(Vatican Radio) The Vatican’s permanent representative to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Msgr. Janusz Urbańczyk, has addressed three separate panels at the “17th Alliance against Trafficking in Persons Conference”.
The focus of the conference is on trafficking in children and is taking place in Vienna.
Msgr. Urbańczyk addressed the panels on “Human Trafficking Threats for Children in Crisis”, “Towards Effective Child Protection Systems to Fight Human Trafficking”, and “Looking forward: Guidelines for Policy Development and Implementation”.
At the heart of the Holy See’s message was a call to view the current migration crisis as a “crisis of humanity”.
“The Holy See wishes to reiterate once again that the current crisis of migrant and refugee flow is primarily, in the words of Pope Francis, a crisis of humanity. As such, it is vital that all actors recognise that above all ‘Migrants are not a danger, they are in danger’”.
Msgr. Urbańczyk also urged enhanced cooperation between governments and non-governmental organizations, as well as with members of the private sector.
“It is of great urgency to strengthen cooperation and coordination with NGOs that work in the areas of concern and know the context of poverty and vulnerability where situations of exploitation very often arise. It is also opportune to cooperate with the private sector, in particular with national and local companies, as well as with multinationals, so that they may adopt rigorous and law-abiding behavior.”
Pope Francis on Monday sent a message to the conference: click here to see it.
Please find below the three separate statements:
STATEMENT BY MSGR. JANUSZ URBAŃCZYK, PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE OF THE HOLY SEE, AT THE 17TH ALLIANCE AGAINST TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS CONFERENCE “TRAFFICKING IN HUMAN BEINGS AND THE BEST INTERESTS OF THE CHILD”
Vienna, 3 April 2017
Panel 1: Human Trafficking Threats for Children in Crisis
the Delegation of the Holy See wishes to express its gratitude to the Austrian Chairmanship and to H.E. Ambassador Madina Jarbussynova, Special Representative and Co-ordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings, for convening this Conference on “Trafficking in Human Beings and the Best Interests of the Child”. And as previous speakers, I would like to thank the panelists for their substantive contributions.
At the outset, the Holy See wishes to reiterate once again that the current crisis of migrant and refugee flow is primarily, in the words of Pope Francis, a crisis of humanity. As such, it is vital that all actors recognise that above all “Migrants are not a danger, they are in danger”. While recognising that this unprecedented influx of migrants and refugees does indeed pose significant challenges, in terms of security, both among and in States, and of integration in host societies, the Holy See is concerned that migrants are becoming an instrument of politics, rather than the object of our sincere and concerted assistance.
Moreover, it should be stressed that the persistence worldwide of the root causes of the current migration crisis, which are significant “push factors” for the increase of migration, inevitably forces more and more children to migrate, and many of them to become victims. It is highly regrettable that there are still so many unaccompanied minors among migrants who lack legal protection in OSCE transit countries, and who, therefore, paradoxically, find in traffickers the apparent means of achieving a better and safer life. Pope Francis dedicated his message for the 2017 World Day of Migrants and Refugees to child migrants, because - as he says - they are defenceless in a threefold way: they are children, they are foreigners and they have no means to protect themselves.
In this regard, I would like to take this opportunity to reaffirm two fundamental concepts we should always bear in mind, taking into account what the title of this Conference suggests to us, namely “the best interests of the child”. First, we must fully respect the right of every child to live in his/her family. As the Holy Father always stresses, we should look at the root-causes every time we deal with a child abused, trafficked or harassed; we should look at the conditions of the family of origin and ask ourselves how it is possible that still, in our “advanced” century, unscrupulous people are able to desecrate the life of a child, exploit young girls and boys who are led into prostitution or into the mire of pornography.
We are witnessing the reality of young girls and boys who are enslaved as child labourers or soldiers, caught up in drug or organ trafficking, illegally adopted or forced to marry or flee from conflict and persecution, risking isolation and abandonment. Tackling this situation means that “long-term solutions [must] be sought and adopted. Since this is a complex phenomenon, the question of child migrants must be tackled at its source. Wars, human rights violations, corruption, poverty, environmental imbalance and disasters, are all causes of this problem,” which often puts the parents in a position of being unable to guarantee the safety of their children. Strictly connected are the right and duty to receive adequate education, primarily in the family, as well as in school.
Yet we know well that there are too many areas in the world where basic education is still a privilege of the few and not a recognized/universal right. Only through an adequate formation of the whole person, and not just of the intellect, can children “grow as persons and agents of their own future and the future of their respective countries.” Where children are at risk of exploitation and trafficking, protected reception shelters ought to be created. Such shelters should reproduce a family-like environment to ensure education, formation and protection. Second, although we are all committed to protecting human dignity, the cold reality of financial gain remains “the most powerful force driving the exploitation and abuse of children. If more rigorous and effective action is not taken against those who profit from such abuse, we will not be able to stop the multiple forms of slavery where children are the victims.”
It is deeply shocking that the enslavement of human beings, and especially of children, has become for traffickers a highly “profitable business”, which in some regions of the world, including Europe, yields more financial profit than arms or drug trafficking. We also have to bear in mind that organized trafficking often has deep-seated links to corruption, including the collusion of local officials with 1 Message of His Holiness Pope Francis for the World Day of migrants and refugees 2017: “Child Migrants, the Vulnerable and the Voiceless”.
