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HUMAN TRAFFICKING A GLOBAL CHALLENGE — Presentation to the Austrian Bishops on 8 March 2021

HUMAN TRAFFICKING A GLOBAL CHALLENGE — Presentation to the Austrian Bishops on 8 March 2021


On March 8, 2021 the Order of Mal­ta was invit­ed by the Aus­tri­an Bish­ops’ Con­fer­ence to present its action in the fight against human traf­fick­ing. You will find above the con­fer­ence of Ambas­sador Michel Veuthey in German. 


Human traf­fick­ing is an issue that is often invis­i­ble, yet present in all countries.

Human traf­fick­ing is a glob­al chal­lenge to the core val­ues of Chris­tian­i­ty (includ­ing oth­er reli­gions), human dig­ni­ty, eco­nom­ics, and indi­vid­ual and col­lec­tive security.

Human traf­fick­ing is sim­ply based on the exploita­tion of peo­ple through phys­i­cal and psy­cho­log­i­cal vio­lence or deception.

It takes sev­er­al forms:

1) Forced labor: this involves women, men, chil­dren in indus­try, agri­cul­ture, fish­ing and so on.
2) Child recruit­ment, child soldiers,
3) Forced sex, pros­ti­tu­tion, surrogacy,
4) Pur­chase and theft of chil­dren for adop­tion or abuse.
5) child pornog­ra­phy, most­ly on the Internet
6) organ theft, for transplantation
7) Forced crime, for exam­ple beg­ging, theft, drug traf­fick­ing, terrorism.

Mil­lions of peo­ple are vic­tims of human traf­fick­ing. Esti­mates of the Unit­ed Nations, assume 40 mil­lion and more, includ­ing more than one million
from the Euro­pean Union.

Half is sex­u­al exploita­tion, 40 per­cent forced labor,
6 per­cent forced crime. 70 per­cent are
Women and 30 per­cent are men.

Some data. Over 800,000 slaves are believed to exist in 13 Euro­pean coun­tries alone — an increase of almost 400% over the pre­vi­ous year.

So you see Aus­tria with 15,000 slaves,
the same num­ber as in Switzerland.


(1) Raise aware­ness: Raise aware­ness through — its bilat­er­al (110 states) network.
its mul­ti­lat­er­al (UN, Euro­pean Union, etc.) diplo­mat­ic network.
A con­fer­ence in Paris with inter­na­tion­al experts (Oct. 2019) to cre­ate new synergies.

(2) Med­ical and social pro­grams through — its nation­al associations.
its world­wide human­i­tar­i­an orga­ni­za­tion “Mal­teser International”.
A pilot project in Lagos : ” Bakhi­ta Cen­ter ” with Sr. Patri­cia Ebeg­bulem, SSL (Sis­ters of Saint Louis).

(3) Online train­ing for care­givers (Eng­lish and part­ner­ship with universities.
Web­ster : “Use and abuse of high tech­nol­o­gy in human trafficking”.
Nice : Legal Clin­ic on the imple­men­ta­tion of the Euro­pean Union Direc­tive against traf­fick­ing in human beings.

(4) Webi­na­rs on human traf­fick­ing ( part­ly with Ger­man subtitles.
In col­lab­o­ra­tion with Sr. Mir­jam Beike, Com­mu­ni­ty of the Sis­ters of Our Lady of the Char­i­ty of the Good Shep­herd (RGS)

(5) Par­tic­i­pa­tion in the World Day of Prayer against Human Traf­fick­ing (Feb­ru­ary 8, Saint Bakhita)…

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Aus­tri­an Bish­ops’ Con­fer­ence (ÖBiKo)


March 8, 2021
 Inter­ven­tion by Prof. Michel Veuthey
Ambas­sador of the Sov­er­eign Order of Malta
to Mon­i­tor and Com­bat Traf­fick­ing in Persons


1 Thank you very much for your invi­ta­tion to speak on this impor­tant topic.

Human traf­fick­ing is an issue that is often invis­i­ble and yet present in all countries.
Human traf­fick­ing is a glob­al chal­lenge to the fun­da­men­tal val­ues of Chris­tian­i­ty (as well as of oth­er reli­gions), human dig­ni­ty, the econ­o­my, and indi­vid­ual and col­lec­tive secu­ri­ty.


