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Cardinal Nichols: Trafficking victims are being lured to Britain by dreams of a better life

Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster alongside Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe at the conference (CNS)

Trafficking victims are being lured to Britain by dreams of a better life, Cardinal Nichols has said.

Speaking at a conference on human trafficking held in London, Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster said that young people in Africa were being promised football careers, only to end up in slavery in Britain.

Cardinal Nichols said: “What struck me the most of all was the extent and the type of enticement and abuse of people that goes on in Africa.

“For example, there are schools for football excellence which get youngsters in and promise them a career in the Premier League, and as soon as they get to England they are enslaved. There seems to be almost no enticement that isn’t being used. They come in search of a dream, but of course don’t find it.

“There are plenty of people who are willing to entice them and sell them the dream in order to get them here.”

In a message to the conference of Church leaders and senior police Pope Francis said: “I am deeply grateful to all present for your resolve in combatting this evil and for your commitment to carry on the work begun at the conference held in the Vatican in April of this year.”

He continued: “We must never forget, nor may we ignore, the suffering of so many men, women and children whose human dignity is violated through this exploitation.”

Pope Francis assured the conference that “the Church remains steadfast in her pledge to combat human trafficking and to care for victims of this scourge”.

The London conference, attended by Cardinal John Onaiyekan of Nigeria and Home Secretary Theresa May, is organised by the Santa Marta group. Named after the guest house in Rome where Pope Francis lives, the group is led by Cardinal Nichols and Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, who said: “Often, people are trafficked at a young age believing that they are entering a better world, when in reality they are entering a far worse world from which they cannot escape.”

The Archdiocese of Westminster recently announced the opening of Caritas Bakhita House in west London, a “triage” centre for the emergency placement of women escaping human trafficking. The house will provide accommodation for up to 14 women over the age of 17, offering both them and non-residents emergency support, psychosexual therapy, legal and financial assistance and mentoring and help with accessing accommodation.

Retired Detective Inspector Kevin Hyland, a Catholic, was appointed Britain’s first anti-slavery commissioner by the Home Secretary last month.