I was privileged to have participated in a two-day conference on women and migration in Africa, held in Nairobi, Kenya, from 6-8 June. The conference was sponsored by six Catholic Religious Congregations, accredited as non-governmental organizations to the United Nations. Over 90 participants from about 10 African countries attended the conference. Some of the participants were currently engaged in work with migrants, some were migrants, while others were interested in learning more about migration issues. Seven Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur from Kenya, Congo-Kinshasa and Zimbabwe/South Africa provinces participated in the conference. Sister Joan Burke, SNDdeN (Kenya) was among the local organizing team. I personally found this conference both informative and challenging.
We had input from representatives from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, International Organization for Migration, Kenyan Government, Kenyan Bishop Conference, and other organizations and individuals (including refugees and migrants). It was moving to hear from refugees who are now volunteers. I was also very impressed to hear the delegate from the Kenyan Government commend the efforts of Catholic Religious women and men in providing services to migrants and refugees, and their work against human trafficking. He expressed the interest of the government collaborating with them in future.
Input from the different presenters stimulated discussions among participants on issues such as providing adequate protection to migrants and refugees, victims of human trafficking, as well as addressing some of those factors that force people to migrate. During the conference, we went into working groups and worked on different topics for example: environment and migration, migration and public health, human trafficking, and advocacy. I joined 24 other participants to form a group centered on “Countering Trafficking in Person.” The group came up with a 7-Point Action Plan through which we were challenged to continue to work on, within our networks, as we return to our respective countries or regions.
One of the major problems in Nigeria is transnational human trafficking. Women, primarily from Benin City in Edo State are trafficked to Italy and other European countries for exploitation purposes. It is estimated that 60-80% of the sex workers in Italy are from Nigeria according to Global Sisters Report. Traffickers may use force, deception, coercion, or abduction. Some of the women are told that they will be doing domestic work, while the tales of profitable prostitution in Europe lure others stuck in poverty to traffickers. However, in both of these instances, the women are not aware of the inhumane conditions that the traffickers are willing to put them through for a profit. There are also cases where parents knowingly send their children abroad because they have heard of the fortunes available in Europe and hope for a better life for their kids. However, they are less likely to be fully aware of the true intentions of the traffickers, who they see in some cases as persons giving a rare opportunity to their children.
To win the fight against human trafficking we must understand why it is happening. Among the root causes of human trafficking in Nigeria, we mention poverty, lack of education, globalization, corruption and gender inequality. Globalization allows traffickers to set up complex routes and systems within and across borders. The presence of these complex channels creates a challenge because it is understood that prosecuting one trafficker may only minimally hinder the network of traffickers. Corruption prevents traffickers from being held accountable and can also prevent victims from seeking justice. In fact, when corruption is found within political institutions, the laws in place are not implemented to their full capacity, if at all. Also, corruption leads law enforcement to succumb to bribery or charge victims outrageous amounts of money in order to have access to justice. Furthermore, gender inequality in a society impacts all other factors. This leaves women less likely to be educated, more susceptible to poverty, and therefore, more vulnerable to human trafficking.
Traffickers convince victims that voodoo rituals prohibit them from escaping and if the victim attempts to turn in the traffickers, severe consequences will ensue. This is how traffickers manipulate one of African ancient religions as a means of holding their victims in bondage because they know of the great fear of many Nigerians.
In 2003, the United Nations’ Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime entered into force. Within this document, there is a protocol titled the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women Children, Especially Women and Children. This protocol is important because it focused on the prevention, investigation, and prosecution of human trafficking. This global crime against humanity is defined by the United Nations as the “recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.”
Of the 193 member states to the UN today, 171 states have become party to this protocol. Nigeria is one of the countries that ratified this protocol, however the laws that were implemented in Nigeria to comply with this protocol are still not being enforced. The United States Department of State Trafficking in Persons report indicates that Nigeria’s tier ranking has dropped from Tier 2 to Tier 2 Watch list just this past year. This ranking means that Nigeria does not meet the US law’s minimum standards set forth in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 and although they are making strides to come into compliance with these standards, Nigeria failed to “provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat severe forms of trafficking in persons from the previous year.”