2 Human traf­fick­ing is based on the exploita­tion of peo­ple
through phys­i­cal and psy­cho­log­i­cal vio­lence or decep­tion.

3 Human traf­fick­ing takes var­i­ous forms:

1) Forced labor: involv­ing women, men, chil­dren in indus­try, agri­cul­ture, fish­ing, includ­ing worst forms of child labor

2) Child recruit­ment, child soldiers

3) Forced sex, pros­ti­tu­tion, sur­ro­ga­cy
4) Pur­chase and theft of chil­dren for adop­tion or abuse.

5) Child pornog­ra­phy, most­ly on the Inter­net.

6) Organ theft or illic­it removal of human organs, for transplantation

7) Forced crime, for exam­ple, beg­ging, theft, drug traf­fick­ing, terrorism.


4 Some data on human trafficking:

Mil­lions of peo­ple are vic­tims of human traf­fick­ing. The Unit­ed Nations esti­mates the num­ber at 40 mil­lion or more, includ­ing more than one mil­lion from the Euro­pean Union.

50% is sex­u­al exploita­tion, 40% forced labor, 6% forced crime.

70% are women and 30% are men.

5 Some data in Europe.

Over 800,000 slaves are believed to be in 13 Euro­pean coun­tries alone — an increase of near­ly 400% over the pre­vi­ous year. Thus, Aus­tria is seen with 15,000 slaves, as many as in Switzerland.

Accord­ing to the Coun­cil of Europe Group of Experts on Action against Traf­fick­ing in Human Beings (GRETA) Third Eval­u­a­tion Round (June 2020), Aus­tria con­tin­ues to be a des­ti­na­tion and tran­sit coun­try for traf­ficked per­sons, main­ly from East­ern Europe, Africa and Asia. The most com­mon form of exploita­tion con­tin­ues to be sex­u­al exploita­tion, fol­lowed by labor exploita­tion, domes­tic servi­tude and forced beg­ging, which often involves chil­dren. Com­pared to the peri­od cov­ered by the sec­ond GRETA report, there has been an increase in the num­ber of sus­pect­ed and iden­ti­fied vic­tims of traf­fick­ing in the peri­od 2015–2018. Aus­tri­an author­i­ties also report a trend of using the Inter­net and tech­nol­o­gy to facil­i­tate human trafficking.

Aus­tria con­tin­ues to be a des­ti­na­tion and tran­sit coun­try for traf­ficked per­sons. Vic­tims of human traf­fick­ing come pri­mar­i­ly from East­ern Europe, Africa, and Asia. Third-coun­try nation­als account­ed for 57% of all vic­tims of sex­u­al exploita­tion iden­ti­fied by the police in 2017. Sex­u­al exploita­tion remains the most com­mon form of exploita­tion, fol­lowed by labor exploita­tion, domes­tic servi­tude, and forced beg­ging, which often involves chil­dren. Aus­tri­an author­i­ties report a trend toward using the Inter­net and tech­nol­o­gy to facil­i­tate human traf­fick­ing. Police data for 2017 show that in 74% of traf­fick­ing cas­es inves­ti­gat­ed, per­pe­tra­tors used online infra­struc­tures to groom, recruit, and solic­it vic­tims, such as through online ads, social media plat­forms, chat forums, and open-source mes­sen­ger tools, as well as to con­trol the vic­tim through online video sur­veil­lance of homes and work­places and cell phone track­ing ser­vices. Com­mu­ni­ca­tions between per­pe­tra­tors and vic­tims, as well as between the per­pe­tra­tors them­selves, have shift­ed to open-source mes­sen­ger tools that are hard­er to detect. Prof­its are increas­ing­ly trans­ferred through the use of bit­coin, pre­paid cred­it cards, and oth­er vir­tu­al pay­ment methods.


