AUSTRALIA: Salesian Brother David O’Brien Engaged in Australian Program for the Prevention of Human Trafficking
(MissionNewswire) After a 2010 sabbatical in New Mexico, Salesian Brother David O’Brien returned to Australia and began his work with ACRATH (Australian Catholic Religious Against the Trafficking of Humans). Bro. O’Brien became interested in this work after hearing Capuchin Father Michael Crosby speak about the subject while in New Mexico.
ACRATH was started in 2005 as a direct result of Catholic Religious Australia and the growing awareness of the problem of human trafficking. The Sisters of the Good Shepherd, St. Brigide Sisters, Franciscan Sisters of the Divine Motherhood, Presentation Sisters, Sister of Charity, Sisters of the Good Samaritan, Sisters of Mercy and Sisters of St Joseph were pioneers dealing with this issue. Later, lay people and others, including a Christian Brother and Bro. O’Brien became involved.
In 2016, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) release its Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, the third report of its kind mandated by the General Assembly through the 2010 United Nations Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons. The 2016 report noted that over the last 10 years, the profile of detected trafficking victims has changed. Although most detected victims are still women, children and men now make up larger shares of the total number of victims than they did a decade ago. In parallel with the significant increases in the share of men among detected trafficking victims, the share of victims who are trafficked for forced labor has also increased. The report noted that about four in 10 victims detected between 2012 and 2014 were trafficked for forced labor, and out of these victims 63 percent were men.
The report further noted that from 2012-2014, more than 500 different trafficking flows were detected and countries in western and southern Europe detected victims of 137 different citizenship. These figures show that human trafficking is occurring almost everywhere. In terms of the different types of trafficking, sexual exploitation and forced labor are the most prominent. But the report showed that trafficking can have numerous other forms including: victims compelled to act as beggars or forced into sham marriages, benefit fraud, pornography production and organ removal. In response, many countries have criminalized most forms of trafficking as set out in the UN Trafficking in Persons Protocol. The number of countries doing this increased from 33 in 2003 to 158 in 2016.
Although trafficking seems to imply people moving across continents, most exploitation takes place close to home. Data shows intra-regional and domestic trafficking are the major forms of trafficking in persons. To help build awareness of the issues of human trafficking, ACRATH engages in broad-based community education campaigns. Its members also provide advocacy and lobbying for visa reform based on human rights for all survivors of trafficking. Further, the group establishes safe houses and buildings, non-governmental organizations and support agency networks in the Asia Pacific region, among other activities.
“The work started in Sydney and Melbourne but has now expanded nationwide since 2005,” says Bro. O’Brien. “The group continues to work in every way possible, collaborating with state police, Australian federal police, lawyers, judges and others.”
In 2013, ACRATH launched Australia’s first multi-language anti-trafficking radio awareness project in order to create awareness about the risk of sexual and labor exploitation in Australia. The radio project works with local ethnic radio programs to broadcast community service announcements in specific languages to create awareness within local communities most at risk of exploitation. With the help of local volunteers, the project has produced community service announcements in Thai, Vietnamese and Mandarin. In 2017, it was broadened to include more languages and to incorporate the issue of forced marriages.
In 2015, Bro. O’Brien put together a book “One in a thousand stories: a tale of human trafficking,” which although fiction, told the realistic story through pictures in needlepoint of two women from Thailand who were trafficked to Melbourne, Australia. The book was presented in 2015 during ACRATH’s General Assembly by the AUL Provincial Father Greg Chambers.
“In the future, I hope to continue to participate in these activities, including with the radio project. I also hope to talk to young Salesians, especially those coming from those countries where people are being trafficked, so as to let them know what are the ways they may be able to help and find help,” says Bro. O’Brien.