Nigel Baker

Nigel Baker

Ambassador to the Holy See (2011-2016)

Part of Foreign Office Human Rights UK in Holy See

4th July 2013

Modern Slavery: Church and State against Human Trafficking

Foreign Secretary meets Sr Bonetti, global champion in fight against human trafficking

Trafficking in human beings – for forced labour, for sex, for their organs – has been with us as long as one human has exploited another. That is no reason why we should resign ourselves to its existence in the 21st century. The British government sees tackling modern slavery as an important global priority. And yet, as Sister Eugenia Bonetti explained in her guest blog on this site last November, human trafficking in its modern manifestation is a huge business in human misery, worth over $30bn to the criminals who engage in it.The networks that manage this business are complex, organized and international. To tackle it requires a similarly joined up response. Governments need to work with international organizations and civil society, including global faith networks, if we are to have any chance of success.

So when Pope Francis in May called human trafficking “a despicable activity, a disgrace for our societies, which describe themselves as civilised”, those battling against the trade took heart. His visit to refugees on Lampedusa on 8 July will keep the global spotlight on the business. And it seems that thanks in part to this high profile given by the Pope to the issue, a sense of momentum is starting to develop behind the work and campaigns against modern slavery. For example, it was top of the agenda of the meeting between the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury when they met on 8 June. The same month, the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People published new guidelines for the Catholic Church on refugees and forcibly displaced persons, including recommendations on how to support trafficked persons. Here in Rome, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is looking in a concrete way at how to mobilize faith networks in strengthening the international response to trafficking.

There is so much to do. Great work is being done at the OSCE, the UN, the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales, and many other organizations. But we need a more coordinated and effective response from secular and faith-based agencies. More intensive education and awareness-raising. Greater focus from governments on the root causes of what is the second most profitable worldwide criminal enterprise after the illegal arms trade. And a clear understanding that people who are trafficked are victims needing support, not criminals to be punished.

Pope Francis’ appeal will generate the headlines. Our intention is that, working with a Holy See galvanized in this area by the Pope, we can help to make a concrete difference.

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1 comment on “Modern Slavery: Church and State against Human Trafficking

  1. Thank you for this article. I completely agree that we all need to take responsibility for putting a stop to this human trafficking and ensuring victims are treated with dignity and compassion. Our Stop Sinai Torture campaign is focused on encouraging the UK government to organise a meeting between the UN, Israel, Eritrea, Sudan and Egypt to stop the trafficking of refugees in the Sinai desert. We need to increase police presence in the Sinai and arrest the traffickers. From articles and reports we have been reading it seems widely known who the criminals are and where they are. We need to encourage the Eritrean and Sudanese governments to warn their people about this trafficking. We need to make UK mining companies doing business with Eritrea to put pressure on the government to help stamp out this trafficking. We also need to provide legislative and charitable support to Egypt and Israel, so that they look after the many hundreds of refugees who are victims of torture arriving on their doorsteps. There is no point blaming any one country for this but make it legally, morally and politically possible for everyone to have to take responsibility and take action to stop this human trafficking in the Sinai desert.

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About Nigel Baker

Nigel was British Ambassador to the Holy See from 2011-2016. He presented his Credentials to Pope Benedict XVI on 9 September 2011, after serving 8 years in Latin America, as…

Nigel was British Ambassador to the Holy See from 2011-2016. He presented his Credentials to Pope Benedict XVI on 9 September 2011, after serving 8 years in Latin America, as Deputy Head of Mission in the British Embassy in Havana, Cuba (2003-6) and then as British Ambassador in La Paz, Bolivia (2007-11). In July 2016, Nigel finished his posting, and is currently back in London.

As the first British Ambassador to the Holy See ever to have a blog, Nigel provided a regular window on what the Embassy and the Ambassador does. The blogs covered a wide range of issues, from Royal and Ministerial visits to Diplomacy and Faith, freedom of religion, human trafficking and climate change.

More on Nigel’s career

Nigel was based in London between 1998 and 2003. He spent two years on European Union issues (for the UK 1998 EU Presidency and on European Security and Defence questions), before crossing St James’s Park to work for three years as The Assistant Private Secretary to His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales. At St James’s Palace, Nigel worked on international issues, including the management of The Prince of Wales’s overseas visits and tours, on the Commonwealth, interfaith issues, the arts and international development.

Nigel spent much of the early part of his FCO career in Central Europe, after an initial stint as Desk Officer for the Maghreb countries in the Near East and North Africa department (1990-91). Between 1992 and 1996, Nigel served in the British embassies in Prague and Bratislava, the latter being created in 1993 after the peaceful division of Czechoslovakia into the separate Czech and Slovak Republics.

Nigel joined the FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) in September 1989. Between 1996 and 1998 he took a two year academic sabbatical to research and write about themes in 18th century European history, being based in Verona but also researching in Cambridge, Paris and Naples. The research followed from Nigel’s time as a student at Cambridge (1985-88) where he read history and was awarded a First Class Honours degree, followed by his MA in 1992.

Before joining the Foreign Office, Nigel worked briefly for the Conservative Research Department in London at the time of the 1989 European election campaign.

Nigel married Alexandra (Sasha) in 1997. They have one son, Benjamin, born in Bolivia in September 2008.

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