On the next slide we have an inter­est­ing table that shows the dif­fer­ences between con­ven­tion­al and mod­ern slavery:


Ancient slav­ery was more local­ized, while mod­ern slav­ery is a glob­al­ized phenomenon.


In tra­di­tion­al slav­ery, there was legal own­er­ship. In the new slav­ery, there is no legal prop­er­ty.  Racial dif­fer­ences were sig­nif­i­cant in the past and are less sig­nif­i­cant today.


The old slav­ery was a long-term rela­tion­ship, the cost of a slave was very high (sev­er­al tens of thou­sands of euros). Today, slav­ery is ille­gal, the aver­age price for a slave is less than 100 euros, which makes slav­ery gen­er­ate the sec­ond largest prof­its of inter­na­tion­al crime, after drug traf­fick­ing. Glob­al­iza­tion makes it very dif­fi­cult for States to con­trol slavery.


6 All traf­fick­ing fig­ures are esti­mates. But here are the actu­al proven num­bers of dif­fer­ent images of abused chil­dren in Europe from 2014 to 2019 that appear on the Inter­net: 18 mil­lion dif­fer­ent faces for Europe alone, accord­ing to the Asso­ci­a­tion Meter, an online pedophil­ia obser­va­to­ry led by an Ital­ian Catholic priest, Don Fortunato.
The 2020 annu­al report is stun­ning: it can be found on the
Please find her­after two images tak­en from the ASSOCIATION METER 2020 Annu­al Report:


7 Now we come to the main caus­es of human traf­fick­ing. The main cause is a cul­ture of striv­ing for max­i­mum prof­it on the part of pro­duc­ers and con­sumers, a cul­ture that deval­ues the dig­ni­ty of the human being, the fam­i­ly, work and the environment.
This is the throw­away cul­ture, that is, the thought­less dis­pos­al of objects and people.




8 What is to be done? Allow me to sug­gest three approach­es:


  • First, raise aware­ness through infor­ma­tion, edu­ca­tion and training
  • Sec­ond, share best prac­tices, learn from each oth­er, and
  • Third, pro­mote pre­ven­tion, pro­tec­tion and reha­bil­i­ta­tion mea­sures.


Here below is a map of Europe with three dif­fer­ent col­ors: it is an intro­duc­tion of the sit­u­a­tion of indi­vid­ual coun­tries in rela­tion to human traf­fick­ing. Green (with less high num­bers). Here you can find Aus­tria. In yel­low you find high­er num­bers, for exam­ple Ger­many. In brown (worst) are Rus­sia and oth­er coun­tries of East­ern Europe.

Actu­al­ly, every­thing is con­nect­ed.


That is why we are all con­cerned and called to action. There are con­nec­tions between slave traders all over the world, this also applies to all coun­tries, includ­ing Aus­tria and Switzer­land, where slaves also exist today.


9 Here are con­crete approach­es that could pre­vent traf­fick­ing, help pro­tect and reha­bil­i­tate victims:


  1. Pre­ven­tion through aware­ness-rais­ing among fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties of origin
  2. Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion. For this we need the train­ing of police (face-to-face and online), cus­toms, air­line cab­in crew, health per­son­nel, pros­e­cu­tors, judges, inter­na­tion­al civ­il ser­vants, human­i­tar­i­an work­ers, and even priests
  3. Pro­tec­tion from traf­fick­ers, and para­dox­i­cal­ly pro­tec­tion from fam­i­ly mem­bers, and also pro­tec­tion from for­mer vic­tims who become perpetrators
  4. Reha­bil­i­ta­tion: mul­ti­dis­ci­pli­nary, phys­i­cal, psy­cho­log­i­cal, pro­fes­sion­al, rein­te­gra­tion, spir­i­tu­al
  5. Access to jus­tice, crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tion of traf­fick­ers and com­pen­sa­tion to vic­tims and then also
  6. Avoid­ing relapse into slav­ery through legal pro­tec­tion and pro­fes­sion­al training.


