An alliance of police chiefs and bishops from around the world working together with civil society to eradicate human trafficking and modern day slavery.
Religious sisters have been caring for victims of human trafficking across the world for many decades, inspired by St Josephine Bakhita, the patron saint of human trafficking. In London, these dedicated women were supporting London’s Metropolitan Police Human Trafficking Unit.
This practical support ranged from providing accommodation and resources to women rescued from slavery, while also helping to develop effective policies to combat this growing crime. It should not be forgotten that every time a person is trafficked, a serious crime is committed, with this exploitation continuing over months and years.
Shamefully, major sporting events see an increase in trafficking, with criminal gangs seeing the influx of spectators and workers as a business opportunity. They move women they have trafficked into prostitution to these events.
In 2012 during the London Olympic and Paralympic Games, Religious sisters and the Metropolitan Police Human Trafficking Unit worked together in introducing a support facility. This collaboration during a major event proved successful and brought greater recognition of how these partnerships across London offered a model to be developed further. Victims were provided with safety and protection from exploitation and, while there were no pre-conditions that they would assist or cooperate with a police investigation, often in doing so these rescued women were able to provide the police with intelligence and powerful witness in ensuring increased prosecutions and convictions of traffickers.
While acknowledging the different demands of their work, those involved recognised the value and benefit their very different organisations contributed when dealing with human trafficking and modern slavery.
The Santa Marta Group was born of this conviction that by working together and developing trust across very different organisations, there would be a multiplying effect that would benefit the victims and take on the criminal gangs that exploit so many millions of innocent victims. SMG’s role would be to act as a catalyst for systemic change, encouraging partnerships and bringing together leaders who could effect this change and unite their efforts.
In 2014, the Santa Marta Group was ready to launch this model of partnerships between the Church, police, business and civil society internationally. Led by Cardinal Nichols, leaders from the Church and over Police Chiefs from over 25 countries gathered in the Vatican in the presence of Pope Francis and with his explicit encouragement. Since then the Santa Marta Group has sought to build this network, always acting as a catalyst for action as we collectively seek systemic change to rid the world of the scourge of human trafficking.
"Human trafficking is a crime perpetrated by international criminal gangs. To combat it we need an international force for good and that is the Church."
Lord Bernard Hogan-Howe