Hundreds of trafficked children go missing from UK care homes

Trafficking photoARCHIVE PHOTO: A girl looks out over fog covered Leicestershire countryside, central England REUTERS/Darren Staples

Findings raise doubts about Britain’s ability to care for
vulnerable children at time when record number of suspected
child slaves are being referred to government

By Kieran Guilbert

LONDON, (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A growing number of
trafficked children in Britain are going missing from care
homes, with some feared to be returning to their traffickers
after being treated like criminals or illegal immigrants by
authorities, two charities said on Wednesday.

A quarter of the 1,015 identified or suspected child
trafficking victims in the care of local authorities went
missing at least once last year – 246 children compared to 167
in 2015 – according to research by ECPAT UK and Missing
People.

The child victims reported as missing from care disappeared
seven times on average. Their reasons for running away
included poor accommodation, fear of authorities and the
ongoing control of human traffickers, the charities said in a
report.

The findings raise doubts about Britain’s ability to care for
vulnerable children at a time when a record number of
suspected child slaves are being referred to the government –
2,118 last year and up two-thirds on 2016 – campaigners said.

“Trafficked and unaccompanied children continue to be failed
by the system which should be safeguarding and protecting
them,” said Jane Hunter, senior research manager at Missing
People.

“(They) are particularly vulnerable, and may go back into a
highly exploitative situation to those they were trafficked
by.”

Britain’s Children and Families Minister Nadhim Zahawi said
that any missing child was cause for “serious concern”.

“We require all care placements to have clear procedures in
place to prevent children from going missing,” he said in a
statement.

About a fifth of the 975 trafficked or unaccompanied children
reported as missing from care in Britain last year have not
yet been found, according to the charities’ data.

“I can see why young people run away to their trafficker,” one
child who went missing from care was quoted anonymously as
saying in the report. “It is ‘better the devil you know’.”

Despite being hailed as a global leader in the anti-slavery
drive, Britain said in July it would review its landmark 2015
law amid criticism that it is not being used fully to jail
traffickers, drive firms to stop forced labour, or help
victims.

Many child victims of trafficking are convicted of crimes they
are forced to commit in captivity – such as drug offences on
cannabis farms where many Vietnamese teenagers are found – and
are later refused asylum, lawyers and campaigners have said.

Between 2015 and 2017, Britain denied asylum to 183 people
trafficked as children from nations such as Vietnam – double
the total for the previous three years – government data
obtained exclusively by the Thomson Reuters Foundation
revealed in July.

“Too often these children are treated as criminals or
immigration offenders, rather than vulnerable children
requiring support,” said Catherine Baker, ECPAT’s senior
research officer.

Britain is home to at least 136,000 modern slaves, according
to the Global Slavery Index by rights group Walk Free
Foundation – a figure 10 times higher than a government
estimate from 2013.
http://news.trust.org/item/20181219170931-4fzv8/

Pope Francis asks for prayers for Indonesia after deadly tsunami

Indonesia Tsunami photoOfficials look through the wreckage of damaged buildings in Carita, Indonesia on December 23, 2018. Credit: AFP/Getty Images.

By Courtney Grogan

Vatican City, (CNA/EWTN News). After a deadly tsunami struck Indonesia Saturday night, killing more than 200 people and injuring hundreds more, Pope Francis has asked for everyone to join him in prayer for the suffering victims this Christmas.

“My thoughts go out right now to the populations of Indonesia, affected by violent natural disasters, which have caused serious losses in human lives, numerous people missing and homeless, and extensive material damage,” Pope Francis said after his Angelus prayer Dec. 23.

“I invite everyone to join me in prayer for the victims and their loved ones,” he said, calling for solidarity and support from the international community.

The tsunami left at least 222 people dead and more than 840 injured, according to Sutopo Purwo Nugroho from Indonesia’s disaster management agency.

Researchers suspect the destructive waves were triggered by a volcanic eruption in the Sunda Strait between two Indonesian islands.

Pope Francis expressed his wish to be “spiritually close” to the displaced and “to all the people who are imploring God for relief in their suffering.”

