Trafficking growth industry

by Fr. Bobby Gilmore

The 1951 UN refugee convention established the rights of refugees to seek sanctuary, and the responsibility of states to protect them. Columban Fr. Bobby Gilmore asks why immigration has become a hostile ‘no-go’ area, as if immigrants are threats to national security and explores why boarders are being closed to those fleeing their homes.

Six ways in which third world ‘Debt Boomerang’ strikes the North as it flies back from the South; Environmental destruction, Drugs, Costs to Taxpayers, Lost Jobs and Markets, Immigration Pressures, Heightened Conflict and War. (Susan George. The Debt Boomerang. 1992)

As we adjust to life post-Covid, the signs are going up outside businesses who require staff. Each offer hourly rates to compete with one other. As this is happening, national borders are closing. Nobody seems to be asking why. Who is being kept in and who is being kept out? Immigration has become a hostile ‘no-go’ area, as if immigrants were threats to national security. As in all cases of supply and demand, if the supply chain stutters for whatever reason, opportunities arise in finding alternative ways of overcoming the underlying difficulties whether these arise from natural scarcity, institutional trade sanctions or other restrictive policies. During Covid, many immigrants returned to their homelands for greater safety at home rather than isolation away.

While human movement has almost come to halt, the movement of wealth to the stock markets of the northern hemisphere and offshore havens has not. Many still wonder why immigrants leave home on a journey of hope for a better life. History tells us that people follow investment. The absence of developed immigration policies denies immigrants of a better life and creates ripe opportunities for traffickers.

Gridlock always seeks and develops alternate routes. Human traffickers are busier than ever discovering and facilitating new routes of departure and arrival at European borders. Heartless traffickers peddle hope, as media reports highlight the shortage of staff and the need for truck drivers, health care workers, agriculture workers and service staff.

Framing the weak and powerless has always been a diversionary tactic of governments to divert attention from inadequacy and hesitancy of developing immigration reform. The present migration situation of framing immigrants is dealing with the symptoms of a predicted crisis rather than admitting and addressing the causes. Economic structures, interventional unwanted invasive interference in international arenas have caused conflicts in which large segments of populations have become unhinged. This leaves these people with few options, one of which being to seek safety elsewhere.

Failed states which lack law and order, guided by poor governance and subject to climate change are weighed down by debt, corruption and common violence. This forces people to seek safety elsewhere. It is a desperate situation when parents see no future for their children other than investment in traffickers and the safety of foreign borders.

This is the age of surveillance. Practically every move we make is recorded. Yet, that surveillance seems to fall short when it comes to cross-border human traffickers. This is also an era of isolation and international fragmentation. In such an atmosphere, cooperation between governments and the strengthening of international institutions is needed if human trafficking is to be countered. Financial aid to poor and developing post-colonial states has little effect without accountability by the leaders of such states to take responsibility for the plight of their citizens. It is even whispered that some such leaders benefit from the dirty money of trafficking. It is rumoured that a third of the wealth, 10 trillion, held in offshore accounts belongs to poor countries.

Representatives of government pass each other daily in the corridors of international institutions. Do they ever talk to each other about the plight of their citizens abandoned at borders by international trafficking cartels? Was the issue of human trafficking highlighted, and its causes flagged by any of the attending government submissions to the G7 conference?

Also, it important to note, that many of the key services in the rich countries of the North would be unable to operate were they not staffed by immigrants from poor countries working in those services. Was there ever any thought given to reparations to poor under-developing countries for the loss of their brightest and best assets? Can economic development happen if they lose their talented workforce? These are issues that need to be discussed if the scourge of human trafficking is to be confronted and dealt with. International governmental goodwill is in deficit to the goodwill of their populations who try to help people in need.

Violence in the developing world is like grief in the developed world; it’s everywhere but we just don’t see it…Indeed in the coming era, development assistance from donor nations should be significantly linked to the willingness of authorities in the developing world to commit to the kind of transformation process that is possible to make law enforcement work for the poor…to build criminal justice systems that bring effective law enforcement to the poor. (The Locust Effect. G.A Haugen)  


Columban Fr. Bobby Gilmore was ordained in 1963, and assigned to the Philippines from 1964-1978. From 1978-1992, Bobby was Director of the Irish Emigrant Chaplaincy in Britain and also chaired the campaign for justice for the Birmingham Six.  He was a founding member of Village of Hope, Montego Bay, Jamaica, where he worked from 1992-1999. In 1999 he returned to Ireland. He conducted an education program on migration for the Irish Refugee Council before establishing the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland.

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Read 'Commodifying hope', also authored by Fr. Bobby Gilmore which explores the desperation of trafficked people.

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