Thus, it falls upon the international community, including our Organization (naturally in cooperation with the countries of origin), to use every means at its disposal to eliminate the root causes of such situations, namely poverty, corruption, conflicts and violence that force people to flee and fall prey to what Pope Francis many times denounced as “true crimes against humanity”. As our Delegation has stated before, “these crimes need to be recognized as such by all religious, political and social leaders, and by national and international legislation.”
This requires a “far-sighted perspective capable of offering adequate programmes for areas struck by the worst injustice and instability, in order that access to authentic development can be guaranteed for all. This development should promote the good - [the best interests] - of boys and girls, who are humanity’s hope.”
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Panel 2: Towards Effective Child Protection Systems to Fight Human Trafficking
The constant migratory movement we are experiencing in this era draws our attention to the vulnerability of migrants. Among them there are many unaccompanied minors, whose plight is one of the most evident tragedies that humanity is currently witnessing. Too many of them are or risk being victims of the ruthless trafficking of human beings and the most abject and sinister exploitation. We would like to offer three suggestions for the protection of these minors:
1) Provide assistance to ensure all children are registered in their countries of origin.
The origin of most of these children is traceable to countries where registration systems do not reach the most remote places. It therefore becomes difficult to register all the children born in those countries in an effective manner. Even families themselves very often encounter objective difficulties. Because of lack of education and other adverse conditions, they do not even try to register the birth of their children. We would suggest that international organizations, with the help of the NGOs that work in the field, provide support to the various central and local governments, to ensure widespread availability of registry offices, so that these ‘invisible’ people – who, being unregistered, easily become victims of criminals - may avoid the risk of being consigned to oblivion. This has already been achieved in some countries in Africa, thanks to organizations connected to the Catholic Church, which, with the support of the local authorities, have achieved positive results. Being registered contributes to ensuring that fundamental rights are respected and often facilitates access to those services, such as education and healthcare, that support people in their growth.
2) The need of international agreements.
International agreements explicitly aimed at protecting the rights of children should be confirmed and better implemented. In particular, efforts to counter the factors that expose children to every form of selling, trafficking and exploitation should be increased, at the national and international levels. It is important to promote information programmes on children’s rights, in families, communities and among children themselves. To protect these minors means to create the conditions to ensure that they may all consider themselves protected in their families, social and educational context and country.
3) Creation of efficient networks to combat children trafficking and exploitation.
My Delegation believes that in order to address this current scourge and ensure more effective protection for children who live in situations of marginalization, an efficient network to contrast criminality, trafficking and exploitation should be created. The harrowing stories of boys and girls who have fallen into the nets of traffickers call on everyone to assume their responsibilities. These responsibilities should be shared at various levels.
An efficient network involving civil authorities, national and international nongovernmental organizations and international organizations could result in an authentic and effective network of solidarity and promotion of human dignity. Finally, in the Catholic Church, the network Talitha Kum was created by religious sisters at the international level and it expanded widely throughout the world. It has a network of rescue, assistance and protection for victims, as well as information, formation and education programmes and it provides some help to those who return to their own countries.
For the past three years, this network has been promoting 8 February as the International Day of Prayer and Reflection against the trafficking of persons. This Day has provided an opportunity to show that it is indeed possible to inform, educate, protect, welcome and provide support through a positive network. This year’s title was emblematic, and should be the motto guiding the work of this year’s Alliance: “They are children and not slaves!”.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman
Panel 3: Looking forward: Guidelines for Policy Development and Implementation
“Make visible the invisible”.
This slogan encapsulates what should be the goal of the guidelines. In this context, careful study of the phenomenon should be prioritized as an urgency to discern the common traits of the various stories of exploitation, in order to determine where effective interventions can and should be made.
Accurate understanding of such phenomena and their implications makes it possible to adopt policies and norms more in keeping with reality, as well as to begin a more efficient action of advocacy. Strong cooperation between political and police forces, national investigation agencies and NGOs is needed, and more efficient international cooperation should be instituted, so that it may prove possible to intercept the channels that these minors are forced to use, even when they arrive in a transit or final destination country.
Policies and actions should be aimed at the particularity of defenceless and fragile child migrants, whose lives are marked by forms of exploitation that will likely follow them all through their lives. Let us also not forget the many unaccompanied minors who disappear, even in our region, from protection networks that the governments provide for them. When they disappear, they often enter dark zones from which law enforcement will struggle to extract them, if they find them in the first place.
Particular attention should be given to those persons who take advantage and exploit these child victims, to those who are violating them, to those who are robbing them of their young age and innocence. However, we must recall that it is not only a question of dealing with traffickers and criminals per se, though this is a fundamental starting point. Attention must also be given to the various ways in which trafficking of children feeds into what could be perceived as legitimate activity in our societies. Any kind of “demand”, economic gain or sheer lack of attention that make trafficking more lucrative must be challenged. In this way, this kind of demand would not only be reduced; we would also take important steps in eliminating this “commodity demand”.
Therefore, it is of great urgency to strengthen cooperation and coordination with NGOs that work in the areas of concern and know the context of poverty and vulnerability where situations of exploitation very often arise. It is also opportune to cooperate with the private sector, in particular with national and local companies, as well as with multinationals, so that they may adopt rigorous and law-abiding behavior.
Finally, it is paramount to recognize the need of a cultural change. It is urgent to instill in every conscience, personal and collective, those universal values so clearly expressed in the Declaration of Human Rights, values that should not only be at the basis of all political activity and law-abiding regulations, but also provide the basis of every programme of education and formation of the individual.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman