The Santa Marta Group, a partnership between the Catholic Church, governments and law enforcement agencies around the world, met on 26 and 27 October to report on their progress and continue their collaboration in the fight against human trafficking and modern slavery.
Welcoming the group in Rome, Cardinal Vincent spoke of his recent visit to Bakhita House, the shelter for rescued victims of human trafficking and modern slavery. He stressed that ‘building trust is vital’ to helping these women ‘rebuild their lives’ and to defeat this ‘appalling crime’.
He added that building trust is also necessary to deepening the Santa Marta Group’s ‘practical collaboration’ and that it was heartening to see ‘evidence that this cooperation is strengthening in many places’.
The Cardinal also explained that the purpose of the meeting was to ‘enhance accountability’ and to ‘speak of what we have achieved and what we have not tackled’. In presenting the reports of the group’s achievements to Pope Francis on the second day of the conference, the Cardinal explained it as sign that symbolically ‘we recognise that we are accountable to a higher authority than that which our own separate structures embody’.
The reports detailed progress made in 30 countries in prosecuting criminals, caring for victims, and launching initiatives aimed at long-term prevention of trafficking in the country of origin of victims. The reports also included expressions of frustration, which is itself a sign of the group’s ‘strong determination to see the elimination of human trafficking given a greater priority and tackled with more urgency’.
At the same conference Home Secretary Amber Rudd pledged £11 million to a Modern Slavery Innovation Fund, ‘set up to tackle the horrendous crime in high-risk countries from which victims are trafficked to the UK’. The Home Office had also set out details of an £8.5 million fund to help law enforcement agencies tackle modern slavery. Along with the Modern Slavery Act 2015 and the Prime Minister’s announcement that she will chair a Modern Slavery Taskforce, these are concrete signs of the UK Government’s continued commitment to work with the Catholic Church to combat modern slavery.
The full text of the Cardinal's address to the Santa Marta Group on 26 October 2016 is available here.
The full text of the Cardinal's address to the Holy Father on behalf of the Santa Marta Group on 27 October 2016 is available here.