As a follow up to the 3rd Africa Santa Marta Group (SMG) conference which was convened in September 2020, Counter Human Trafficking Trust-East Africa (CHTEA) and the Santa Marta Group (SMG-Kenya) have collaborated to convene the first ever in-Country SMG conference on 10th December 2020. The essence of this conference will be to consolidate the gains made as a country in collaborating with Government, security agencies, the judiciary, the immigration and the office of the prosecutor on matters human trafficking.

SMG is an initiative of Pope Francis since April 2014. In his own words during the first conference, the Pope did not mince words when he said the following:

“Human trafficking is an open wound on the body of contemporary society, a scourge upon the body of Christ. It is a crime against humanity.”

Similarly, he went further to address the combined gathering of world leaders at that same conference and made a powerful statement which continues to inspire and resonate with our current efforts:

“The very fact of our being here to combine our efforts means that we want our strategies and areas of expertise to be accompanied and reinforced by the mercy of the Gospel, by closeness to the men and women who are victims of this crime.”

The SMG-Kenya lead, Fr Nicholas Makau has taken the first step to ensure that in Kenya, all actors come together to create the much desired synergy for more efficiency. “In response to our mandate as a faith-based group to serve all people and particularly the most vulnerable, and in the foot-steps of that first SMG conference, we intend to explore ways that can help towards the eradication of human trafficking in our country. We are convinced that through collaboration and commitment of all players, it is possible to end human trafficking and halt the suffering of so many people who have been engulfed into it.  Civil Society Organizations, National Human Rights Institutions, Faith Based Organizations and the Governments have named it candidly as a wound in the society, the ultimate slavery, the scourge against human dignity and exploitation of people, he states in his clarion call for unity of purpose.

“Among the key issues that surround human trafficking and other forms of exploitation is the incentives linked to it. Even after people see the suffering, torture, maiming and deaths related to human trafficking, others are still rued in to it. The aftermath of a returnee, (an attempted or successfully trafficked victim) leads to the problem of social stigma, re-integration and the need for physical healing. The protection of victims, the risk involved for those who denounce or expose perpetrators is also a reality. The issue of those who cross borders, and find themselves cloistered in ‘deathbed’ houses without any means to reach out. Those who manage to escape, enter into insecurity, isolation, no identity or travel documents and lack of finances to survive. Some have been re-trafficked and have entered into servitude or illegal business for survival. Others live in very pathetic health situations (in as long as they survive death, permanent health conditions and can do literally nothing for themselves again)”, Fr Makau continues.

As a group, SMG-Kenya Conference realizes how human trafficking has not only become a tool of slavery but has demeaned human dignity, with all its implication in a young nation like Kenya. The SMG-Kenya believes very strongly that sharing equips stakeholders and enriches interventions in order to forge common action on the same.

The human trafficking situation has been aggravated by the current reality of the COVID-19 among other social factors that have created greater potential for vulnerability and even favored opportunities for exploitation of more innocent people. The closure of places that offer jobs, increased use of uncontrolled online activities while emotional and mental instability have become easy to manipulate.

Fr. Makau concludes by stating that “the aim is not only to synergise but also to create awareness and produce priorities that can bring permanent solutions beyond 2020”.

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