USPG IS WORKING WITH THE WORLD CHURCH TO COMBAT HUMAN TRAFFICKING
The global statistics for human trafficking are shocking. The estimates are in the millions and the misery that trafficking causes is untold.
The reasons are manifold. Typically, those who are trafficked come from backgrounds of poverty and are more susceptible to being tricked by smugglers into taking non-existent jobs.
It is clear that tackling poverty requires a holistic approach. As well as directly seeking to stop people smugglers, we must also work with whole societies to change political and economic structures to reduce poverty and the conditions in which trafficking thrives. We need to challenge legal systems and the operations of big business to make human trafficking more difficult.
In this context, we are supporting programmes run by our Anglican partners around the world that take a holistic approach to development.
Rachel Parry, USPG Global Relations Director, said: ‘Human trafficking is a highly profitable global trade – more profitable than the drugs trade. People who have been trafficked – typically those from vulnerable communities who are largely made vulnerable by global economic inequality – often end up as slave labour embedded within the supply chains utilised of many well-known companies.
‘These are very complex issues, but we hope the work that we are supporting around the world will not only directly help those who are vulnerable, but will also raise awareness of the issues and inspire Christians and churches globally to engage more deeply with the issues and consider how we might respond further.’
Examples of the world we support
In Brazil, we are supporting a programme in the Diocese of the Amazon that is raising awareness of trafficking among children and their parents. The programme provides music lessons which gives children an alternative to street culture, teaches them a skill, and helps to boost their self-esteem and self-awareness. The programme mixes in teaching about the dangers of human trafficking.
In Greece we are working with the Diocese in Europe to support a number of programmes regarding care of refugees. In all cases, partners are mindful of providing information and advice that reduces vulnerability to trafficking, particularly among children who are often seen as easy prey by people smugglers.
In India, we are supporting the Church of North India (CNI) Anti Human Trafficking team. One 17-year-old woman, who was rescued by the team, explained how easily smuggling can happen. She told USPG: ‘I got a call on my mobile phone. It was a boy who said he’d got the wrong number. He was very sweet to me, and he called me many times in the space of four days, then he asked me to run away with him. When I said I didn’t want to he started making threats, saying he would kill my parents, so I got very scared. I didn’t want anything bad to happen to my parents, so I went with him. I wish I had told my parents, but I was too scared.
Case study: Tricked into slavery in South Korea
Garry, one of 15 children, came from a poor family in the Philippines. Aged 21, he was offered a job in a factory in South Korea.
He said: ‘We were so poor, I jumped at the opportunity. I hoped it would bring financial security to my family. We sold a carabao and a small parcel of land, and borrowed money from a money-lender, and managed to raise $2,000 to pay the recruiter.’
But on arriving in Korea, Garry was given a fake passport – with his photo but false details. He asked the recruiter for his money back, but was told the money had already been used to pay for his so-called documentation. He felt obliged to use the false passport and take his chances. The immigration officer didn’t bat an eyelid; Garry suspects he was part of the human trafficking syndicate.
He and others in the same boat were taken to a hotel where employers bought their services.
Garry ended up in a quilting factory, in a basement, working up to 14 hours a day, and not allowed to leave.
He was paid little and given only a cup of rice and a fried egg to eat each day.
‘I kept giving my employers letters to send home, but I didn’t receive any replies. I later discovered my letters were not being sent.
‘We became very afraid. We wanted to go to the police, but we had a language problem.
‘I spent that year learning Korean so I could communicate. Finally, I escaped and went to the Philippines Embassy in Seoul. There were many people there asking for help. But there was a problem because I was only 21 and the law in the Philippines states that you need to be 23 before you can emigrate, though few people observe this rule. I think this was an excuse. The embassy official insulted me and sent me away.’
Garry escaped and found a better job with better pay and conditions. Though, as an immigrant, he was paid a fraction of what a Korea would receive.
He vowed he would do his best to survive so he could help his fellow countrymen and women who found themselves in the same situation, which led to his current role as an advocate for migrant workers.
Garry said: ‘There are approximately 12 million Filipinos currently working overseas, of which up to 400,000 have been tricked into forms of slave labour. Certainly, there are Filipinos in the UK who have been trafficked.
‘Traffickers treat people as if they were machines, exploiting them so they can make profits. But this cannot continue. Just as the slaves protested against the slave trade 200 years ago, the victims of human trafficking are also mobilising themselves to fight for their rights.
‘The church should open its doors to migrants and those who have been trafficked, and join the campaign for justice.
‘As a church, we believe that human dignity is a gift from God and this dignity has been stolen from us by human traffickers. We need to take back this dignity for every victim.
‘I was a victim, then a survivor, and now I’m an advocate. And I want the church to join me in this war on human trafficking. We need to educate church leaders so they understand the issues.’