ROME – Pope Francis’s right hand man on migration is calling for legal and secure channels to guarantee that tomorrow’s migratory movements aren’t marked by the “travesty” of human trafficking. He also urged nations to recognize the “forces of demand,” such as labor below minimum national standards that makes human trafficking “very profitable.”
Jesuit Father Michael Czerny said that the migration process often begins with “high hopes and expectations” for a better future, but that since “regular and affordable routes are generally not available, many migrants employ smugglers.”
Traffickers, he said, can “easily take advantage of the desperation of migrants and asylum seekers,” after which they end up in an irregular or undocumented status, which puts them at further risk of being exploited and enslaved.
Czerny – handpicked by Pope Francis to be Undersecretary of the Section for Migrants and Refugees at the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development – was speaking at a United Nations’ Fifth Thematic Session on the Global Compact for safe, orderly and regular migration on Monday.
The topic of the session is: “Smuggling of migrants, trafficking in persons and contemporary forms of slavery, including appropriate identification, protection and assistance to migrants and trafficking victims.”
The priest also said that factors contributing to vulnerability, such as “poverty, statelessness, joblessness, lack of education, discrimination of women and girls, do not in and of themselves necessarily lead to trafficking.”
It’s the combination of factors, “mutually reinforcing each other,” that increases the vulnerability.
Here, the prelate called on societies of the countries of destination for immigrants to recognize the role they play, through the forces of demand, “for example, for prostitution, or for labor below the minimum national standards – that are at work domestically to make human trafficking very profitable.”
Human trafficking is the world’s third most profitable illegal industry, after drug trafficking and the arms trade. The low estimate puts the numbers of yearly victims of trafficking at 21 million, half of whom are women and 28 percent children, most of them girls. A great number of them become slaves.
“Slavery must not be an unavoidable aspect of economies,” Czerny said on Monday. “Instead, business should be in the vanguard in combating and preventing this travesty.”
The prelate then praised the meeting for focusing on trafficking and contemporary slavery in the migration scenario, one which he said, quoting Francis, is sadly characterized by “new forms of slavery imposed by criminal organizations, which buy and sell men, women, and children.”
Czerny praised the “great achievements” of international agreements, which have helped asylum seekers and migrants, but acknowledged that despite these, many “are still and ever more vulnerable, especially to criminal organizations.”
As representative of the Holy See, he called on nations to guarantee assistance to victims of these crimes – trafficking and slavery in all its forms – providing them with psychological counseling and other support and rehabilitation.
Victims, Czerny said, should be allowed to stay in the country for the duration of their therapy and have their stay extended with the opportunity to work.
Once again quoting Francis, the Canadian Jesuit said, “We ought to recognize that we are facing a global phenomenon which exceeds the competence of any one community or country. In order to eliminate it, we need a mobilization comparable in size to that of the phenomenon itself.”
For this matter, he urged not only political bodies to come together to face the migrant crisis, which in Europe has long been labeled the worst since WWII, but also business, academia, civil society, and communities of faith.