At the Air Transport Action Group’s (ATAG) recent Global Sustainable Aviation Summit in Geneva, Switzerland, aviation executives discussed how the industry can play its part in assisting law enforcement by reporting and highlighting human trafficking. The group discussed the extent of the problem and what is being done and also what can be done in order to address this global issue.
Brian Hansford, of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, said, “Human trafficking is not a numbers issue. One victim is one too many. It’s an issue that affects all of us and an issue that cannot be solved by one country. Human trafficking is linked to transnational organized crimes. It’s a global issue, it needs global solutions, global commitment and global collaboration.”
Human trafficking is a modern form of slavery, with the UN estimating a third of people trafficked are children, 72% of women trafficked are done so for sexual exploitation, and 85% of trafficked men are for the purpose of forced labor. So what is the aviation industry doing to assist in tackling this crime?
Debora Sutor, international vice president, Association of Flight Attendants (AFA), explained that the AFA in the USA made human trafficking a priority in 2013. The AFA launched its Hidden In Plane Sight campaign in 2015 to really draw awareness to this issue.
“We launched a campaign that required mandatory human trafficking training for all flight attendants. Victims are transported from place to place and we are in the unique position in the cabin to spend probably the most time with those victims and their traffickers of any other aviation employee group.
“Having skills to know how to deal with this is very important. I was a flight attendant for 28 years and having received training I can think of at least two instances where I believe now, knowing what I know now, that I have witnessed an episode of human trafficking and it haunts me to this day that I didn’t have the skills or the understanding of how to report this.
In the USA, mandatory training was put in place in September 2016. However, the training and reporting are not yet standardized.
Tim Colehan, from the global airline trade association IATA, said, “We are asking already a tremendous amount of flight attendants. We are asking them to be first responders for safety and security. We are asking them to deal with rowdy passengers. We are asking an awful lot of them and I think what we need to do is to raise the awareness of this issue but make it clear that what we are asking is for cabin crew and ground crew to be an extra set of eyes and ears to report their concerns.”
Human trafficking is a US$32bn-a-year business and has increased as part of the refugee crisis. Hansford added, “We are facing the largest displacement crisis since the end of World War II. Over 65 million people were forced to flee the war [in Syria]because of persecution and conflict, primarily Syrians. They are the most vulnerable and what we are seeing is increasing numbers of Syrians being trafficked because of desperation.”
The panel agreed that the best way forward to tackle this global issue is to work in partnership. Colehan explained that IATA is looking to provide training courses, guidance materials and best practice to ground and cabin crew.
He further explained that all airlines will need buy-in from their CEOs in order to have policies in place and that protocols will be needed in order to define what is asked of cabin crew and other employees.
The panel agreed that there was still a lot that had to be done but that they were on the right track and the industry committed to playing its part in tackling this global issue.