10 Reli­gious com­mu­ni­ties can help on two levels:


  1. 11. One of the best doc­u­ments I have read since I have been involved in this strug­gle was pro­duced by the Holy See in Jan­u­ary 2019, the “Pas­toral Ori­en­ta­tions on Human Traf­fick­ing”.” I am sure you are all famil­iar with them.

They cap­ture the essence of the Church’s message:


  • Pro­tec­tion and pro­mo­tion of the dig­ni­ty of every human being through pre­ven­tion, care and rehabilitation
  • Address­ing the root caus­es of human traf­fick­ing through Catholic Social Teach­ing.


  1. Here is the abridged ver­sion of the table of con­tents of this valu­able doc­u­ment, root­ed in Catholic Social Teach­ing and action-oriented:


  • This doc­u­ment sees as the cause of human traf­fick­ing the reduc­tion of the human being to a “com­mod­i­ty” that can be freely exploited.
    The ori­en­ta­tions con­firm that the fam­i­ly must be restored to the cen­ter of the eco­nom­ic model.

The role of the Church and faith is cen­tral in the fight against false gods, he said.

  • Sec­ond comes the demand aspect.

We need to pro­mote the crim­i­nal­iza­tion of demand, espe­cial­ly with regard to sex­u­al exploita­tion. We can no longer deny human traf­fick­ing and we must bring it to light. The refusal to acknowl­edge the ter­ri­ble real­i­ty of human traf­fick­ing can no longer be tol­er­at­ed. And we must iden­ti­fy and report human traf­fick­ing.


  • The dynam­ics of human traf­fick­ing, a dirty busi­ness, is linked to the economy.
    Very sig­nif­i­cant are work­ing con­di­tions and sup­ply chains.
    One must dis­tin­guish human traf­fick­ing from human smuggling,
    because human smug­gling is just the ille­gal assis­tance in cross­ing borders.


  1. Coop­er­a­tion

Human traf­fick­ing is a com­plex phe­nom­e­non that requires broad coop­er­a­tion, includ­ing between Gov­ern­ment and civ­il soci­ety, includ­ing reli­gious organizations.

The coop­er­a­tion between Bish­ops and civ­il author­i­ties is absolute­ly necessary.


14 The Sov­er­eign Order of Mal­ta also con­tributes to this com­mon effort against human trafficking.

Since its foun­da­tion in the Holy Land 900 years ago, the Order of Mal­ta has pur­sued two goals: defend­ing the faith and help­ing the most vul­ner­a­ble. Among the most vul­ner­a­ble today are cer­tain­ly the vic­tims of human trafficking.
For this rea­son, in July 2017, the Order of Mal­ta decid­ed to appoint two Ambas­sadors to mon­i­tor and com­bat human traf­fick­ing: one based in Africa and one in Gene­va. Romain de Vil­leneuve, my col­league based in Africa, has there­fore sup­port­ed the con­struc­tion of the “Mai­son Bakhi­ta”, which hous­es women return­ing from Europe who have been trafficked.

The nation­al asso­ci­a­tions of the Order of Mal­ta car­ry out human­i­tar­i­an and social actions in Europe and around the world, espe­cial­ly to wel­come and inte­grate migrants. And we are in the process of devel­op­ing a strat­e­gy against human traf­fick­ing. This strat­e­gy involves an approach of gov­ern­ments, inter­na­tion­al orga­ni­za­tions, NGOs (non-gov­ern­men­tal orga­ni­za­tions) and the pri­vate sec­tor, and espe­cial­ly reli­gious con­gre­ga­tions work­ing for the vic­tims of human trafficking.

1) First, we try to raise aware­ness. We do that through our bilat­er­al diplo­mat­ic net­work, also through our mul­ti­lat­er­al diplo­mat­ic net­work at the UN, in New York, Gene­va, and Rome,
and at the Euro­pean Union.