The pope reflected on the importance of families being together at Christmas, but said he understood that “many people do not have this possibility, for different reasons.”

To people apart from their families at Christmas, Pope Francis extended an invitation to find a “true family” in the Catholic Church.

“Our heavenly Father does not forget you and does not abandon you. If you are a Christian, I wish you to find in the Church a true family, where you can experience the warmth of fraternal love,” he said.

Francis stressed that the doors of the Catholic community are open to Christians and non-Christians alike this Christmas. “Jesus is born for everyone and gives everyone the love of God,” he said.

The pope encouraged people preparing for Christmas to fix their gaze on Mary, who spent her months of waiting for Christ’s coming in service to her elderly relative, Elizabeth.

“The Gospel of Mary’s visit to Elizabeth prepares us to live Christmas well, communicating to us the dynamism of faith and charity,” Pope Francis said.

“A dynamism full of joy, as seen in the meeting between the two mothers, which is all a hymn of joyous exultation in the Lord, who does great things with the little ones who trust Him,” he continued.

May the Virgin Mary obtain for us the grace of living a Christmas centered, not on ourselves, but on Jesus and our brothers and sisters in need, Pope Francis prayed.
https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/pope-francis-asks-for-prayers-for-indonesia-after-deadly-tsunami-83102

 

Migration Compact adopted following Pope’s call to action

Compact photo                                 Pope at launch of Share the Journey

Source: CAFOD

More than 160 countries have agreed the UN Global Compact on Migration at a conference in Morocco following calls from CAFOD supporters and thousands of Catholics worldwide.

The migration pact follows the adoption of the Global Compact on Refugees by the United Nations General Assembly earlier in 2018. The two agreements set out how governments will work together to help people on the move, particularly those who have been forced from their homes by persecution or poverty.

Catholics around the world have campaigned for governments to agree the compacts as part of a ‘Share the Journey’ campaign launched by Pope Francis in 2017, with CAFOD supporters in England and Wales walking more than 100,000 miles in solidarity with displaced people.

What are the global compacts?

The global compacts on migrants and refugees are the result of negotiations which started following a UN agreement in 2016 called the ‘New York Declaration’. This set out a process for countries to cooperate in dealing with the unprecedented number of people globally who were migrating because of war, the changing climate or in search of a better life.

Both agreements are seen as a step forward because they recognise that many migrants and refugees face common challenges and vulnerabilities.

The migration compact sets out how to assist people at all the stages of their journey – ensuring they can leave their homes without unnecessary danger, reducing the risk of exploitation and trafficking, and helping them to access basic services such as healthcare and education when they arrive in new countries.

The refugee compact seeks to make sure that countries which receive the largest number of refugees are given support. This is something the Holy Father has called for, as the majority of displaced people are living in countries which suffer from high levels of poverty themselves.

The agreement states the need to tackle the reasons why people are forced from their homes, including disasters resulting from climate change and damage to the environment.

The compact also notes that faith groups have an important role to play in helping refugees, including the role that the Church and other religious organisations play in preventing conflict and helping to build peace.

Global Compacts are a ‘testament to Pope’s leadership’

Graham Gordon, Head of Policy at CAFOD, said that the adoption of the agreements showed that “governments have responded to calls from their citizens” to support displaced people, noting that “tens of thousands of Catholics have walked over 100,000 miles in solidarity with people on the move.”

“Pope Francis has said that our response to the needs of migrants will be a ‘test of our humanity’, so the fact that the vast majority of states are joining the Global Compact is a positive sign.

“It’s in everyone’s interests that countries work together to support at every stage of their journey those who have left their homes in search of a better life. This is especially important if we are to prevent people from falling into the hands of traffickers and criminal gangs.”

The Holy See, under the Pope’s supervision, published guidance for governments ahead of the talks which led to the global compacts. These ‘action points’ were based on the support the Catholic Church is giving to refugees and migrants worldwide, including in countries such as Colombia, Nigeria and Lebanon.

