Ruth Kilcullen from MECPATH represented the campaign at an international youth symposium on human trafficking in the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. This two-day conference brought together young people from all over the world who are actively engaged in anti-trafficking work. Participants come from a diverse array of professional and personal backgrounds, including those involved in anti-trafficking initiatives at government and inter-government level, NGO work, academia, and education. Some of the speakers are survivors of human trafficking themselves and will have valuable insights to share of their first-hand experience of this dreadful crime.
Courtyard of the Casina Pio IV (used with permission)
Also attending the conference from Ireland was Donna Lyons, representing MECPATH’s partner organisation APT (Act to Prevent Trafficking). Donna is a secondary school teacher from Mallow, Co. Cork, and has been actively involved in organising an anti-trafficking project called STOP (Stop Trafficking of People) with 24 of her transition year students. One of the outcomes of this project was the publication of an awareness-raising booklet which will be distributed to secondary students around the country next year.
Ruth presented a paper at the conference outlining the origins and progress of the campaign, and the nature of combating human trafficking in the hospitality sector in general. The conference took place on the 14th and 15th of November, 2014.
Visit the website to find out more about the conference.
On Wednesday 20th November Srs. Mary Ryan RSM and Denise Boyle fmdm, met with the Executive Council of the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) at the Ardilaun Hotel in Galway. We gave a presentation on our Campaign (Mercy-End Child Prostitution and Trafficking in the Hospitality Sector) and then had a good discussion, during which we clarified some important issues about the ECPAT (End Child Prostitution, Pornography and Trafficking) Code of Conduct, which we are inviting the IHF members to sign. The hotels which sign the Code, are publicly stating their commitment to safeguarding children on their premises, especially from any form of sexual exploitation.
The outcome of our meeting was that Michael Vaughan, President of the IHF pledged full support for the MECPATH Campaign......
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The MECPATH Team came together at the end of May to look back on all that we have achieved, and think ahead about how to best move forward to achieve our goals. Reports from the Team reflect that it has been a busy period and progress made to date has been deeply encouraging. We have reached out to over 100 hotels across Ireland and the response from our colleagues in the hospitality sector has been fantastic. The passion that all of us share to protect children from exploitation has been a unifying and driving force in moving the campaign forward. Any movement of a child across national borders, or within Ireland, for the purposes of sexual exploitation constitutes child trafficking.
In recent months, we have collaborated with a diverse range of actors, within Ireland and internationally, to share experience and expertise and to support each other in this important work. In April, the MECPATH team met with Pat Zerega from Mercy Investment Services in the US. Pat is an expert on child trafficking, particularly as it pertains to the hospitality sector. Christine Carolan from ACRATH (Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans) also visited the MECPATH Team to learn about our work and share the experience of Australian religious working on this issue. In London, Sr. Denise Boyle (Campaign Manager) and Ruth Kilcullen (Fellow) met with representatives of TRAC (Trafficking - Raising Awareness and Campaigning), an NGO working to eradicate trafficking, to discuss expanding the MECPATH campaign across the UK. We also met with Bishop Pat Lynch, responsible for Immigrant issues including anti-trafficking for the Catholic Bishops; Conference of England and Wales, who was very positive and interested in implementing a similar campaign. This interaction with organisations working to end child trafficking around the world is extremely important. Their deep insight and knowledge is rooted in vast experience of this issue in their own countries, which is of great value to the MECPATH campaign as we develop and grow.
Various authorities in Ireland have given their full support to the MECPATH campaign from the beginning and their input continues to be of vital importance to our work. In April, MECPATH hosted a roundtable discussion with representatives from the Department of Justice, the Child and Family Agency, the Garda National Immigration Bureau, the Immigrant Council of Ireland, and the NGOs Ruhama and APT (Act to Prevent Trafficking). The purpose of this meeting was to identify the key principles that should underpin a hotel’s approach to preventing child trafficking, and from these draw up a protocol of best practices in cases where a child on hotel premises may be at risk of being sexually exploited. This protocol has the support of the IHF and will help to raise awareness of this issue among hoteliers.
The MECPATH Campaign continues with a lot done and a lot more to do. In the coming months we look forward to expanding our awareness-raising materials, working with our partners to help hoteliers provide crucial training to their staff, and reaching out to more hotels across the country. With continued collaboration and determination we will work to create an Ireland where childhood is sacred and children are safe.
Ruth Kilcullen, 4 June 2014
The MECPATH Team including Srs. Patricia O’Donovan, Mary Ryan, Denise Boyle and 10 of the 12 Mercy Sister Volunteers from around the country gathered in the Atrium of the Department of Justice and Equality, Stephen’s Green for our first Training Session for Hoteliers on January 28th.
Patricia O'Donovan rsm, Denise Boyle fmdm, Michael Vaughan (IHF), Mary Ryan rsm at the MECPATH training day on January 28th.
Michael Vaughan, President of the Irish Hotels Federation plus a number of General Managers and Human Resource personnel from leading hotels participated in the training. The programme included an in-depth session on ‘The CODE of Conduct to end the Sexual Exploitation of Children in Travel and Tourism’. The MECPATH Team are focussing on the Irish hospitality sector of tourism, specifically hotels.
To this end our Campaign is aimed at getting as many hotels as possible to sign the CODE, which entails implementing six important criteria, see www.thecode.org. Following this session a panel of speakers discussed various aspects around the trafficking of children into and within Ireland and the devastating consequences of this on the child. The panel had three speakers, David Gilbride, Principal of the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit (AHTU); Chief Superintendent John O’Driscoll, Director of the Garda National Immigration Bureau, including the Anti-Trafficking Unit; plus Catherine Gibson, a young lawyer from Barnardos. Their brief inputs evoked a good discussion. The morning concluded with a brief session on ‘MECPATH - the way forward’, which provided the opportunity for sharing ideas and suggestions to ensure the Campaign is national and will engage all aspects of the hotel industry.
On Wednesday 8th January 2014, Sisters of Mercy involved in the campaign gathered at the Catherine McAuley Centre on Herbert Street for their second training day. The day commenced with campaign co-ordinator Mary Ryan rsm giving an overview of the progress made to date by the MECPATH campaign. Campaign Manager Denise Boyle, fmdm then facilitated a discussion on the ECPAT Code of Conduct.
Also presenting at the training session was barrister Colin Smith, who has broad experience both in Ireland and overseas in the area of human rights law. He spoke to the trainees about the legal framework of trafficking in Ireland, and discussed the issues involved for victims of trafficking in terms of human rights.
The MECPATH volunteers are now ready to visit the first round of hotels and meet with their general managers and key hotel personnel in order to gain their support for the campaign. Specifically the MECPATH volunteers will be inviting hotels to join ECPAT and to sign the Code of Conduct. They will also extend an invitation to the General Managers to participate in the training session being organised by the MECPATH team on 28 January 2014 at the Department of Justice and Equality, St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin.........
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Letter from IHF president to members introducing Srs. Denise Boyle and Mary Ryan and describing the MECPATH Campaign
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