The Vatican has asked Catholic charity Apostleship of the Sea (AoS) to take the lead in tackling trafficking and exploitation of fishermen.
In a message ahead of World Fisheries Day on 21 November, Cardinal Antonio Maria Vegliò, on behalf of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, called on AoS to intensify its presence in fishing ports to identify and rescue victims of human trafficking.
“We express our gratitude to the chaplains and volunteers of AoS for their dedication and commitment.
“It is also necessary that AoS work more closely with leaders of fishing communities to educate and prevent human trafficking by providing viable alternatives of employment and livelihood,” he said.
World Fisheries Day this year also coincides with the start of the AoS Indian Ocean regional conference – which focuses on fisheries – to be held in Cape Town, South Africa.
Cardinal Vegliò said within the fishing industry there are hundreds of thousands of migrants who are smuggled and trafficked for forced labour on board fishing vessels.
“This is favoured by a network of criminal organisations and individuals who prey on people coming from poverty, eagerly seeking employment that could help them to break away from the circle of misery,” he said.
He added many of the vulnerable end up being trafficked, and find themselves in debt bondage and slavery, often without a way out.
“The fishing vessels stay out at sea for long periods – from a few months to several years – and the victims of these crimes find it difficult, if not impossible, to report their predicaments.”
Cardinal Vegliò also renewed the Church’s appeal to governments to ratify the Work in Fishing Convention, 2007 (No. 188) which aims to create a safe working environment on board fishing vessels and better welfare provisions for fishermen.
“As of October 2016 the Convention has been ratified by nine coastal states, and one more country is necessary for the Convention to enter into force,” he said.
Cardinal Vegliò quoted Pope Francis’s call: “Human trafficking is a crime against humanity. We must unite our efforts to free the victims and stop this increasingly aggressive crime which threatens not only individuals but the basic values of society and of international security and justice, to say nothing of the economy, and the fabric of the family and our coexistence.”
In Great Britain, AoS works closely with the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner to identify and support victims of trafficking and exploitation in the fishing and shipping sectors.
Further information for Editors
The Apostleship of the Sea (AoS), is a registered charity and agency of the Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of England & Wales and Scotland. It is wholly reliant on voluntary donations and legacies to continue its work.
90% of world trade is transported by ship, and more than 100,000 ships visit British ports each year. However the life of a modern seafarer can be dangerous and lonely. They may spend up to a year at a time away from home, separated from their family and loved ones, often working in harsh conditions.
AoS chaplains and ship visitors welcome seafarers to our shores – regardless of their colour, race or creed and provide them with pastoral and practical assistance. They recognise them as brothers with an intrinsic human dignity which can be overlooked in the modern globalised maritime industry.
For more information contact AoS on 020 7901 1931.