Formosa, Argentina, who signed a declaration promising to combat the trafficking of persons.

Women@thewell is an innovative charity founded by the Sisters of Mercy in the UK that aims to provide a uniquely holistic and multi-faceted range of services to vulnerable women. These include survivors of HT equipping them with the skills, resources and support that they need, to successfully rejoin and reintegrate into society.

3. The European Union the United Nations are focusing on Trafficking as a priority issue.

MIA through specific case studies and information from the Mercy Family working to eradicate HT, is in a position to influence these bodies.

MIA-Global Action is working to strengthen the positions taken by the UN and the EU on HT. In 2000 the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, known as the Palermo Convention was adopted. Additionally two Protocols were developed to strengthen this; the first is to ‘Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children’. The second was the ‘Protocol against Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea, and Air’ supplementing the UN Convention against Transnational Organised Crime. These will be reviewed by 147 Nations in October 2016, at a High Level Meeting in Vienna, of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC) intensify the global fight against organized crime.

In 2004 the new position of UN Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, with particular emphasis on women and children was established. Closely linked with the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva, the Rapporteur submits country and international reports to the HRC and the General Assembly, which has raised awareness and put the spotlight on countries where because of war, social inequalities or cultural mores, people are more likely to be rendered vulnerable to HT.

MIA is assessing how best to link, strengthen and coordinate what is going on at national level to address the heinous crime of human trafficking with lobbying and advocacy at the EU and UN levels. The Mercy Representative for Global Action at the UN, is focusing her lobbying efforts on HT through the NGO Committee Against Trafficking in Persons at the UN.

MIA Global Action and Trafficking

MIA Global Action has established a working group on Trafficking to take their work forward.

The Trafficking working group is responsible for developing the work of MIA on this issue. Group participants include practitioners, members of the Mercy Family who work with trafficked persons and survivors, academics with theoretical knowledge of the subject area and theologians who bring a theological perspective rooted in Gospel values. Through this process of praxis, the working group discuss various aspects of HT plus share stories from their engagement with trafficked persons, which provides valuable first hand information that underpins our work to address the global systemic injustice of HT through different fora at the UN. Simultaneously the Mercy Family is working to eradicate human trafficking through addressing ‘root causes’, raising awareness and lobbying to change policies to prevent HT, whilst ensuring there is national legislation in place to protect, facilitate justice for, and offer full support to survivors of trafficking. .

A subcommittee of the working group has been established to look at the theological basis for Mercy work on trafficking, to incorporate Mercy values of Justice, Dignity, Non violence and empowerment and to communicate to MIA members and associates as to why human trafficking is an important concern for the Sisters of Mercy.

The group is also looking at possibilities for common campaigns and developing common education materials that could be used with Mercy justice groups and schools.

Messages to: Denise Boyle fmdm- Mercy Global Action

Updated July 2016