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Report from Sr. Lucy on Human Trafficking

2013: During the recent Commission on the Status of Women 57 in New York (April 2013) at the United Nations a number of sessions were held on trafficking and migration. We were told that the largest human migration in history was currently occurring. People smuggling and trafficking have increased due to restrictive migrant practices and immigration policies. Martin Fowke (UNDOC) said new laws are not needed current ones must be implemented: 154 countries have signed the Trafficking in Persons Protocol and 135 the Smuggling protocols, yet 34% of countries failed to prosecute any traffickers recently.

The basic cause of trafficking is shifting from poverty to power structures such as desire for money, gullibility, gender, age, race, education and economics. Often there is little spent on stopping trafficking because there is the demand for labour and sex in receiving countries. There is a need to strengthen the 5 Ps (policy, prevention, protection, prosecution and partnership), 4 Rs (rescue, recovery, repatriation and reintegration) in government and civil society to stop trafficking. Political unrest in a country and the need for workers in another; traffickers seeing their ‘work’ as a business; lack of jobs or difficult, dangerous and dirty jobs that locals don’t want and the uneven implementation of laws are push and pull factors contributing to the increase in trafficking. It is up to each country to implement the Palermo Protocol and human rights laws for all.

It was further suggested that we need greater engagement on migration issues globally, to keep this on the post 2015 development agenda and get stronger commitments from governments to implement laws in practice. Argentina, for example, has an integrated approach across agencies when working with trafficked victims; California has passed laws compelling companies to publicise labour use and Sweden and other Nordic countries prosecute buyers of sex.

ACRATH was praised for its initiative and organisation in visiting Canberra each year with specific objectives in one side event. There were a number of occasions questions were asked on behalf of ACRATH with great interest in how we operate. Lucy has been asked to speak to RUN (Religious at the UN) and a group of Mercy Sisters about ACRATH strategies.

Migration often has links to trafficking. A session on Measures to ensure respect for and protection of the human rights of all migrants, with particular reference to women and children, as well as to prevent and combat smuggling migrants and trafficking in persons, and to ensure regular, orderly and safe migration highlighted some interesting points.

With excellent speakers one stood out: Francois Crepeau (Professor from McGill University) with his clear presentation. The key components of good practice, he said, are:

  1. Decriminalise ‘irregular migrants’; they are not illegal and are protected by the human rights law 65/212 and many other conventions most countries have ratified.
  2. Take away detention as a systemic response across governments.
  3. Increase and ensure awareness raising among the public re the benefits migrants bring.
  4. Ensure the protection of children at all levels in line with international human rights and numerous conventions on the protection of children.
  5. Be aware of and deal with trafficking by prosecution of traffickers. To date there is a serious lack of prosecution and conviction of traffickers.
  6. Deal with people smuggling effectively. Policies which drive people smugglers underground are useless; governments need the will to stop this crime.
  7. Ensure the civil rights of migrants are respected. In many countries human rights is not a core issue and lack of understanding of migrants is key to non-acceptance of them.
  8. Migrants must have access to independent institutions, review boards and assistance.
  9. The state has a responsibility to educate all departments and officers working with migrants.
  10. The state has a responsibility to respect the human rights of ALL citizens.

Other interesting information from this session included the following:

  • There are 214 million migrants today.
  • 33 million are under the age of 20 and 6 million under four years of age.
  • Domestic migrant women workers are most at risk of being trafficked and abused.
  • Kuwait has two million migrant workers and one million local workers.
  • At present economics drives migration: this must change, migrants are not commodities.
  • More needs to be done to stress the contribution of migrants, to train officials and to tackle corrupt recruitment agencies.

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Ministry in Thailand continues

In 2013 Sister Cecilia is continuing as the Field Director of COERR (Catholic Office for Emergency Relief and Refugees) for the Ratchaburi Diocese. She visits nine camps, two near Ratchaburi and seven in the north of Thailand. Visiting these northern camps involves nineteen hours of stressful driving through dangerous terrain. Sr Cecilia trains the staff of COERR in the program Healing of Memory and Reconciliation. This program is aimed at helping the people in the camps to cope with  their pain and suffering, and to deal with conflict within themselves. These refugees are enabled to participate in such programs as planting and tending vegetables, and the making of Tiger Balm, candles and soap. Sr Cecilia and her workers aim to help each person to be fully alive and fully human. As part of her camp ministry Cecilia visits the homes of the refugees. The children and elderly are given extra food as they are often under-nourished. In the northern camps warm clothing is distributed.

As part of the COERR, Cecilia and her co-workers spent two days working with the people in the Immigration Detention Centre in Bangkok, sitting and  listening to the people tell their sad stories. Cecilia and her co-workers interact with many nationalities including African, Austrian, Burmese, Chinese, Karen, French, Japanese and Laos. Sr Cecilia finds this work very challenging and fulfilling.

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Farewell to Lucy

On Saturday 29 December 2012, the sisters gathered with the Rivervale community for a lunch to say farewell to Lucy before she left for New York in early January.

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WA Sister going to the UN

Lucy van Kessel is going to the United Nations as an International Presentation Association (IPA) non-government organisation representative for six months from January to July 2013. In this capacity Lucy will focus on programs and events organised by the UN Regional Commissions, such as the Commission on the Status of Women in March which assesses government responses to the elimination of violence against women. NGOs make recommendations for further action in particular UN regions – this is likely to be in Presentation mission regions, e.g. Papua New Guinea, Australia, India, Pakistan.

Lucy will be meeting with international working groups, guided by Fatima Rodrigo, and providing information about issues in particular regions. Among these will be human trafficking, Indigenous issues and human rights. During the six months, Lucy hopes to network with Presentation Justice Contacts around the world, with colleagues involved in mental health, accommodation, advocacy, domestic violence and other justice issues. She will be on a very steep learning curve and hopefully, have time to enjoy the weather, the people and the culture.

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The Sisters’ Place

The Sisters’ Place was established in June by five Congregations of religious women, the sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart, the Presentation Sisters, and the Sisters of St Joseph of the Apparition, the Ursuline Missionaries of the Sacred Heart and the Loreto sisters. This was in response to the need for a safe shelter for chronically homeless women who were sleeping rough on the streets and the parts of Fremantle.

Once the viability of the service and its model of operation were established, the Sisters’ Place was placed under the auspice of the St Patrick’s Support Centre, a natural and seamless progression as St Patrick’s is a major provider of services to the homeless in Fremantle. The Sisters’ Place continues to be managed by the Western Australian Congregational Leaders of the five religious communities who form a sub-committee responsible to the Board of St Patrick’s.

The Sisters’ Place is a house in a residential setting that provides the comforts of home such as a warm bed, lounge, shower and laundry facilities, and most importantly the company of the volunteers and the safety from the dangers of the streets. In the evening two volunteers collect women from Fremantle in The Sisters’ Place van and on return welcome the women and settle then into the house. Two volunteers stay overnight.

During 2011-2012, the Sisters’ Place provided 950 safe sleeps and 335 blankets have been distributed.

The benefits to the women are more than a safe sleep as their stay at The Sisters’ Place often has positive effects on their lives. Some have been able to secure permanent housing; others feel safe while they wait for months and months for public housing.

The Sisters’ Place continues to enjoy tremendous support from the community. Women give their time to volunteer. Other women who cannot give time due to children and other commitments are involved in supporting The Sisters’ Place by collecting the many things needed to run the house. Local schools and community groups are interested to hear about the work of The Sisters’ Place providing an opportunity for people to learn about the causes and effects of homelessness and the plight of homeless people in their local community. Many groups in turn arrange fundraising events and/or make donations; as do many generous individuals. Whenever help is needed many are eager to respond.

“The Mission of The Sisters Place is to relieve suffering and bring hope through providing dignified accommodation to temporarily homeless women.”

Taken from a report written by Helen Cattalini, Manager 2012

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The Year of Grace

On 11 August 2012 Sr Clare gave a presentation on The Year of Grace. One of the key points of discussion was the logo, which reflected the cross, the universe, indigenous culture, the host, a monstrance and the infinity of God. This Year of Grace is an invitation from the Australian Bishops to the Church to reflect on the face of Christ in our midst.

Clare emphasised that The Year of Grace is not a program to follow but rather an invitation to renew our personal faith in the person of Jesus. The presentation led to some deep reflection and sharing from those present.

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