The Junior League of Birmingham is partnering with the Birmingham Airport Authority, Alabama, in an effort to aid human trafficking victims. This partnership plans to post signage in every single airport bathroom stall to provide victims with helpline information, as well as passengers with information to help identify victims.
For most human trafficking victims, the only time they have alone is in the restroom. Therefore, signs located on airport bathroom stalls with helpline information are extremely important.
“When I think about the number of human trafficking victims that could potentially pass through this airport, it breaks my heart and compels me to take whatever action I can to help protect our children,” said Ronald Mathieu, President and CEO of the Birmingham Airport Authority. “We are grateful to partner with the Junior League of Birmingham, as well as local law enforcement, to raise public awareness, identify human trafficking situations and help any victims that may be travelling through the Birmingham airport. We must all work together to confront this crime against humanity and protect our children.”
Each year, two million children are sexually exploited worldwide. The estimated number of at-risk children could fill 1,300 school buses. The majority of U.S. victims are U.S. citizens and the average age of entry into the sex trade is 15, with one in six being under the age of 12. For boys, the average ages are even lower. 25% of human trafficking victims report seeing an average of 10 buyers per day when sold online. Of the known victims, more than half report never being offered help while in the trade.
“The Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama is proud to support these anti-human trafficking efforts by translating signs into Spanish and providing our contact information for Latino individuals traveling through the airport,” said Angélica Meléndez, Strong Families Program Manager at Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama.
According to Doug Gilmer, Resident Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations, commercial sex is estimated to be a $110 million industry in the Birmingham metro area. This number does not include child sex trafficking or illicit massage parlors, which are much harder to quantify.
“These statistics are absolutely heartbreaking,” said Julia Meyers, Anti-Human Trafficking Chair, Junior League of Birmingham. “The Junior League cannot stand by and let this happen in our community. We must educate each other on the signs of sex trafficking and learn how to respond when we see something suspicious. We believe that this powerful partnership will be a huge step in directing the public to submit tips to Homeland Security and help put an end to this tragic trade.”
The signs will come in both English and Spanish and direct callers to submit tips to the Department of Homeland Security’s Blue Campaign hotline: (866) 347-2423. They are available at no charge for any business willing to put them up in their public restrooms. Ideally, these signs will be posted in gas stations, fast food restaurants, and anywhere else that has a large population of transient traffic.