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Minute on Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling

The WCC Central Committee encourages its member churches to be attentive to peoples and organisations working to combat human trafficking and migrant smuggling, particularly in their struggle against organised crime.

27 June 2016

The World Council of Churches (WCC) has a long history in considering human trafficking in a number of contexts. This issue constitutes a serious violation of human rights and dignity that affects a great number of individuals and nations, allowing them to be treated as little more than disposable commodities. It is largely a result of social and economic disparity that increases the vulnerability of vast numbers of people including undocumented migrants.

Human trafficking and migrant smuggling constitute modern day slavery; and it is even more perverse because it is often assumed that it does not exist, that it is abolished, that it belongs to the past. As a result human trafficking and migrant smuggling are today almost invisible. This commodification means that people are abused and deprived of their liberty. They suffer daily sexual exploitation, labour exploitation, organ trafficking, and the sale of their children. All have faces, names and stories, this could happen to anyone in situations of vulnerability.

This issue is at the current time causing particular pain to our brothers and sisters in Latin America which is both a point of origin and destination for trafficking and smuggling, and is affecting thousands of people in that region who live with this cruel reality. One of the key challenges of the phenomenon of human trafficking and migrant smuggling is to measure accurately the scope of an illicit market. At this time, the number of trafficked people is projected to be around 2.5 million. However, it is estimated that for each victim identified there are another 20 people unidentified, 70% are women and girls and it is especially devastating that half of trafficking victims are under 18 years of age, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC, 2009).

Although the churches in the Latin American region are aware of the realities, it is unclear how many other people are in slavery conditions around them. This is a global phenomenon that affects not only the Latin American territory but has had a significant impact in all regions of the world. As part of our pilgrimage of justice and peace we seek to defend the vulnerable and oppressed. As the prophet Isaiah states, we are called to untie, release and free the broken-hearted, to feed, shelter and clothe them and not to turn away from our own flesh and blood (Isaiah 58:6-7). Therefore, we are challenged to a paradigm shift: to deconstruct and disarm this destructive model that leads to the oppression and death of vulnerable individuals. In this regard we note and affirm the outcome of the gathering of religious leaders convened on 2 December 2014 at the Vatican to challenge this modern slavery.

The WCC central committee, meeting in Trondheim, Norway, 22-28 June 2016, therefore:

  • Reaffirms
      its commitment to stand in solidarity with trafficked and smuggled persons and their families
  • Calls
      for its member churches to partner with other civil society organisations, governmental and inter-governmental agencies to work towards combating human trafficking and migrant smuggling.
  • Urges

its member churches to join this challenge, and inspired by the Gospel, to contribute to the awareness and prevention of human trafficking and migrant smuggling in each of our areas of mission and thus to advocate through the institutions and organizations to which we belong.

  • Encourages

its member churches to be attentive to peoples and organisations working to combat human trafficking and migrant smuggling, particularly in their struggle against organised crime.