Bishop Denis Brennan, Bishop of Ferns, will represent the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference at the upcoming annual general meeting of the Santa Marta Group in Rome on 26 and 27 October 2016. An initiative of Pope Francis, the Santa Marta Group is an alliance of bishops and police chiefs from around the world, working with civil society, to prevent trafficking and modern day slavery.
Ahead of the start of the meeting in Rome tomorrow, Bishop Brennan said, “At the first meeting of the Santa Marta Group in 2014 Pope Francis called for ‘the adoption of an effective strategy against human trafficking, so that in every part of the world, men and women may no longer be used as a means to an end, and that their inviolable dignity may always be respected.’ For such a strategy to work, all sections of Irish society have a role to play in confronting the secretive and pernicious activities of human trafficking and modern slavery.”
Bishop Brennan continued, “Especially through our two key councils, for immigrants, and for justice and peace, as well as with our aid agency Trócaire, Irish bishops are committed to raising awareness about this challenging and dreadful crime which targets the most vulnerable sector in our society. The Santa Marta Group represents an opportunity to further develop the partnership work of the Church and law enforcement agencies which are engaged in tackling these issues both in Ireland and at the international level.
“I wish to reiterate the words of Pope Francis who, when speaking at the inaugural meeting of the Santa Marta Group in April 2014, said, ‘Human trafficking is an open wound on the body of contemporary society, a scourge upon the body of Christ. It is a crime against humanity.’ Every family, village and town in Ireland has a role to play to stop this scourge.”
Along with Bishop Brennan, senior officers from An Garda Síochána and from the Police Service of Northern Ireland, are also expected to be attendance.
Human trafficking ranks as one of the most lucrative criminal enterprises in the world, comparable to the illegal arms trade. The International Labour Organisation estimates that 2.4 million people are trafficked globally and that annual profits generated from trafficking in human beings are as high as $32 billion (€29.1 billion).
Given the often hidden nature of these crimes, the extent of human trafficking and modern slavery are difficult for law enforcement agencies in Ireland to quantify. However, in May of this year, An Garda Síochána in partnership with the Santa Marta Group held a conference at Mary Immaculate College in Limerick on preventing human trafficking and exploitation within the North Atlantic Maritime Industry.