Conference: “Diplomacy, Faith, and International Cooperation on Human Trafficking: Forging Partnerships in the UK and Beyond”

Focus on Serving UK’s Diaspora Communities at Human Trafficking Conference in London

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Over 90 delegates from the diplomatic corps, police, faith groups, and statutory authorities, gathered in London on 20 October to start a process aimed at better protecting the UK’s diaspora communities from the scourge of human trafficking, hosted by the Romanian Consulate in London and the Santa Marta Group. These leaders, representing different nations, faiths, and organisations, took up the call to be ambassadors for change, committed to working together to protect vulnerable communities within the UK.

The conference centred around 4 pillars:

  • Diplomacy – how best to serve victims and potential victims of human trafficking within their diaspora communities;
  • Police – how best for diplomats to engage with police services and for law enforcement to engage with embassies and consulates;
  • Church – how consulates and embassies can engage with faith groups, who are often closest to diaspora communities, so vulnerable groups can be supported;
  • Reprioritisation of combatting human trafficking and modern slavery through the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), specifically SDG 8.7.

These pillars serve as a guide towards ensuring consulates and embassies within the UK establish effective processes and protocols to engage with and assist human trafficking victims and potential victims, adhering to the SDGs and other international conventions while also re-prioritising efforts to eradicate human trafficking. Diplomats agreed this aim could only be achieved through closer relations between the police, faith groups, with their close ties to the diaspora communities within the UK, and the diplomatic world.

As Mateusz Stąsiek, Poland’s Consul General in London, said: “For information about the Polish community we would always go to the Polish Catholic Churches. Poles always go to the Church before the Consulate.”

Speakers at the conference included: Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Cardinal, Archbishop of Westminster, President of Santa Marta Group; Her Excellency Laura Popescu, Romanian Ambassador to the UK; Kevin Hyland OBE, Santa Marta Group Global Strategy Director, formerly first UK Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner; Robert Marin, Consul General of Romania, former State Secretary of Romania Ministry of Interior; Sir Iain Livingstone, Former Chief Constable of Police in Scotland; Stephen Ryan, Minister Counsellor, EU Delegation to the UK / Citizens, Social, Justice and Home Affairs; Amanda Read, Border Force National Operational Lead - Safeguarding and Modern Slavery; Mateusz Stąsiek, Consul General of the Republic of Poland; and Dr. Oana Burcu.

Ambassador Popescu stated that although a “multitude of challenges vie for our attention, we need to focus on the insidious and pervasive crime” of human trafficking, emphasising the importance of targeting this crime.

Cardinal Nichols reaffirmed that “there is an ally to be found within the network of the Catholic Church”, as “communities of faith have invaluable levels of trust, contact, and knowledge”, highlighting the crucial facilitating role faith groups play between consulates and embassies and their diaspora communities.

In light of the contentious politics surrounding migration, Sir Iain Livingstone emphasised that the issues of migration and human trafficking must be viewed separately, as conflating the two “strongly fails victims”.

Fighting the crime of human trafficking would be significantly helped by local communities throughout the UK assisting and informing the work of police and supranational bodies, delegates were told.