In Octo­ber 2019, the Order of Mal­ta host­ed a first Con­fer­ence in Paris with inter­na­tion­al experts to cre­ate new syn­er­gies. “How to bet­ter com­bat the sex­u­al traf­fick­ing of women in West Africa and sup­port their reha­bil­i­ta­tion”. Numer­ous experts, includ­ing diplo­mats, aca­d­e­mics, pol­i­cy mak­ers, rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Euro­pean and Niger­ian insti­tu­tions, Catholic orga­ni­za­tions, sis­ter con­gre­ga­tions and psy­choso­cial coun­selors, participated.
Three round­table dis­cus­sions were held on “Pre­ven­tion and Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of Human Traf­fick­ing,” ” Pro­tec­tion of Vic­tims in France and Europe,” and “Reha­bil­i­ta­tion of Vic­tims.” The aim of the dis­cus­sions was to strength­en syn­er­gies and part­ner­ships between the var­i­ous actors on the ground and at the lev­el of the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty in order to strength­en the fight against this ter­ri­ble scourge, which has unfor­tu­nate­ly reached unprece­dent­ed pro­por­tions. The con­fer­ence focused pri­mar­i­ly on Nige­ria, where pop­u­la­tion growth and dire liv­ing and eco­nom­ic con­di­tions are fuel­ing human traf­fick­ing, which has also become a tac­tic of war.


2) Sec­ond­ly, we run med­ical and social pro­grams through our nation­al asso­ci­a­tions, also through also our world­wide human­i­tar­i­an orga­ni­za­tion “Mal­teser Inter­na­tion­al”. We have also launched a pilot project in Lagos “Bakhi­ta­Cen­ter” togeth­er with Sis­ter Patri­cia Ebeg­bulem, Sis­ter of Saint Louis (SSL).


3) Third­ly, we are doing a free online train­ing for care­givers of vic­tims of traf­fick­ing for the time being only in Eng­lish in col­lab­o­ra­tion with a foun­da­tion based in Gene­va (“Col­lège Uni­ver­si­taire Hen­ry Dunant”). This prac­ti­cal train­ing is com­plete­ly free and open to all You are wel­come to vis­it the web­site:


Then we main­tain part­ner­ships with universities:

4) Fourth, since Octo­ber 2020 we orga­nize webi­na­rs on human traf­fick­ing. These are ongo­ing and also acces­si­ble free of charge, part­ly with Eng­lish, French and Ger­man sub­ti­tles on the fol­low­ing web­site:  We do this in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Sis­ter Mir­jam Beike, of Con­gre­ga­tion of Our Lady of Char­i­ty of the Good Shep­herd (RGS). She now lives and works in Geneva.

5) Last but not least, we par­tic­i­pate in the World Day of Prayer against Human Traf­fick­ing on Feb­ru­ary 8, name­ly on the feast day of Saint Bakhi­ta. The Order of Mal­ta in Aus­tria has also par­tic­i­pat­ed.




15 Last­ly, I would now like to rec­om­mend that you con­sult the sources,
which are made avail­able to you in this presentation:

First, sources from the Aus­tri­an Gov­ern­ment:

Then sources of the Catholic Church: 

Not only Pope Fran­cis, but also the Migrants and Refugee Sec­tion, the Pon­tif­i­cal Acad­e­my of Social Sci­ences, the San­ta Mar­ta Group: a group of Bish­ops and police against human traf­fick­ing that is very active.


Then net­works of reli­gious com­mu­ni­ties, such as:

  • SOLWODI (Sol­i­dar­i­ty with Women in Need)
  • RENATE (Chris­t­ian orga­ni­za­tions in the fight against human traf­fick­ing and exploitation)
  • COATNET (Chris­t­ian Orga­ni­za­tions Fight­ing Human Traf­fick­ing), led by CARITAS.
  • Tal­itha Kum (Inter­na­tion­al Net­work Against Human Trafficking).


