IATA ropes in global airline industry to fight human trafficking

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Edgar Brandt
Geneva

The International Air and Transport Association (IATA) has called on governments and law enforcement agencies around the world to provide clear and anonymous mechanisms for airline staff members to report potential human trafficking situations.

The request comes after IATA recently pledged to mobilise the airline industry in the fight against human trafficking that the International Labour Organisation estimates to affect 25 million people annually who are trafficked most commonly for forced labour and sexual exploitation.

According to the United States State Department, human trafficking is a US$32 billion a year industry and is the fastest growing crime in the world.

At IATA’s Annual General Meeting in Mexico earlier this year experts on human trafficking noted that IATA was well-positioned to assist airlines in fighting the unspeakable crime of human trafficking and IATA’s director general and CEO, Alexandre de Juniac, promised to work with IATA’s member airlines to assist in the process.

IATA is now in the process of fulfilling the promise and has received approval from its airline members to launch an initiative that will enable the airline industry to do as much as possible to support governments and law enforcement agencies in tackling the problem.

“Governments and law enforcement agencies have the responsibility to identify, apprehend and prosecute those involved in trafficking. But it is an issue for airlines because the air services, which deliver so many social and economic benefits can also be misused by traffickers as a means of transporting victims.

“Human trafficking can happen in plain sight. Many of you flew to Geneva for this meeting. Could someone who sat next to you or a few rows back be the victim of human trafficking? How could you tell? Spotting the signs of potential trafficking situations will only be visible to those trained to have their eyes open to see it,” explained IATA’s assistant director for external affairs, Tim Colehan.

Speaking during IATA’s Global Media Day here in Geneva, Colehan noted that there are strong reasons, beyond the moral imperative, as to why airlines have a natural interest in helping tackle human trafficking.

This includes an increasing awareness that groups such as ISIS use human trafficking to fund their operations, airlines having to comply with anti-trafficking laws as well as the fact that consumers and investors are increasingly dealing with companies that can demonstrate that they are good corporate citizens.

Said Colehan: “There is also growing awareness that customer-facing staff at airlines and airports can play a role in supporting law enforcement by being trained to identify the signs of potential trafficking and reporting their suspicions”.

He went on to say that more and more airlines around the world are already providing training to identify potential trafficking and to report this to the authorities.

“IATA’s role is to ensure that all of our members airlines, irrespective of size, are aware of this issue and to provide them with the tools and resources they need so that they too can assist in the fight against human trafficking,” said Colehan.

Some of the ways in which IATA will help mobilise the global airline industry to fight human trafficking include launching a general awareness campaign called #Eyesopen; developing guidance materials and best practices for airlines to develop policy and initiatives; and by providing ‘recognise the signs’ training material that airlines can use to training customer-facing staff.

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