Graham Gordon said: “The Global Compact and its sister document on refugees have been a testament to the leadership shown by the Pope and the Church during negotiations. Now we need to ensure that governments put their words into action and implement their provisions.”
https://www.indcatholicnews.com/news/36197

“No One Listened to Us!” The Ixiles of Guatemala

Ixiles photo

By Jan Lundius

Stockholm/Rome,(IPS) – According to the Mexican Interior Ministry more than 7,000 Central American migrants have during the last month arrived at the US-Mexico border. Despite warnings by officials that they will face arrests, prosecution and deportation if they enter US territory, migrants state they intend to do so anyway, since they are fleeing persecution, poverty and violence. This is not new, in 1995 I visited Ixil and Ixcan, two Guatemalan areas mainly inhabited by Ixiles. My task was to analyse the impact of a regional development programme aimed at supporting post-conflict indigenous communities. United Nations has estimated that between 1960 and 1996 more than 245,000 people (mostly civilians) had been killed, or “disappeared” during Guatemalan internal conflicts, the vast majority of the killings were attributed to the army, or paramilitary groups.

A rainy day I visited a camp for returnees. After living in Mexico, Ixiles were awaiting land distribution. Behind wire and monitored by soldiers, they huddled among their meagre belongings, sheltered by plastic sheets stretched across wooden poles. They expressed their hopes for the future. They wanted to be listened to, allowed to build up their villages, gain respect and become accepted as coequal citizens in their own country. While asked what they wanted most of all, several returnees answered: “We need a priest and a church.” I wondered if they were so religious. “No, no,” they answered. “We need to rebuild our lives, finding our place in the world, be with our ancestors. The priest will make us believe in ourselves and trust in God. That will give us strength. We need a church so we can build our village around it. We all need a centre and every village needs one as well.”

Ixil tradition emphasizes the importance of land and ancestry. A few days before my visit to the camp I had interviewed an aj’kin, a Maya priest. Aj means “master of” and kin “day”. Aj´kines perform rituals and keep track of the time – the past, the present and the future. Like many old Ixiles the aj´kin did not speak any Spanish and the Ixil engineer who accompanied me translated his words. The engineer suggested that I would ask the aj´kin to “sing his family”. The old man then delivered a long, monotonous chant, listing his ancestors all the way back to pre-colonial days. When I asked him what the singing was about the aj´kin explained: “The world belongs to those who were here before us. We only take care of it, until we become one of them. All the ancestors want from us is that we don´t abandon them, making them know that we remember them. Memory and speech is the thread that keeps the Universe together.”

In the camp, Ixiles told me they had been ignored for hundreds of years and that this was the main reason for the violent conflict. Uniformed men had arrived in their villages and first, people had assumed they were government soldiers, becoming enthused when the strangers declared that it was time for Ixiles to have their voices heard, their wishes fulfilled. However, the “liberators” could not keep their promises.

They did not represent the Government, they were guerilleros, proclaiming they had “freed” the peasants, when all they had done was to “speak a lot” and create “revolutionary committees”, only to retreat as soon as the Government troops arrived. These were much stronger and more ruthless than the guerilleros and stated that Ixiles had become “communists”. They murdered and tortured them, burned their fields. What could they do? They asked their Catholic priests for help, but the Government accused the Church of manipulating them through its ”liberation theology”; by preaching that Jesus had been on the side of the poor.

The soldiers even killed priests. One woman told me that she and her neighbours one morning had found the parish priest’s severed head laying on the church steps. Some peasants joined the guerrilla, others organized militias to keep it at a safe distance:

“Some of the guerilleros were our own sons and daughters, but what could we do? As soon as guerrilleros appeared and preached their socialism, the army arrived, killing us. The guerrilleros were not strong enough to fight the soldiers. We were left to be slaughtered. The only solution we could find was to arm ourselves and with weapons in hand ask the guerrilleros to stay away from our villages. However, all over the world they declared that we were supporting a corrupt and oppressive regime. We found ourselves between two fires, solutions were almost non-existent. No one listened to us”

A Catholic priest living in the camp explained: “They tend to be very religious, but their faith is mostly about human dignity. Ixiles want to be masters of their lives. They need to be listened to. Every day I sit for hours listening to confessions. They talk and talk. It makes them content when someone is listening to them. This is one of the problems we Catholics face. Ixiles are abandoning our faith for the one of the evangelicals.”

