Catholics get trained to tackle trafficking

The Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh is taking the step of training Catholics to help tackle modern slavery.

Around 40 people will attend a session held in Edinburgh on 5th February by Hope for Justice in conjunction with our commission for Caritas, Justice & Peace.

Alister Bull from the charity said: “This is a vanguard event for the Catholic community within Scotland. We know that there are over 400 serious organised crime groups active within Scotland. Each of the 32 local authorities have recorded incidents of human trafficking. That’s the scale of it.

“The nature of it is horrific. They will brutalise people, threaten them, intimidate and torture them.”

The charity has recorded an increase in the number of people being trafficked in Scotland over the last five years.

“There was a gang in Bathgate who brought Latvians to Scotland, promising work and a better life,” he continued. "It was a total lie. They took their money, their freedom and forced them to work at high street retailers to compromise their supply chains.

“There were cases in Lanark, Kirkcaldy and Dundee of people being sexually exploited in property used by the traffickers. It’s urban and rural, it’s happening and it’s here.”

Sharing experience

Alister, a training and development officer for the charity, has trained organisations including NHS Tayside, Dundee City Council and Police Scotland. Now he wants to help Catholics spot the signs of trafficking and know how to respond.

He said: “You may get groups of people who may not realise they’re a victim and turn up at a Mass. One of the things the course will do will help you spot the signs and indicators and help you to know what to do next.”

“Our training is not just information sharing, it’s experience sharing. We can give first-hand accounts of what’s going on and offer case studies, grounded in Scotland and its legislation.

The SCO reported last year how Archbishop Leo Cushley hit out at the ‘significant number’ of human trafficking victims in Scotland. He tasked Fr Basil Clark, vicar episcopal for Caritas, Justice & Peace, to ensure the diocese was taking practical steps to do what it can to help.

Fr Clark said: “I have encountered numbers of Vietnamese occasionally turning up for Mass and often wonder how to help - should help be needed. Our commission invited Alistair Bull to run a training event so more of us can recognise the signs of trafficking and how to properly respond.”

Get Trained to Tackle Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking, Wednesday 5th February is now sold out. Main photo: Albin Hillert/WCC 


'The start of a journey': Charities back Archdiocese in fight against modern slavery

Two leading charities are backing the Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh in the fight against modern slavery.

The Apostleship of the Sea and the Santa Marta Group say joining forces with the Archdiocese will help raise greater awareness of the scourge of human trafficking in Scotland, while also helping support victims.

Mick Duthie, Deputy Director of the Santa Marta Group, said: “We are excited to work with the Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh to tackle modern slavery. This is the start of the journey and we will be there to support them and offer advice.”

The Santa Marta Group is an alliance of international police chiefs and bishops working to eradicate human trafficking and slavery.

Mr Duthie, a former Detective Chief Superintendent with the Metropolitan Police, met with Archbishop Leo Cushley recently to advise on what steps can be taken.

He also spoke at a meeting at the Gillis Centre in Edinburgh (pictured below) featuring representatives from various groups including the National Justice and Peace Commission, Survivors of Human Trafficking in Scotland, along with the Apostleship of the Sea, a Catholic charity supporting seafarers from across the world.

Deacon Joseph O’Donnell, a senior regional port chaplain for the Apostleship of the Sea, said: “We are keen to engage with the Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh. It’s a good time to recognise the work that needs done and to join forces so we can help each other. There are different people with different skills around the table who are willing to work together.”

The move comes following Scottish religious leaders, including Archbishop Cushley, publicly committing this year to work with organisations to “develop effective approaches to recognising and tackling human trafficking in Scotland and supporting the survivors”.

The Archbishop has tasked Father Basil Clark, Vicar Episcopal for Caritas, Justice & Peace, to raise awareness among congregations across the Archdiocese as a first step.

Father Clark, who convened the meeting, said: “Pope Francis himself has called for a more unanimous and effective strategy to combat human trafficking. So receiving support and advice from leading organisations such as Santa Marta on how our Archdiocese can make a meaningful contribution is heartening.

“The stories of personal human suffering I’ve heard here in Scotland are harrowing - it has become a window into the heart of human darkness. Crimes that I thought distant are much closer to home than we think.”

Archbishop’s call for action on human trafficking

 Archbishop Leo Cushley has hit out at the "significant number" of human trafficking victims in Scotland.

He believes the problem has now "taken root" in the country and called for better action to tackle it

He said: "We flatter ourselves that it exists in murky, far-away places, or in Netflix box sets about the ancient world.

"But there is a significant number of people in our country - from Africa, Asia and Europe - who are trapped in debt, and exploited by the unscrupulous.

"We should be under no illusion as to this reality, which has quietly taken root in our country."

His comments came during his homily at Mass during St Margaret’s Pilgrimage in Dunfermline on Sunday (main picture) as he compared the work of the saint, herself a refugee, to the actions Catholics must take to help those suffering from modern slavery.

He highlighted how the saint personally raised funds to free prisoners of war, allowing them to return home.

He said: "This is a phenomenon that St Margaret would have condemned and worked to change. She did so in her own lifetime.

"So we would do well to imitate her by informing ourselves about this problem and exploring what needs to be done to address it."

Church Justice and Peace groups across the St Andrews & Edinburgh Archdiocese, are being asked to help raise awareness of the problem and "find means to assist those who find themselves trapped through trafficking".

Archbishop Cushley was one of the senior faith leaders at a conference held by Survivors of Human Trafficking in Scotland (SOHTIS) in April. They all made a commitment to work together with the Scottish Government to eradicate human trafficking and modern slavery.

Fr Basil Clark, Vicar Episcopal for Caritas, Justice & Peace, has been tasked with raising awareness in the Archdiocese and finding ways to help those trapped through trafficking.

He said: “When you encounter it in a personal way, it really hits home. I had a young man from Vietnam who was brought by social workers to Mass.

“He had apparently escaped from a cannabis farm in East Lothian and ended up in Musselburgh Police Station.

He added: “We have empty church property – could they be used as safe houses? We need to go from raising such questions to actually doing something to raise money and making things happen to tackle the problem.

Human trafficking has been identified as the fastest growing global crime

Last year, 44 women in Scotland identified themselves in as victims of trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation. Seven were girls under the age of 18.*