HUMAN trafficking remains the world’s fastest growing criminal enterprise. Now airlines are stepping up to prevent anyone else vanishing into this black market.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has released guidelines on how cabin crews can act as their “eyes and ears” to detect and report suspected trafficking cases. The new guidelines include checklists on how to identify suspected cases and handle victims after landing.
“Many individual airlines are already involved and have launched anti-human trafficking initiatives,” Iata’s assistant director for external affairs Tim Colehan told reporters at the group’s annual meeting in Sydney. “But until recently there has been no industry-wide initiative.”
IATA has launched an #EyesOpen social media campaign to end human trafficking. The campaign aims to facilitate discussion between passengers, airlines, and governments.
“Cabin crew are in a unique position as they travel with passengers sometimes for many hours and are able to spot even the smallest signals and behaviors,” Colehan added.
IATA is working with member airlines to increase staff and passenger awareness of human trafficking by raising awareness of what it looks like, encouraging reporting on focused hotlines, creating partnerships, and training staff on how to deal with human trafficking situations.
“Although the responsibility for identifying, apprehending and prosecuting those perpetrating human trafficking rests with governments and national law enforcement agencies, the airline industry recognises that it can play an important role in helping to prevent this crime,” states the IATA website.
The International Labour Organisation estimates 24.9 million people are victims of human trafficking annually, and 75 percent of these are women and children.
For the unscrupulous, it’s a lucrative business worth at least US$32 billion each year, according to figures from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
Currently, there is no data available on how often air travel is used to traffic humans, but UNODC estimates nearly 60 percent of the secretive trade involves crossing an international border.
This means a percentage of an estimated 15 million trafficked persons fly to their gloomy fate each year, surrounded by hundreds of people who could potentially help them. Perhaps even you. But it’s all about understanding the indicators and alerting the right people.
What can you do?
The buck doesn’t stop with industry professionals. It is everyone’s responsibility to end human trafficking. To stop victims of human trafficking vanishing into a black market forever, you must be able to recognise the tell-tale signs.
According to Polaris, a leader in the global fight against modern slavery, these are the signs to look out for either in transit or at a destination:
- Has few or no personal possessions
- Lack of knowledge of whereabouts and do not know what city he/she is in
- Is not allowed or able to speak for themselves
- Shows signs of physical and/or sexual abuse, physical restraint, confinement, or torture
- Appears malnourished
- Avoids eye contact
- Is fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense, or nervous/paranoid
If you spot any of these signs, first alert the immediate authorities, whether its cabin crew, airport officials or police.
There is always a chance a person could be displaying these indicators for other reasons, but is it worth speculating?
For a full list of indicators across the different types of human trafficking, look at UNODC and follow the #Eyesopen campaign to create awareness to the heinous trade of human trafficking.
A version of this article originally appeared on our sister website Travel Wire Asia.