human development, social justice and sustainable social systems

Legal and safe access to Europe is key to ending plague of trafficking in persons

Statement on occasion of World Day against Trafficking in Persons, 30 July

Europe cannot continue to look away from the plague of trafficking. Every child and adult who is trapped in this form of modern-day slavery, framed in fear, abuse and threat, is one victim too many. For many, the idea of returning home from where they fled or even getting killed is more horrendous than remaining in enslavement. For trafficked children, it is even worse; growing up trafficked transforms one’s personality and life reality, as the entrapped state becomes normalised. Europe must put an end to this. Safe and legal pathways to Europe can play a key role in eradicating this criminal activity!

“In Europe, the situation of non-accompanied minors who disappeared days after being placed in reception centres attracted some media attention not so long ago. But their situation is just the top of a tragic iceberg that Europe must address very urgently,” said Geneviève Colas, Caritas Europa’s expert in trafficking in human beings.

When forced to migrate and leave their homes, families become instable as they lose their safety nets. Children migrating, especially when alone, are particularly vulnerable and frequently exploited by traffickers. Sometimes, organisations, such as Caritas, succeed in reaching out to the victims, but the mobility capacity of the trafficking networks across Europe is becoming increasingly more flexible and efficient. We need more legal instruments at national and local levels to act quickly and save victims of trafficking.

“I didn’t eat enough. They could keep me without food for three or four days. They took everything away, even water. I drank when I went to the toilet,” testifies Olivia. She was born in a poor family in Togo. She was introduced irregularly in France when she was 13 to work as an au-pair. There, she suffered abuses and torture before she managed to escape.

Olivia’s story is not unique. There are many terrifying stories like hers across Europe. During the International Forum on Migration and Peace held in February this year, Pope Francis told world leaders that it is their moral duty to adopt national and international legal instruments that protect people from criminals that enrich themselves by trafficking in persons.

In light of Pope Francis’ message, Caritas Europa reiterates its call to all decision-makers to ensure open, safe and legal access to Europe to prevent unnecessary suffering of people who are so desperate that they are willing to risk their lives to flee their homes and come to Europe. By enabling more legal channels, European leaders could contribute ending the lucrative business of traffickers in human beings. There are many tools at hand to achieve this, i.e. making use of humanitarian visas, resettlement, community sponsorship, humanitarian corridors and family reunification.

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