Santa Marta Group steps up international co-operation against human trafficking

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Police chiefs, Bishops, Religious sisters and representatives from civil society, who make up the Santa Marta Group, are joining together this week, 26-27 October, in the Vatican to share and encourage best practice in the struggle against human trafficking.

Santa Marta Group delegates will report back to Pope Francis the progress that has been made since signing the SMG commitment two years ago, where each of the 24 police chiefs present committed to developing partnerships with the Church and civil society to bring to justice those who are responsible for the horrendous crime of trafficking and to alleviate the suffering of the victims.

Launched in 2014 by Pope Francis and led by Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, the SMG grew out of a unique partnership established in 2012 between the Bishops’ Conference of England & Wales and the Metropolitan Police’s human trafficking unit in London.

Pope Francis told SMG delegates in 2014 that “human trafficking is an open wound on the body of contemporary society, a scourge upon the body of Christ. It is a crime against humanity.”

Cardinal Nichols said:

“Human trafficking is an international crime and it requires a co-ordinated international response. The Santa Marta Group aims to forge relationships of trust between police and the Church, especially Religious Sisters, which enable this crime to be defeated and the victims of trafficking to be accompanied, assisted and ultimately reintegrated into society. We are committed to upholding the human dignity of every person, and particularly the most vulnerable.”

Since 2014, there have been SMG conferences in London and Madrid, a conference at the United Nations jointly organised by the SMG and the permanent observer mission of the Holy See to the UN, in addition to regional meetings in Latin America, Africa and Asia as well as a conference in Ireland to focus on the maritime industry.

This year’s SMG conference will include a call for every Bishops’ Conference to ensure there is a named Bishop in their Conference to meet and engage with law enforcement officials; a call to accompany all victims of trafficking through the law enforcement process; a call for the Church to engage with vulnerable communities and to provide a safe space for people to report suspected trafficking and for victims to come forward; a challenge to exploitative industries – not just the sex trade, but mainstream goods and services; and guidance on the indicators of trafficking so people can more easily identify when exploitation is occurring.

Speakers include three survivors of human trafficking, law enforcement officials from around the world and a senior UK minister – for the full list of speakers see attached agenda. Delegates will also have an audience with Pope Francis on 27 October.

For further information visit the official website for the Santa Marta Group.