For centuries the Church had told Ixiles what to do, but finally both Catholics and peasants had been persecuted. In 1982, under the presidency of Ríos Montt, violence reached its peak. A scorch earth campaign lasting for five months resulted in the deaths of approximately 10,000 indigenous Guatemalans, while 100,000 rural villagers were forced to flee their homes, most of them over the border, into Mexico. Ríos Montt was a “born-again Christian” and in the aftermath of the violence evangelical sectarians appeared in the Ixil areas. Many of the remaining Ixiles became evangelicals, stating this was their only way to avoid persecution and come in contact with the “High Command” of the unconstrained army forces.

The loudspeakers of evangelical churches amplified their voices, allowing Ixiles to confess their sins and praise the Lord. However, were their voices finally heard? Their well-being improved? Do they have a say in the governing of their country? Many Ixiles are once again leaving their homes, hoping to reach the US. Research indicates a difference between migration patterns of El Salvador and Honduras and Guatemala. In the former two countries migration decision is more often the result of immediate threats to safety, while in Guatemala it stems from chronic stressors; a mix of general violence, poverty, and rights violations, especially among indigenous people.

Jan Lundius holds a PhD. on History of Religion from Lund University and has served as a development expert, researcher and advisor at SIDA, UNESCO, FAO and other international organisations.

 

http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/no-one-listened-us-ixiles-guatemala/

Vatican Christmas concert will support refugees in Iraq, Uganda

Refugees photoPope Francis addresses the performer and organizers of the Christmas Concert in
the Vatican’s Clementine Hall, Dec. 14, 2018. Credit: Vatican Media.

By Courtney Grogan

Vatican City, (CNA/EWTN News).- This Christmas it is particularly important to
support refugees and migrants, Pope Francis said Friday, ahead of the Vatican
Christmas Concert fundraiser in support of young refugee education.

“Christmas is always new because it invites us to be reborn in faith, to open
ourselves to hope, to rekindle charity,” Pope Francis said in the Clementine Hall of
the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace.

“This year, in particular, calls us to reflect on the situation of many men, women and
children of our time – migrants, displaced persons, and refugees – marching to
escape wars, miseries caused by social injustice and climate change,” the pope
continued.

Pope Francis stressed his particular concern for the “little ones” among migrants,
who face dangerous situations and “long marches on foot” when they should be
“sitting among the school desks, like their peers.”

“They too need training to be able to work tomorrow and participate as citizens,
aware of the common good,” he commented.

The Holy Father expressed gratitude for the work of two papal charities that support
young refugees in Iraq and Uganda. “Missioni Don Bosco” in Uganda and “Scholas
Occurrentes” in Iraq will both receive proceeds from the Vatican Christmas Concert
taking place in Vatican City’s Paul VI Hall.

“Missioni Don Bosco” is an Italian Catholic charity supporting the education of
disadvantaged youth in developing countries. Their Salesian missionaries in Uganda
aid refugee families from South Sudan. One of their educational projects in the
Palabek refugee camp provides vocational training to 1,500 students, who also
receive one meal a day.

The Pontifical Foundation’s “Scholas Occurrentes” was founded by Bergoglio while
he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires as an initiative to encourage social integration
and the culture of encounter through technology, arts and sports.

On Friday, Pope Francis met with young Iraqi refugees supported by “Scholas
Occurrentes,” and the artists performing in the Christmas concert, and shared his
message on the importance of education and solidarity.

The pope drew a direct link between the Christmas story and the needs of child
refugees today. “When the violent anger of Herod struck the territory of Bethlehem,
the Holy Family of Nazareth experienced the anguish of persecution, and guided by
God, took refuge in Egypt,” he said.

