Human trafficking worse than slave trade, Cardinal claims

International human trafficking has intensified to the point that it is now worse than the historical slave trade from Africa, the head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Cardinal Renato Martino, said yesterday.

Cardinal Martino, was speaking at a Rome news conference to present Pope Benedict's message for the Church's World Day of Migrants and Refugees, in which the Pope called for more laws to help immigrants integrate, Reuters reports.

"This trafficking in human beings has intensified, persons put into slavery because they depend on certain criminals who take possession of these human beings," Cardinal Martino told reporters, according to the International Herald Tribune.

"It's worse than the slavery of those ... taken from Africa and brought to other countries," Martino told a news conference to present Pope Benedict XVI's annual message dealing with the problems of migrants.

The Cardinal challenged countries to combat modern-day forms of slavery - minors who are sold to do child labour or who are forced to be soldiers, as well as women forced to prostitute themselves.

"In a world which proclaims human rights left and right, let's see what it does about the rights of so many human beings which are not respected, but trampled," the cardinal said.

The Vatican also launched an appeal for Iraqi Christian refugees during the news conference.

"I cannot forget, because of the current situation, the need for urgent measures on behalf of Iraqi Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq," said Martino's assistant on refugee and migrant issues, Msgr Agostino Marchetto.

In the papal message, Benedict noted that more women were leaving their homelands in search of a better life. "However, women who end up as victims of trafficking of human beings and of prostitution are not few," the Pope said.

Benedict also expressed concern over families in refugee camps, "whose conditions seem to have gone worse."

In the camps, "there is also the risk of women and children being involved in sexual exploitation, as a survival mechanism," the Pope wrote.

Reuters adds that Cardinal Martino also slammed the proposed construction by the US of a 700 mile (1,100 kilometre) fence along its Mexican border.

"Speaking of borders, I must unfortunately say that in a world that greeted the fall of the Berlin Wall with joy, new walls are being built between neighbourhood and neighbourhood, city and city, nation and nation," Cardinal Martino said.

President Bush signed legislation last month approving the construction of a 700-mile (1,100-km) fence - a move that angered Mexico's government.

Asked if the US-Mexican fence was the wrong thing to do, Cardinal Martino said: "Yes, that's exactly what it is."

Martino praised Mexican and US bishops for opposing what he called "an inhuman program, which is what the construction of that wall and all others is".

Vatican official says human trafficking now is worse than African slave trade (International Herald Tribune, 14/11/06)
Vatican cardinal says U.S.-Mexico fence "inhuman" (Reuters, 14/11/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace
Trafficking in Persons Clearinghouse
Project Respect

Women religious gearing up for rally against trafficking (CathNews, 26/6/06)
Nuns urge new approaches to human trafficking (CathNews, 17/1/06)
World Day for Migrants & Refugees: Pope stresses "integration" (CathNews, 18/1/06)

Ukraine continues fighting against the human trafficking (Forum UA, 5/4/06)

15 Nov 2006