Stopping human trafficking
23 July 2012
“ The middlemen see that the girl’s family is poor. They tell her parents, “I’ll marry your daughter and find her a good job.” At a refugee camp in eastern Nepal, a high school counsellor describes how criminals target teenage girls. “ They say, ‘She’ll earn a lot of money and send it home. It will change your life’’’.
Traffickers take advantage of lax border controls between India and Nepal.
Across Nepal, across Asia, across the world, human traffickers tell the same kinds of lies to poor and desperate young women and their families. The women’s lives are changed – but not for the better. All too often they are taken out of their country and are sold into unpaid labour or forced prostitution.
To fight this exploitation of women, as well as the men and children who also become victims, Caritas has gathered together many groups into COATNET – The Christian Organisations Against Trafficking in Human Beings NETwork.
COATNET is a network of 36 organisations from 28 countries of the world. They have been working together for ten years. In November 2011 all the members had their biennial meeting in Brussels where tackling trafficking for labour exploitation was identified among the main concerns of the network.
COATNET members – including Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox Churches’ organisations – contact each other across countries and continents, trying to find people who have gone missing or are in trouble.
COATNET members in Africa, Asia, Middle East, Oceania and Europe work together to give skills training and counselling to survivors and provide legal aid to those who want to prosecute their traffickers. Members also cooperate with government agencies on enforcement and act as consultants to police forces.
COATNET advocates for the rights of victims and lobbies for safer ways of migration which can reduce people’s vulnerability to trafficking. COATNET submitted information to the report of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Trafficking concerning a rights-based approach to the prosecution of trafficking cases.
COATNET’s primary goal, however, is to prevent people from being bought and sold in the first place. In small African villages, in the slums of Asia, wherever traffickers operate, COATNET members run telephone hotlines, hold awareness sessions in schools, broadcast warnings on the radio, put up posters in bus stations and make sure people at risk are informed. At the refugee camp in Nepal, another counsellor trained by Caritas said, “If we can save the life of just one girl, we will be happy.”