Call for new action on human trafficking and modern slavery

A major Catholic conference on Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery took place on 15 October 2019 in London. 76 representatives from the Catholic Church in England and Wales and other organisations shared their collective experience and ideas on how to achieve lasting impacts from the national to the community levels, in policy and practice.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols joined expert speakers from the fields of policy, frontline services, ethical investment and those working to eradicate the phenomenon from supply chains. There were contributions from the Santa Marta Group and CSAN member charities: Caritas Salford, The Medaille Trust, JRS UK, Caritas Westminster, and women@thewell. Andrew Adams (CCLA) and Sion Hall, former Head of the East Lancashire Police Anti-trafficking and Modern-Day Slavery Unit, addressed the issues of public engagement, partnership and eradication of the phenomenon from supply chains & investments. Luke de Pulford of The Arise Foundation spoke of the vital importance of partnership from the local to the international level, highlighting the enormous strengths the Church has to achieve this.

The first UK Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, Kevin Hyland, now Senior Advisor to the Santa Marta Group of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, spoke of the 150 million children today being exploited worldwide, with around 20,000 dying annually through slavery. He noted that little action is taken against organisations exploiting children: “Globally, 99.98% of human trafficking goes without prosecution, so why wouldn’t a criminal do it if they will get away with it?”

Dr Philip McCarthy, Chief Executive Officer of CSAN, said: “Catholic dioceses, agencies and religious communities have been working for years to address this. In the UK alone, around 140,000 people are caught up in trafficking and modern-day slavery at any one time. The task is large but the links the Church has are extensive and will grow further to address this work.”

Mark Wiggin, Director of Caritas Salford, said, “A key element will be building partnership with agencies, local people and with others with and without a faith background. By engaging Catholics and others of good will to work together and with the help of the Holy Spirit, we will play our part in eradicating this scourge.”

CCLA sponsored and hosted the conference in collaboration with CSAN. Its Ethical Investment Team has recently launched a report on combating slavery in investment. Andrew Adams, of CCLA, said, ‘The inclusion of Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery in the products that are part of our everyday lives means that practically everything we purchase has a direct or indirect connection to slavery. At the same time, CCLA will be working with other investors to develop strategies to help companies keep their supply chains clean.’

Cardinal Vincent Nichols thanked those who had made the conference possible and called for a detailed public account of the good work of the Catholic Church in this field. He said, “The conference holds a great deal of promise and we need to work together to create a non-competitive, deeply respectful, shared vision. We need to congratulate ourselves on what we have done and move onto the hard work ahead.” He concluded by thanking those present for opening the door to the next phase.

Picture – (left) Kevin Hyland addressing the conference, with HE Cardinal Vincent Nichols. Credit – Marcin Mazur.