Trafficking of Migrants Is Worst Violation, Says Holy See

Calls It «a Multibillion-Dollar Industry»

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GENEVA, APRIL 20, 2004 ( The Holy See stressed that the trafficking of human beings is the worst violation of migrants’ rights and called on the international community to combat its causes.

The Vatican’s position was expressed by Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Holy See’s permanent observer to the United Nations in Geneva, at the 60th session of the Commission on Human Rights. The meeting began March 15 and will end April 23.

«Among the violations of migrants’ rights, traffic in humans is the worst. It involves up to 1 million persons transported annually across national borders,» the archbishop said in his English-language address April 8.

«It is carried out for various types of exploitation of children, women and men, subjecting them to slavelike conditions in work, sexual abuse and begging, thus stripping people of their God given dignity and fuelling instead corruption and organized crime,» he added.

«Trafficking has turned into a multibillion-dollar industry,» he said. He added that in «the multilateral approach required to combat trafficking, the collection and sharing of data, including of the strategies and routes used by traffickers, becomes a significant tool to step up both investigations and prosecutions.»

«In the effort to dismantle criminal networks the information that the victims of trafficking can provide is invaluable,» Archbishop Tomasi said. «But clear legal protection for victims must be assured. However, the victim’s readiness to testify in court should not be the condition for affording protection.»

«The best practice seems that of granting at least a temporary residence permit to the victim as an encouragement to cooperate with the judicial system but also as a possible opening for social integration in the host society,» the archbishop continued.

«This becomes a moral necessity if the return home would expose the victim to retaliation,» he said. «In any case, providing assistance and protection in both countries of destination and origin and during the repatriation and reintegration process is a generally recognized obligation.»

However, the papal representative said that the struggle against trafficking in human beings must address its root causes.

«In the shadowy world of their irregular status, fear and inability to stand up for their rights leave these migrants at risk of unfair treatment and of being co-opted in illegal activity,» he explained.

«Immigration policies, which realistically reflect the labor and demographic needs of the receiving societies, would favor their own and the immigrants’ interest by opening regular channels of immigration adequately wide to at least prevent the worst tragedies of lost young lives of migrants crossing deserts or seas looking for a decent living,» the archbishop said.

«The application of labor laws can also go a long way in the protection of irregular status migrants and to discourage this type of movement,» he added.

«At the root of the migrations push, we often find extreme poverty and the alluring appeal of possible jobs and a freer and more humane life in the countries of destination as powerfully projected by the global media,» he said.

Archbishop Tomasi proposed a multifaceted approach to make «human mobility a motor for progress even for its most vulnerable segments.»

According to the archbishop, this requires:

— «international cooperation in the prevention and prosecution of trafficking and the rehabilitation of victims»;

— «less restrictive and more realistic immigration policies»;

— «concerted promotion of sustainable economic and social development in poor countries»;

— and «a continued formation to a culture of human rights and respect of the dignity of every person.»

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