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MECPATHS - Campaign Insights And Call For Action

7 July 2017


Human Trafficking and Displacement of Persons

Reaching out to young women in distress who were displaced, who had left home because of poverty or difficult situations and who were exploited or forced into prostitution is very close to the essence of Catherine McAuley’s work. She provided refuge, challenged society and spoke for those women who had no one to speak for them.  MECPATHS is working to counter child sex trafficking.

Efforts to counter child trafficking have never been more widespread and varied than they are today. One of the reasons for this is the increased homelessness and poverty in Ireland.  Another reason is on a global scale the increased number of poor and displaced persons due to conflict, war and natural disasters. Displaced people are vulnerable and traffickers target them, especially women and children.  According to Europol there is a “tremendous amount of crossover” between smugglers bringing refugees across borders and gangs ensnaring people for forced sexual and labour exploitation.

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) conducted a survey of migrants which indicated that people migrating from conflict zones through Europe are at high risk of exploitation. Europol estimates that 10,000 registered refugee children are missing and that criminal gangs known to be involved in human trafficking are targeting children for sexual exploitation and slavery.

A figure from the European Commission indicates that 250,000 children are reported missing every year in the European Union, a figure which would account for 1 child every 2 minutes.  According to Missing Children Europe runaways make up the majority of missing children cases in Europe and often leave home or care institutions because of abusive situations or grooming or end up becoming victims of exploitation once on the streets. In the States, the U.S. Department of Justice estimates that a third of runaways will be lured into prostitution within 48 hours of leaving home.

As we know hotels are common venues for traffickers and many women and children are trafficked for sexual exploitation through hotels and the hospitality sector. MECPATHS is working to make it more difficult for traffickers to operate from Irish hotels and when hotel staff are in a position to raise the alert they can save trafficking victims from years of suffering and bring a halt to the activities of the criminals involved.

Call for Action
As always, MECPATHS relies on the support of all  Sisters of Mercy to help us in our endeavours to combat trafficking. There are some simple and practical steps you can take. We have drafted a letter that you can send to your MEPs to propose that it be made mandatory for all hotel staff within the EU to receive training in relation to trafficking.

MEP Letter

Recently all of the sisters on the MECPATHS team were asked to fill out a questionnaire as part of an evaluation of the MECPATHS campaign. The team felt that the campaign has been successful in raising awareness and educating people about trafficking. However there is still much more we can do as a Congregation. Using the MECPATHS letter template when booking hotels helps us hold hotels to account. This letter challenges hotels to take up the issue of child trafficking and work with MECPATHS to ensure their premises are safe for children. We encourage Sisters to send this letter to hotels before making a booking.

Guest Letter For Hotels

These letters can make a difference at local level and at European level in helping to counter trafficking. In our evaluation questionnaire a member of the MECPATHS team stated that she had received a phone call from a hotel a few weeks after a hotel visit, to say that the hotel had had a trafficking incident and knew what to do. “It was confirmation of the work we do.”  Each time a hotel receives a MECPATHS presentation it makes a difference. No matter how big or small the steps that we all take to fight this crime, they are steps forward. We offer our efforts in the work to counter trafficking as prayer and ask you to remember our work and the victims of trafficking in your prayers.

Aisling Murray

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