Women Religious Link Human Trafficking To Family Homelessness

May 18, 2021

Women religious of UNANIMA International have launched a new publication with the results of their research on links between human trafficking and family homelessness. At the launch of ‘The Intersections of Family Homelessness and Human Trafficking,’ in an international webinar on 11 May, speakers from Australia, Philippines, India, Italy, Albania, USA and Ireland, spotlighted the vulnerability of homeless people to being trafficked. It was hosted by Sr Jean Quinn, Congregation of the Daughters of Wisdom and Executive Director of UNANIMA International.

UNANIMA International is a coalition of women religious in 83 countries who advocate on behalf of women and children, particularly those living in poverty, migrants and refugees, homeless and displaced, and in the context of environmental issues. Its work takes place primarily at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, and the present focus is on homelessness and displacement. Addressing family homelessness, displacement and trauma are integral to achieving the 2030 Agenda for UN Sustainable Development Goals and the pledge to ‘leave no one behind, especially those furthest left behind.’

At the webinar, Sr Imelda Poole, IBVM, President of RENATE Europe (Religious in Europe Networking Against Trafficking and Exploitation), drew upon her work at Mary Ward Loreto in Albania to highlight exploitative cross-border transits affecting those marginalised in Albanian society. She linked the starkness of the situation for the Roma community in Albania and undocumented Romanian girls living on the street at Euston Station, London. Imelda felt ineffective legislation plays a part in the intersections of family homelessness and human trafficking when in so many countries worldwide, domestic workers – largely immigrant women – are often unprotected by labour laws. In Britain, thousands of identified trafficked people are now lost in the system and they cannot access benefits. They are offered work and they disappear. Imelda warned of the “decivilisation” of human society.

Sr Amarachi Grace Ezeonu, SND, representing the sisters of Notre Dame de Namur at the UN, told the story of a homeless mother and her young daughter in Northern Nigeria who were offered accommodation and work by a man who befriended them. Then one day he was gone and had taken the young girl with him, leaving the mother distraught. Their vulnerability left them open to exploitation.

Sr Noelene Simmons, of ACRATH (Australian Catholic Religious Against Human Trafficking), reported on emerging issues of migrants and homelessness in Oceania. A woman who was a trafficking victim from the Philippines told her heart-rending story of surviving being forced into prostitution while being homeless. She attributed her recovery to the support she received from women religious who guided her rehabilitation and opened up choices in her life.

Read the full story by Anne Kelleher on independent catholic news.