The Catholic Agency for Justice, Peace and Development

World Day Against Trafficking in Persons

Photo: Vatican Refugee & Migrant Section

30 July - World Day Against People Trafficking

Respect for the dignity of all people is a foundational principle in the teaching of the Church and in the scriptures.  The example of Jesus was to lift people the poor and the marginalised and to affirm the dignity of all people created in the image of God.  Human trafficking is a direct attack on the dignity of people everywhere.  

Trafficking is a global problem 

Trafficking involves transporting someone into a situation of exploitation. This can include forced labour, marriage, prostitution, and organ removal. This kind of exploitation is known by a few different names -- “human trafficking,” “trafficking of persons,” and “modern slavery” are the most commonly accepted ones.  It’s estimated that internationally there are between 20 million and 40 million people in modern slavery today. Assessing the full scope of human trafficking is difficult because cases often go undetected, something the United Nations refers to as “the hidden figure of crime.” 1 

Human trafficking is big business. It earns global profits of roughly $150 billion a year for traffickers, $99 billion of which comes from commercial sexual exploitation. 2  

It happens in NZ too 

Trafficking is happening in New Zealand too. For example, a New Zealand-based Samoan chief was recently sentenced to 11 years in prison for human trafficking and using 13 of his countrymen as slaves over a 25-year period. Joseph Auga Matamata, 65, also known as Villiamu Samu, was found guilty on 10 counts of trafficking and 13 counts of slavery following a five-week trial at the high court in Napier in March.3 

Latest government reforms welcomed 

Caritas has previously made submissions on government policy changes to reduce migrant worker exploitation.  Yesterday the government announced a package of reforms to allow migrants to change jobs and to have a better visa system through which they can more easily avoid exploitative arrangements is a welcome step forward. Over the next four years $50million will be spent to implement these changes which include the establishment of a new dedicated free-phone number, online reporting and triaging functions. These functions are expected to be in place by mid-2021.  

The government is also investing in additional labour inspectors and immigration investigators to ensure that action is taken against exploitative employers and to develop an information and education action plan so migrant workers better understand their rights and how to report exploitation.  These reforms will provide real support for vulnerable people in New Zealand. We can be thankful for this progressive change.  

More work to be done 

But on 30 July let us remember the millions of people caught up in modern day slavery and let us also remember all those brave people working on the frontline as first responders to human trafficking. These are the people who work in different sectors - identifying, supporting, counselling and seeking justice for victims of trafficking, and challenging the impunity of the traffickers. 

During the COVID-19 crisis, the essential role of first responders has become even more important. Particularly as the restrictions imposed by the pandemic have made their work even more difficult. Still, their contribution is often overlooked and unrecognized.  This year let’s make 30 July their day. #EndHumanTrafficking 

ENDS 

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