Eradicate Modern Slavery- The Santa Marta Group at UN

“We need to recognize that organized crime is precisely that: organized. We are not” spoke Sister Melissa Camarado throwing light onto the issue of human trafficking at the UN event sponsored by Holy See: The Santa Marta Group: Police and Religious Leaders Partnering to Eradicate Modern Slavery By Building Trust in Leadership, Action and Accountability.

His Eminence Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the President of Santa Marta Group, opened his remarks by appreciating the efforts of various group fighting human trafficking. He pointed out how “Santa Marta group differs from the rest in a unique and specific way of operating” by working through “the cooperation between the presence and the resource of the Catholic Church and the Police structure and institutions across the world”.

He reminded the remarks of Pope Francis given to the Santa Marta group four years ago in his public interview to the British television channel. “Human Trafficking is a wound in the flesh of humanity and we all share that flesh and therefore it is a wound in our body and not just a problem at a distance. We will not tackle this problem until we learn again how to weep”. This remark of Pope Francis, Cardinal Nichols noted is ‘absolutely crucial to the fight against modern slavery’ and established the key principle of work of Santa Marta Group.

Trust,the key component in fighting human trafficking, was Cardinal Nichols’ central message to delegates at a United Nations conference. Trust between the victims and the forces of law and order.

Kevin Hyland previously the head of the Anti-trafficking squad of the London Metropolitan unit and UK’s independent Anti-Slavery commissioner shared personal stories of cases he encountered in helping trafficked women from different countries and how Santa Marta group influenced the Modern Slavery Act in UK. He also noted that “globally there are 40 million people a year affected by modern slavery’. According to ILO the most affected are women and children. He said ‘When we put the victim at the heart of what we do and we think about their dignity then we got a chance to resolve this issue of modern slavery’. ‘40 million is a big number’ he said ‘but we need to think about the lives and the faces of these people.’

General Commissioner Néstor Roncaglia, Chief of the federal police of Argentina, reaffirmed the benefits of trusting working relationships through his experience in combating modern slavery in Argentina and the importance of actions over words. Hillary Chester, Associate Director of Anti Trafficking Program USCCB, revealed how the trusting relationships with the law enforcement and members of community can help police in different ways to help solve cases, act as interpreters, give leads about trafficking groups, and strengthen communities so that they are not mere victims but an asset in tackling the problem on a broader level.

‘Listening, believing and trusting’ said Sr. Melissa Camarado ‘is the key to building relationships’. Sr. Camarado, director of Development Life Way Network, shared her experience in working with the women survivors of trafficking from the perspective of in depth suffering of the victims.

Slavery in general is considered to be a thing of the past and often it takes some effort to understand or realize that it is still happening around us.  Only the modes and methods of the enslavement has changed. It is encouraging to see that the Santa Marta group works internationally in partnership with police force from 34 countries and its unique model helps combat this horrific crime with the human centered perspective.