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The World Council of Churches (WCC) will hold an international consultation exploring links between migration, human trafficking and modern slavery. The focus of the gathering concerns thousands of migrants faced with violence, abuse and exploitation during their perilous journeys as well as in the countries to which they migrate.

Organized by the WCC Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (CCIA) and the Christian Conference of Asia, the consultation will be hosted in Colombo, Sri Lanka by the National Christian Council of Sri Lanka (NCC-SL) from 4 to 7 April.

The consultation, titled “Migration and Human Trafficking: Modern Slavery?”, will bring together participants from Africa, the Arabian Gulf, Europe and Asia.

Dr Mathews George Chunakara, director of the CCIA, highlighted the significance of this event, speaking of calculations by the International Labour Organization according to which around 2.4 million men, women and children fall victim to unscrupulous traffickers each year.

“Suffering of migrant workers begins in their home countries with dishonest recruiters and agents asking for exorbitant fees in exchange for employment abroad,” said Chunakara.

“Migrant workers continue to face cheating, extortion of money, physical and mental violence, abuse and all sorts of exploitation en route, as well as in the destination countries,” he added.

Semegnish Asfaw, one of the organizers of the consultation and WCC programme executive for international affairs, stated that the consultation will also highlight women’s voices. “Women and girls are particularly vulnerable because trafficking also takes place for labour exploitation, or for sexual exploitation,” she said.

The consultation will also analyse global trends in migration and human trafficking.

Through in-depth discussions, participants will seek ways to pursue holistic and sustainable solutions to improve the implementation of anti-trafficking laws. They will also attempt to develop solutions for better protection of victims through establishing effective ecumenical advocacy networks for countering cross-border human trafficking.

Sri Lanka’s civil war and related conflicts have resulted in slow economic development and have led to an increased outflow of Sri Lankans who choose irregular means of emigration and fall prey to human trafficking. The consultation participants will discuss these issues in detail with representatives of the Sri Lankan churches at the NCC-SL’s annual general meeting.

Human Rights Council discusses reports on Mali, Central African Republic and Sri Lanka (News release of the United Nations at Geneva: 26 March 2014)

WCC consultation discusses issues of migrant workers in Gulf (WCC news release of 30 April 2012)

WCC statement on asylum seekers and human trafficking in the Sinai Desert

Minute on the rights of migrants and migrant workers

Commission of the Churches on International Affairs