CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 26 July, 2014
Human trafficking victims from the Union of Myanmar are held in a detention call near the Thailand-Malaysian border on 13 Febuary 2014 Photo:CNS/Reuters
It is a cruel and hideous crime to capture and enslave an innocent human for any reason whatsoever.
But to make money and indulge greed and avarice in forcing the poor and vulnerable through intimidation, threats and debt, to work for little or no payment, is slavery.
Buying or using products made with such labour is morally wrong. The people who recruit the poor, the hungry and jobless, many of them children, are the human traffickers.
There are more than 20 million people throughout the world who are captive, victims of traffickers and slavers according to the United States of America (US) State Department 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report this June. This shows how widespread the crime is.
It is not an evil trade confined to the poorest of Asian, South American and African countries, but it is common
in developed nations too. In Europe and the US, millions are trapped in bonded labour by debt, threats and intimidation.
They work on farms, in factories and brothels. Many are trafficked into European Union countries from Eastern Europe and are easily lured with the promises of good, high paying jobs, but then thrown into brothels as sex slaves.
The huge mega-brothels conveniently situated near European international airports have hundreds of young girls trapped as prostitutes. Prostitution has been legalised in most European countries and, while this protects European Union women who have freely chosen to be sex workers from harassment and abuse and gives them rights, it gives little or no protection, medical help, or human rights guarantees to undocumented migrants.
That’s the status of the victims of human trafficking. Their passports and identity documents are taken from them by traffickers, who can then control, intimidate and threaten them.
This scenario goes on all over the world. In The Philippines, it is much the same. Trafficking in persons is so rampant; corruption is widespread so the suspects seldom get arrested or convicted due to incompetent or corrupt prosecutors and judges and police.
While most of the judiciary can be said to be fairly just and honest, many prosecute or convict because of bribery.
Despite the brave face of the government claiming to have an increase in its conviction rate, it is dismal.
That is why The Philippines is still on the second level of notoriety on the US Trafficking in Persons Report.
The sex industry depends on traffickers to supply young girls, so there is need for an end to the sex industry.
Human traffickers are wealthy and a big source of income for corrupt officials. They keep on paying to stay free and operate with impunity.
The Philippines rates just above the more notorious modern slavery nations on the US report.
Local Philippine officials issue licences and operating permits to sex bars and girly clubs.
This is where thousands of young Filipinos, many underage minors who are victims of trafficking and sexual slavery, are bought and sold. It is the meat market of minors.
The country is being accused of condoning such heinous crimes by its inaction, pitiful arrest record, almost a non-conviction rate and corrupt judicial system.
True or not as that may be, I have experienced apathy-riddled courts where the only swift decision is to order coffee and donuts for morning tea.
What is significant in US policy is that anti-trafficking is now being integrated into the diplomatic and development work and, more importantly, the US policy is to insist on the rule of law in protecting the victims and bringing the abusers and exploiters to justice.
From this point, advocates are urging the US to develop an immigration rule whereby the US will be listing the corrupt police, prosecutors and judges and barring them and their relatives from entering the country.
John Kerry said, “Wherever rule of law is weak, where corruption is most ingrained, and where populations can’t count on the protection of governments and of law enforcement, there you find zones of vulnerability to trafficking.”
However, he concluded by saying, “But wherever rule of law is strong, where individuals are willing to speak out and governments willing to listen, we find zones of protection against trafficking.”
λ Father Shay Cullen