“The little Jesus reminds us that half of the refugees of today, in the world, are
children, innocent victims of human injustices,” he continued.
https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/vatican-christmas-concert-will-support-
refugees-in-iraq-uganda-41097

House passes farm bill and controversial rule on Yemen debate

Bill photoUS Capitol dome. Credit: Dan Thornberg/Shutterstock.

By Christine Rousselle

Washington D.C., Dec 13, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- An agriculture bill supported
by a coalition of Catholic groups passed the House of Representatives on
Wednesday with bipartisan support. During debate over the bill, lawmakers also
passed a controversial rule regarding debate on US involvement in Yemen.

The bill now moves to President Donald Trump, who is expected to sign it.

The “farm bill” concerns agricultural programs and food assistance. It is renewed
each year, and this process can sometimes be quite lengthy due to additions and
amendments added to the bill by members of Congress.

The version of the farm bill passed Dec. 12 was a compromise that eliminated some
of the more controversial aspects of an earlier version of the bill. Those controversial
provisions included expanded work requirements for people who receive
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) funds. That bill passed the
House of Representatives in June, but only had the support of Republican members.

SNAP is used by approximately 38 million Americans each year to purchase food
items. Currently, able-bodied SNAP recipients who are between the ages of 18 and
49 who do not have dependents under the age of six, must work or volunteer for 20
hours a week or participate in a job-training program in order to receive benefits.
The proposed bill would have upped the upper age limit of this requirement to 59,
but that provision was dropped in the compromise bill.

In a controversial procedural move, a mostly party-line passing vote on rules for
floor debate of the farm bill also included a provision that would block legislators
from forcing a vote on military aid to Saudi Arabia’s intervention in the Yemeni civil
war.

This effectively limits the Senate’s Dec. 13 vote to withdraw military aid from Saudi
Arabia to a symbolic gesture.

This amended bill passed by a vote of 369-47 in the House of Representatives, and
87-13 in the Senate. The Senate passed the bill Dec. 11.

The bill was praised by a coalition of Catholic organizations.

“Agriculture policies should promote the production and access of nutritious food for
all people, using the bounty from the land God has called us to tend and steward to
aid the least of our brothers and sister in this country and around the world,” read a
Dec. 12 letter to the House of Representatives signed by several Catholic
organizations, including the USCCB, Catholic Relief Services, and Catholic Charities
USA.
“We are pleased that the recently released Farm Bill Conference Committee Report
includes provisions that protect global and domestic nutrition programs and
strengthens rural supports and employment training programs,” they added.

The letter also stated support for the inclusion of two programs that contribute to
rural development, as well as the bill’s changes to international food security
programs. These changes will make the programs “more effective and allow them to
serve more people.”

The Catholic coalition expressed disappointment with other parts of the bill, including
subsidies to farmers and ranchers and a decrease in funding to conservation
programs. Each year, one of the hotly-debated points of the farm bill concerns
subsidies that are distributed to farmers, and critics of this say the money does not
always go to farmers who are in need of assistance.

The farm subsidies should be “prioritized” for struggling farmers, says the letter.

“It is disappointing that the Conference report does not take modest steps to limit
subsidy payments to farmers who are actively engaged in farming.”
https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/house-passes-farm-bill-and-
controversial-rule-on-yemen-debate-78056

The Long, Brutal U.S. War on Children in the Middle East

children photo

When children waste away to literally nothing while fourteen million people face conflict driven famine, a hue and cry—yes, a caterwaul —most certainly should be raised, worldwide.

by Kathy Kelly

On November 28, sixty-three U.S. Senators voted in favor of holding a floor debate on a resolution calling for an end to direct U.S. Armed Forces involvement in the Saudi-UAE coalition-led war on Yemen. Describing the vote as a rebuke to Saudi Arabia and the Trump Administration, AP reported on Senate dissatisfaction over the administration’s response to Saudi Arabia’s brutal killing of Jamal Khashoggi last month. Just before the Senate vote, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called current objections to U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia “Capitol Hill caterwauling and media pile-on.”

