Pope Francis Firmly Committed to Combating Modern-Day Slavery
By: Beatriz Susana Garcia
On November 2nd and 3rd, 2013, the world’s attention turned to the Vatican as the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences and the International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations invited 100 international experts of different fields in a two-day seminar discussing and analyzing the global phenomenon of human trafficking.
According to Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, Chancellor of the academies, this Seminar entitled “Trafficking in Human Beings: Modern Slavery” was a direct initiative of His Holiness Pope Francis, who is concerned that human trafficking will become increasingly lucrative and the world’s largest criminal activity. In its 2012 report, the International Labor Organization estimated that modern slavery around the world claims 20.9 million victims at any time. This crime denies all human rights and fundamental freedoms of its victims, and the Holy Father has been deeply concerned about the issue since early on, when he was the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Pope Francis had advised the academies to engage in more research and multidisciplinary dialogue to analyze the problem and explore actions for sharing proper and practical solutions to stop this heinous crime.
This recent focus on human trafficking is in continuation of Pope Francis’ dedication to the protection of refugees, the poor and vulnerable populations generally. This Vatican Working Group on Trafficking is an initiative of paramount importance, because human trafficking is a problem that involves all the world community at-large. Bishop Sanchez Sorondo mentioned to reporters that “some experts believe human trafficking will overtake drug and arms trafficking in a decade, becoming the most lucrative criminal activity in the world.” The trafficking crime generates billions of profits through the exploitation of women, children, adolescents and men worldwide. The participants talked about risk factors that promote human trafficking, identification and assistance to trafficked victims, and also about prosecution of traffickers. The participants set up a list of recommendations. The Vatican reported that further meetings are planned in 2014 and 2015. This is a highly commendable initiative of Pope Francis furthering effective steps towards involvement of all civil society sectors in combating human trafficking.
The U.S. Department of State recently released the annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report. Secretary of State, John Kerry, delivered the report stating,
When we help countries to prosecute traffickers, we are strengthening the rule of law. When we bring victims out of exploitation, we are helping to create more stable and productive communities. When we stop this crime from happening in the first place, we are preventing the abuse of those who are victimized as well as the ripple effect that caused damage throughout communities into our broader environment and which corrupt our global supply chains. We all have an interest in stopping this crime…
The report is one of the U.S. State Department’s most important contributions against combating modern-day slavery and a very powerful tool in persuading nations to take action. The TIP report describes forms of slavery in individual countries and current efforts to end them. The countries are ranked based on whether they meet certain standards set out in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA). The TIP Report ranks a country’s anti-trafficking efforts on a three-tier scale. Tier 1 countries are deemed to meet minimum standards in preventing human trafficking. Tier 2 nations are making significant efforts to meet those standards, while Tier 2 Watch List countries are making such efforts but require special scrutiny. And Tier 3 countries are making no significant efforts.
In 2008, changes made to the TVPRA mandated that nations on the Tier 2 Watch List for four straight years, without having demonstrated any progress, must be automatically downgraded to Tier 3 and face sanctions. Sanctions may include the withholding of assistance from the United States, the World Bank, and/ or the International Monetary Fund. However, the President is able to fully or partially waive sanctions for reasons that include U.S. national interest.
China, Russia, and Uzbekistan were all downgraded to a Tier 3 as a result of the 2008 TVPRA’s mandate and face possible sanctions. President Obama has 90 days to decide these countries will actually be subject to sanctions. The complete report is available for review on the U.S. Department of State’s website.
President Obama signs Reauthorization of VAWA 2013
by Lazarita Chumpitazi, J.D./LL.M. candidate, Human Trafficking Academy Graduate Fellow
Historic legislation affording all women greater protections from violent relationships was signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 7, 2013. The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was initially enacted in 1994 in an effort to provide women with protection from domestic abuse and to ensure prosecution of the abusers. The VAWA’s main purpose is to recognize the pervasive nature of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking among girls and women, to prohibit such conduct and to support organizations who are offering comprehensive services to those affected by these heinous crimes.
The reauthorization of VAWA has broadened these protections by adding the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2013 (TVPRA) in its entirety as an amendment. The TVPRA is an essential tool that the United States uses, since the year 2000 in order to fulfill its objectives of combating human trafficking. The United States government is able to fund investigation and prosecution of the trafficking crime, preventive efforts at home and abroad, as well as services for survivors, through the TVPRA. The statute combats both national and international trafficking in persons, defines the penalties for trafficking, promotes interagency cooperation, and ensures international monitoring of states’ compliance with international minimum standards, contained in the TVPRA.
Other changes to the VAWA include extending tribal jurisdiction over non-Natives who commit crimes of domestic violence or sexual assault against a Native American spouse or partner, extending rights to the LGBTQ community, and to the illegal immigrants who are victims of domestic violence, rape, and sex trafficking. This law has helped over 2 million victims since its initial enactment.
In the News: It Happens Here! The UK’s Appalling Response to Human Trafficking
By Lazarita Chumpitazi, J.D., LL.M., Graduate Fellow, Human Trafficking Academy
The Center for Social Justice (CSJ) in the United Kingdom has published a report titled “It Happens Here!” describing the lack of efforts and measures against human trafficking in the country. The CSJ is a non-partisan working group, comprising of prominent academics, practitioners, and policy makers who have expertise in the fields relevant to human trafficking. They consult with national and international charities, social enterprises, academics, and the like who are well versed in their respective fields.
The 224-page report was written after an 18-month investigation during which a team of experts interviewed hundreds of witnesses. The investigation found that large numbers of people, including minors, were being used for forced criminality such as benefit fraud, organized begging, forced pick-pocketing, drug cultivation, and sexual exploitation.
The CSJ expresses its shock at the lack of awareness among professionals regarding the subject. Inter alia it states:
The CSJ has been shocked at the low awareness among professionals and has seen that many are not equipped to fulfill their responsibility. We have encountered unacceptable levels of ignorance and misidentification of victims among police, social services, the UKBA [UK Border Agency], the judicial system and others whose responsibility is to identify victims and ensure they are protected. This is a grave hindrance to the UK’s response to the victims hidden within its communities and the traffickers who seek to exploit them.