Addressing the problem of human trafficking in Nigeria and elsewhere around the world will take a communal effort. Because we know and see it, we must do something about it. Silence is not an option. Another key part of prevention is education and awareness campaigns. Every community needs to learn about trafficking because those who are vulnerable are members of our communities. Once individuals are educated on the realities of human trafficking, they need to be empowered to speak out. This holistic approach means organizations and the government must be willing partners. One voice will not be capable of eliminating human trafficking; our combined voices will make the difference.
UNITED NATIONS, May 26 2017 (IPS) – World leaders must step up and take action in fighting famine to prevent further catastrophic levels of hunger and deaths, said Oxfam.
Ahead of the 43rd G7 summit, Oxfam urged world leaders to urgently address the issue of famine, currently affecting four countries at unprecedented levels.
“Political failure has led to these crises – political leadership is needed to resolve them…the world’s most powerful leaders must now act to prevent a catastrophe happening on their watch,” said Oxfam’s Executive Director Winnie Byanyima.
“If G7 leaders were to travel to any of these four countries, they would see for themselves how life is becoming impossible for so many people: many are already dying in pain, from disease and extreme hunger,” she continued.
In northeast Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen, approximately 30 million people are severely food insecure. Of this figure, 10 million face emergency and famine conditions, more than the population of G7 member United Kingdom’s capital of London.
After descending into conflict over three years ago, famine has now been declared in two South Sudan counties and a third county is at risk if food aid is not provided.
In Somalia, conflict alongside prolonged drought – most likely exacerbated by climate change – has left almost 7 million in need of humanitarian assistance. Drought has also contributed to cholera outbreaks and displacement.
Byanyima pointed to the hypocrisy in a “world of plenty” experiencing four famines.
These widespread crises are not confined to the four countries’ borders.
According to the UN Refugee Agency, almost 2 million South Sudanese have fled to neighboring countries, including Uganda, Ethiopia, and Kenya, making it the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis. Due to the influx of South Sudanese refugees, the Bidi Bidi refugee camp in Uganda is now the largest in the world, placing a strain on local services.
Escaping hunger and conflict, Nigerians have sought refuge in the Lake Chad region which shares its borders with Cameroon, Chad, and Niger only to once again face high levels of food insecurity and disease outbreaks.
Among the guest invitees to the G7 meeting are the affected nations, including the governments of Ethiopia, Kenya, and Nigeria.
Oxfam called on the G7 countries to provide its fair share of funding. So far, they have provided 1.7 billion dollars, just under 60 percent of their fair share. Meanwhile, only 30 percent of a 6.3-billion-dollar UN appeal for all four countries has been funded. If each G7 country contributed its fair share, almost half of the appeal would be funded, Oxfam estimates.
In 2015, the G7 committed to lift 500 million people out of hunger and malnutrition. Oxfam noted that they should thus uphold their commitments and focus on crisis prevention.
However, some of the G77 nations’ actions do not bode well for accelerated action on famine.
For instance, the U.S. government has proposed significant cuts to foreign assistance, including a 30 percent decrease in funding for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The proposal also includes the elimination of Title II For Peace, a major USAID food aid program, which would mean the loss of over 1.7 billion dollars of food assistance.
Former US Foreign Disaster Assistance chief Jeremy Konyndyk noted that the cuts are “catastrophic.” “So bad I fear I’m misreading it,” he added.
International Rescue Committee’s (IRC) President David Miliband highlighted the importance of continuing U.S. foreign assistance in order to alleviate humanitarian suffering abroad and protect the interests and security of the U.S. and its allies.
“Global threats like Ebola and ISIS grow out of poverty, instability, and bad governance. Working to counteract these with a forward-leaning foreign aid policy doesn’t just mean saving lives today, but sparing the US and its allies around the world the much more difficult, expensive work of combating them tomorrow,” he stated.
President Trump also called for the elimination of the U.S. African Development Foundation which provides grants to underserved communities in Sub-Saharan Africa, and has suggested cutting funds to climate change programs such as the UN’s Green Climate Fund which aims to help vulnerable developing nations combat climate change.
Meanwhile, UK’s Prime Minister Theresa May has already abolished its climate change department.
In addition to scaling up humanitarian funding, G7 nations must commit to fund longer-term solutions that build resilience and improve food security to avoid large-scale disasters, Oxfam stated. This includes action on climate change, “no excuses,” said Oxfam.
President Trump is expected to announce whether the U.S. will remain in the Paris climate agreement after the G7 summit.
