HAART: at the heart of Africa fighting human trafficking
By Linda Bordoni
Pope Francis repeatedly appeals for concerted efforts on the part of all actors of society to address the root causes of human trafficking and to promote integral human development.
He also decries the egoism and hypocrisy of many who fuel the trafficking market and calls for a conversion of hearts.
On many occasions he has described human trafficking as a “crime against humanity” and has asked for action and prayers to end “this shameful scourge” which affects an estimated 40 million people worldwide.
Faith-based organizations are often in the forefront working to eradicate human trafficking, exposing the crime, caring for and empowering the victims.
One such organization is the Nairobi-based HAART – Awareness Against Human Trafficking – founded by a group of lawyers, missionaries and lay people under the leadership of Radoslaw Malinowski.
Speaking to Linda Bordoni, Malinowski explained that HAART is the only organization in Kenya – a country that has become a hub for human traffickers - that works exclusively on eradicating the scourge thanks to its programme to prevent trafficking, protect victims and prosecute offenders:
Malinowski explained that after having worked for many years with Church organizations, he realized that while Kenya is known for being a place for trafficking, there is no institutional organization in the country with the specific mandate to fight the crime.
Working close to the Church.
Continuing to work in partnership with the Church and with faith-based agencies and organizations, Malinowki said he believes that “human trafficking is a very specific crime and it demands a specific tailor-suited approach”.
He said that HAART was set up following an increasing awareness of the fact that migrants are often victims of this crime and that they need assistance right from the beginning of their migration process.
“We started giving assistance to those who were migrating by raising awareness and offering practical assistance to those applying for visas, etc.” he said, in the effort to help them to migrate legally and not become victims of the trade.
After a while, he said “we started assisting people who had been rescued from traffickers, and now we offer comprehensive assistance to victims of trafficking”.
“We are the only organization in Kenya that has a shelter for victims” he said.
Malinowski said that thanks to Pope Francis’ reiterated appeals and his powerful condemnation of trafficking there has been a huge increase in awareness regarding the issue.
He pointed out that the Church has always condemned what is generally known as ‘modern slavery’ pointing to the documents that came out of the Second Vatican Council, and the words and appeals of Saint Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.
Pope Francis, he said, has taken this commitment to another level engaging in many different activities as bishop of Rome, head of the Church, authoritative moral leader and pastor.
The 4 P Paradigm
Malinowski explained that HAART works according to the “Four P Paradigm” drawn up by the United Nations: Prevention, Protection, Prosecution and Partnership.
Partnership, he said is crucial, and he highlighted the work HAART does as a founding member of “Stop the Traffik Kenya” which brings together faith-based organizations of different churches and religious and people of many different creeds including Muslims, Hindus and Christians from different denominations.
HAART, he said, is also a partner organization of COATNET – Christian Organizations Against Trafficking in Human Beings – which is closely connected to Caritas.
Through its vast network, he said, HAART is able to offer training and provide assistance to other faith based communities who often “pass the victim to us” and connect us with their own networks so that we are even more empowered to get the message across: “the Church has a great capacity in this sense” he said.
Has increased public awareness made a difference?
Malinowski pointed out that thanks to awareness campaigns and to the work of organizations such as HAART, people today know what human trafficking is although many still have misconceptions and underestimate its scale.
“The more we work, the more trafficking we discover” he said.
The sheer scale of the trade
Malinowski said no one really knows the exact figures regarding the trafficking of human beings but certainly, he said, millions of people are trafficked every year, the most vulnerable being those who are migrating or are displaced of whom at least 25% are affected by human trafficking of some sort.
He said it appears to be a growing business as it is much less risky than narco-trafficking or the arms trade - for those, he said, you can end up in jail - whilst for trafficking in humans you will probably end up with a fine.
“In East Africa we see more and more organized criminal groups engaged in this business and that means the business is becoming very profitable” he said.
Everyone, Malinowski said, can contribute to the fight against human trafficking.
“You can support organizations that are active in this field”, he said, but above all he appealed: “be aware that your own behavior can bring about much harm” if – even superficially – you happen to take advantage of a vulnerable person you may come across during one of your travels or in everyday life...