The Vatican has asked Catholic charity Apostleship of the Sea (AoS) to take the lead in tackling trafficking and exploitation of fishermen.
In a message ahead of World Fisheries Day on 21 November, Cardinal Antonio Maria Vegliò from the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, called on AoS to intensify its presence in fishing ports to identify and rescue victims of human trafficking.
“We express our gratitude to the chaplains and volunteers of AoS for their dedication and commitment.
“It is also necessary that AoS work more closely with leaders of fishing communities to educate and prevent human trafficking by providing viable alternatives of employment and livelihood,” he said.
World Fisheries Day this year also coincides with the start of AoS’ Indian Ocean regional conference – which focuses on fisheries – to be held in Cape Town, South Africa.
Cardinal Vegliò (pictured below) said within the fishing industry there are hundreds of thousands of migrants who are smuggled and trafficked for forced labour on board fishing vessels.
“This is favoured by a network of criminal organisations and individuals who prey on people coming from poverty, eagerly seeking employment that could help them to break away from the circle of misery,” he said.
He added many of the vulnerable end up being trafficked, and find themselves in debt bondage and slavery, often without a way out.
“The fishing vessels stay out at sea for long periods – from a few months to several years – and the victims of these crimes find it difficult, if not impossible, to report their predicaments.”
Cardinal Vegliò also renewed the Church’s appeal to governments to ratify the Work in Fishing Convention, 2007 (No. 188) which aims to create a safe working environment on board fishing vessels and better welfare provisions for fishermen.
“As of October 2016 the Convention has been ratified by nine coastal states, and one more country is necessary for the Convention to enter into force,” he said.
Cardinal Vegliò quoted Pope Francis’ call: “Human trafficking is a crime against humanity. We must unite our efforts to free the victims and stop this increasingly aggressive crime which threatens not only individuals but the basic values of society and of international security and justice, to say nothing of the economy, and the fabric of the family and our coexistence.” (You can read the message in full here)
In Great Britain, AoS works closely with the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner to identify and support victims of trafficking and exploitation in the fishing and shipping sectors. (Watch a BBC Countryfile clip in which our South Coast port chaplain Rev Roger Stone speaks about supporting victims of slavery at sea)
* On World Fisheries Day, Fr Bruno Ciceri from AoS Rome gave a presentation during an event 'The violation of human rights within the fishing sector and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing' held in Rome. You can listen to his talk here. Fr Bruno is the first speaker.