One last exam­ple in Aus­tralia:  the Arch­bish­op of Syd­ney has set up an anti-traf­fick­ing task force, which is doing very inter­est­ing work. John McCarthy, QC, a lawyer, is the chair­man. The web­site is quite inter­est­ing.  A great role model!


Then the Unit­ed Nations (UN), in par­tic­u­lar the UNODC based in Vienna:

Unit­ed Nations Office on Drugs and Crime 

In Jan­u­ary 2021, UNODC high­light­ed the following:

“The per­cent­age of chil­dren who are traf­ficked has tripled in the last 15 years, while the per­cent­age of boys has increased fivefold.”

The UNODC recent­ly pub­lished a world­wide report (“Glob­al Report on Traf­fick­ing in Per­sons”) on human trafficking.


Now let’s refer to some sources from Europe :

The Coun­cil of Europe, based in Stras­bourg, adopt­ed in 2005 a very inter­est­ing Con­ven­tion on Action against Traf­fick­ing in Human Beings.
And the States Par­ties to the Con­ven­tion make a three­fold commitment:

  1. Pre­vent human trafficking,
  2. Pro­tect vic­tims’ rights,
  3. Pros­e­cute perpetrators

For its part, the Euro­pean Union adopt­ed a “Direc­tive 2011/36/EU on pre­vent­ing and com­bat­ing traf­fick­ing in human beings and pro­tect­ing its vic­tims” in 2011.
This is also a very inter­est­ing legal instru­ment against human trafficking.

The last orga­ni­za­tion I would like to men­tion is the OSCE, the Orga­ni­za­tion for Secu­ri­ty and Coop­er­a­tion in Europe.  Like the EU, the OSCE has appoint­ed a Spe­cial Rep­re­sen­ta­tive and Coor­di­na­tor for Com­bat­ing Traf­fick­ing in Human Beings.

The OSCE reg­u­lar­ly pub­lish­es very inter­est­ing reports on human traf­fick­ing.


In addi­tion to these writ­ten sources, one can find inter­est­ing films on the subject.

For exam­ple:


Very documented are’s reports on historical and current slavery:

·      “ Menschenhandel — Eine kurze Geschichte der Sklaverei” (A Short History of Slavery)

·      “Slavery Routes” (“Les routes de l’esclavage ») (2018)

·      “What does modern slavery mean? ” (“Was bedeutet ‘moderne Sklaverei’?”)

(Aus­tralia takes big busi­ness to task). In Aus­tralia, the Par­lia­ment, Sen­ate and House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives pass the Mod­ern Slav­ery Bill 2018. The bill is intend­ed to dri­ve the fight against mod­ern slav­ery. Major nation­al and multi­na­tion­al com­pa­nies are to com­mit to dis­clos­ing infor­ma­tion on work­ing conditions.


Togeth­er it is pos­si­ble to break the chains of slavery!

At the end of the last cen­tu­ry, in 1997 and 1998, two coali­tions achieved a result that no one expected:

- In 1997, the Inter­na­tion­al Cam­paign to Ban Land­mines achieved the adop­tion of the Ottawa Con­ven­tion...

- In 1998, the Coali­tion for the Inter­na­tion­al Crim­i­nal Court (ICC) pushed through the adop­tion of the Rome Statute.


It is a sim­i­lar coali­tion that we need to achieve the abo­li­tion of the mod­ern slavery.

What we are look­ing for is not a new legal instru­ment nor a new inter­na­tion­al crim­i­nal court.


We need to mobi­lize pub­lic aware­ness to effec­tive­ly and ful­ly imple­ment exist­ing inter­na­tion­al treaties and exist­ing nation­al laws, first through nation­al courts, and also to rec­og­nize that human traf­fick­ing is a crime against human­i­ty. Let’s end mod­ern slav­ery togeth­er.

That’s all for today.

I would be hap­py to answer ques­tions and again, thank you for the invi­ta­tion and the welcome.










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International Prosecution Of Human Trafficking — Best Practices (ON-DEMAND VIDEO WEBINAR)

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