Human trafficking is the result of economic and social exclusion

Human trafficking and slavery is a terrible consequence of economic and social exclusion, according to a submission from Australia’s Catholic bishops to a Senate inquiry.

“Exclusion is the result of a number of factors,” said Bishop Terry Brady, Chair of the Bishops Commission for Pastoral Life. “It is the result of not recognising the human dignity of each person, so people are treated as an object or a means to an end.

“It happens because people are in poverty and don’t have access to adequate education or employment. It is caused by putting money and not people at the centre of the economy.”

The Commission made the submission to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement last month.

“One approach that should be investigated as part of a community awareness strategy is the United Kingdom’s Modern Slavery Act, which uses information to shine a light on the exploitation of workers. Under the UK legislation, businesses that reach a minimum turnover must issue an annual report on what they are doing to ensure their business and supply chain is not involved in human trafficking and the exploitation of workers.

“Forced marriages are another aspect of trafficking, difficult to investigate because victims and witnesses are often afraid of reprisals or of bringing shame on their families. It is much better to try to prevent forced marriages than try to convict people after the fact. One important piece of preventative work is a school education resource developed by Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans (ACRATH).

“In 2015 ACRATH worked to ensure the problem of forced marriage could be more easily seen by school students and that those students who may be at risk of forced marriage would know where to go for help. ACRATH ran a 2015 pilot scheme to raise awareness in schools about forced marriages and to help children be aware of the protections offered by the law.

“It is important for schools to have the opportunity to use this program. The ACBC urges the Attorney General’s Department to extend the funding available to ACRATH.

“Australia also has an important role to play internationally as an affluent nation. Overseas aid is an important way in which Australia can contribute to reducing economic and social exclusion and, therefore, some of the factors that put people at risk of being trafficked. The Coalition Government has cut Australia’s overseas aid by more than $11 billion since it was elected in 2013. These funds would have been a significant boost to aid and humanitarian programs. Australia and Australians have a moral obligation to share their good fortune with people less fortunate,” Bishop Brady said.

A copy of the submission can be found here: