Vatican Workshop: Shining the spotlight on modern slavery

2013-10-31 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) How can the international community achieve greater collaboration in combating the crime of human trafficking in which millions of people are enslaved? That’s the main aim of a workshop on Human Trafficking taking place in the Vatican this weekend that's being attended by international experts in this field. The two-day event has been organized by the Pontifical Academies of Science and of Social Sciences following a wish expressed by Pope Francis.

Among the participants is Dr Anne Gallagher, a leading global authority on international law regarding human trafficking. A human rights lawyer and UN Adviser, Gallagher has received several awards for her anti-trafficking work. She spoke to Susy Hodges about the recent tragedies involving migrants trying to reach Europe and the overlapping problem of human trafficking.

Listen to the full interview with Dr Anne Gallagher:

Asked for her reaction to the latest tragedy involving migrants who died of thirst whilst trying to cross the Sahara Desert, Gallagher says she hopes this new tragedy will help alert the international community to “the exploitation and misery that comes with global migration trends.” “The more it’s in the spotlight, this reality, the more governments and communities will feel compelled to act.”

Turning to the Vatican Workshop on Human Trafficking, Gallagher says she hopes it will provide “a chance for some real moral leadership” on an issue that unfortunately up until now, has lacked that kind of leadership. Pope Francis, she says, “has come out very clearly on what’s happening around human trafficking… that the exploitation of human beings for private profit is wrong.”

When it comes to assessing what progress has been made in the fight against human trafficking, Gallagher points to the fact that this activity is “now recognized as a crime” by most leading countries which wasn’t the case even 10 to 15 years ago. She says the criminal justice response to trafficking has also been strengthened in a number of ways. The flip side according to Gallagher is that the perpetrators of this exploitation are mostly going unpunished. “Traffickers are still able to conduct their activities with virtual impunity, that’s quite often because of corruption or the complicity of government officials.” “We are seeing increased prosecutions and some victims are being rescued and securing justice for the crimes committed against them, but it’s still too little, too few and often too late.”

More worrying, although there are no firm figures regarding the extent of human trafficking because it’s an underground and covert activity, Gallagher says “it’s very likely that this kind of exploitation is getting worse.”

(Photo shows Cambodian victim of trafficking turned campaigner being awarded prize by former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.)