The “caterwaul” on Capitol Hill reflects years of determined effort by grassroots groups to end U.S. involvement in war on Yemen, fed by mounting international outrage at the last three years of war that have caused the deaths of an estimated 85,000 Yemeni children under age five.

When children waste away to literally nothing while fourteen million people endure conflict-driven famine, a hue and cry—yes, a caterwaul —most certainly should be raised, worldwide.

How might we understand what it would mean in the United States for fourteen million people in our country to starve? You would have to combine the populations of New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, and imagine these cities empty of all but the painfully and slowly dying, to get a glimpse into the suffering in Yemen, where one of every two persons faces starvation.

Antiwar activists have persistently challenged elected representatives to acknowledge and end the horrible consequences of modern warfare in Yemen where entire neighborhoods have been bombed, displacing millions of people; daily aerial attacks have directly targeted Yemen’s infrastructure, preventing delivery of food, safe water, fuel, and funds. The war crushes people through aerial bombing and on-the-ground fighting as well as an insidious economic war.

Yemenis are strangled by import restrictions and blockades, causing non-payment of government salaries, inflation, job losses, and declining or disappearing incomes. Even when food is available, ordinary Yemenis cannot afford it.

Starvation is being used as a weapon of war—by Saudi Arabia, by the United Arab Emirates, and by the superpower patrons including the United States that arm and manipulate both countries.

During the thirteen years of economic sanctions against Iraq— those years between the Gulf War and the devastating U.S.-led “Shock and Awe” war that followed—I joined U.S. and U.K. activists traveling to Iraq in public defiance of the economic sanctions.

We aimed to resist U.S.- and U.K.-driven policies that weakened the Iraqi regime’s opposition more than they weakened Saddam Hussein. Ostensibly democratic leaders were ready to achieve their aims by brutally sacrificing children under age five. The children died first by the hundreds, then by the thousands and eventually by the hundreds of thousands. Sitting in a Baghdad pediatric ward, I heard a delegation member, a young nurse from the U.K., begin to absorb the cruelty inflicted on mothers and children.

“I think I understand,” murmured Martin Thomas, “It’s a death row for infants.” Children gasped their last breaths while their parents suffered a pile-up of anguish, wave after wave. We should remain haunted by those children’s short lives.

The Iraq children died amid an eerie and menacing silence on the part of mainstream media and most elected U.S. officials. No caterwauling was heard on Capitol Hill. But, worldwide, people began to know that children were paying the price of abysmally failed policies, and millions of people opposed the 2003 Shock and Awe war.

Still the abusive and greedy policies continue. The U.S. and its allies built up permanent warfare states to secure consistent exploitation of resources outside their own territories.

During and after the Arab Spring, numerous Yemenis resisted dangerously unfair austerity measures that the Gulf Cooperation Council and the U.S. insisted they must accept. Professor Isa Blumi, who notes that generations of Yemeni fighters have refused to acquiesce to foreign invasion and intervention, presents evidence that Saudi Arabia and the UAE now orchestrate war on Yemen to advance their own financial interests.

In the case of Saudi Arabia, Blumi states that although Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman wants to author an IPO (Initial Public Offering), for the Saudi state oil company, Aramco, no major investors would likely participate. Investment firms know the Saudis pay cash for their imports, including billions of dollars’ worth of weaponry, because they are depleting resources within their own territory. This, in part, explains the desperate efforts to take over Yemen’s offshore oil reserves and other strategic assets.

Recent polls indicate that most Americans don’t favor U.S. war on Yemen. Surely, our security is not enhanced if the U.S. continues to structure its foreign policy on fear, prejudice, greed, and overwhelming military force. The movements that pressured the U.S. Senate to reject current U.S. foreign policy regarding Saudi Arabia and its war on Yemen will continue raising voices. Collectively, we’ll work toward raising the lament, pressuring the media and civil society to insist that slaughtering children will never solve problems.

 

https://progressive.org/dispatches/the-long-brutal-u-s-war-on-children-in-the-middle-east-181129/