“History shows that when donors fail to act on early warnings of potential famine, the consequence can be a large-scale, devastating loss of life….now clear warnings have again been issued,” Oxfam stated.
“The international community have the power to end such failures—if they choose to—by marshaling international logistics and a humanitarian response network to work sustainably with existing local systems to prevent famine and address conflict, governance, and climate change drivers,” Oxfam concluded.
The G7 summit is hosted by Sicily, Italy and will be held from 26-27 May.
Somalia’s Minister of Health, Mohammed Abdullahi, recognizes Ethiopia’s admirable position of accepting refugees and offering support while other countries are closing their doors to refugees. There are currently over 800,000 refugees in Ethiopia, making it the largest refugee-hosting country in Africa. As of February 28th of this year, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that 246,859 refugees are Somalian and 342,573 are South Sudanese. The primary cause of displacement from Somalia is due to conflict and drought. However, Ethiopia has offered an extended hand to Somalia and is recognized as an instrumental provider in the region as people are treated with dignity and “respect basic human rights.” Uganda has also welcomed 520,000 refugees since July 2016 but has faced great difficult as roughly 3,000 South Sudanese refugees pour into the country each day.
Africa works diligently to welcome their neighbors in needs of crisis.
Health officials of Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan have praised Ethiopia’s role in hosting and supporting refugees.
Plan, Policy and Cooperation Affairs Head with Somalia’s Minister of Health, Mohammed Abdullahi, stated that Ethiopia made an exemplary deed to shelter a large number of Somali refugees who have been displaced due to conflicts and drought.
Abdullahi said: “Somali refugees here are receiving treatment, almost similar to Ethiopians, while other countries are forcing them to leave.”
The head noted that currently the Somali government is repatriating its citizens taking into account the relative peace and stability in the country.
For his part, Plan and Policy Director with Sudan’s Minister of Health, Seid Mohammed, said Sudanese refugees taking shelter in Ethiopia have been receiving the necessary supports. “Ethiopia respects the basic human rights of Sudanese refugees.”
Ethiopia’s refugees treatment deserves recognition, according to the director.
International Health Affairs Director-General with South Sudan’s Minister of Health, Dr. Kediende Chong said South Sudanese refugees consider Ethiopia a second home.
Currently, there are over 800,000 refugees in Ethiopia.
The day’s first reading, taken from the Letter of Saint James, is a forceful warning to the rich who accumulate wealth by exploiting the people. “Riches in themselves are good,” the Pope explained, but they are “relative, not absolute” goods. He criticized the so-called “theology of prosperity”— according to which “God shows you that you are just if He give you great riches,” saying those who follow it are mistaken. The problem lies in being attached to wealth, because, as the Pope recalled, “You cannot serve both God and riches.” These become “chains” that “take away the freedom to follow Jesus.” In the reading, St James writes, “Behold, the wages you withheld from the workers who harvested your fields are crying aloud; and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty.” When riches are created by exploiting the people, by those rich people who exploit [others], they take advantage of the work of the people, and those poor people become slaves. We think of the here and now, the same thing happens all over the world. “I want to work.” “Good, they’ll make you a contract, from September to June.” Without a pension, without health care… Then they suspend it, and in July and August they have to eat air. And in September, they laugh at you about it. Those who do that are true bloodsuckers, and they live by spilling the blood of the people who they make slaves of labour.
Human trafficking is an incredibly large — and undoubtedly upsetting — industry.
It rakes in an estimated $150 billion worldwide every year, coming in as one of the largest illegal trades alongside drug trafficking, arms trade and wildlife trafficking. But the realities of human trafficking are often ignored — and not just because we rarely talk about modern slavery.
How we currently talk about human trafficking can be just as harmful. It’s often riddled with misconceptions and myths, leaving the majority of us misinformed or under-informed about the ways it affects the world. But this isn’t entirely surprising, considering the criminal practice’s secretive nature. Confronting the truth, after all, is more difficult with everything under wraps. Continue reading 6 myths about human trafficking we all need to stop believing→
WASHINGTON – In an historic vote, the Senate today unanimously approved a bipartisan resolution from U.S. Senators Claire McCaskill and Rob Portman to launch civil contempt proceedings against the website Backpage, as part of the duo’s bipartisan investigation into online sex trafficking.