Cabin Crew to be Better Equipped to Prevent Human Trafficking

Efforts to prevent trafficking in persons have been bolstered with the launch of new online training for cabin crews. The training supports implementation of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Guidelines for Training Cabin Crew on Identifying and Responding to Trafficking in Persons.

Having consistent daily interaction with many different travelers gives cabin crews some insight into normal traveler behaviors. But victims of human trafficking often display subtle signs that they are not traveling by choice. They are not traveling to study abroad, go on a vacation, visit family, or for company business.

When trafficking victims fly, they are being forced to travel against their will by their controllers, who are often watching their every move to ensure they do not ask for help. That’s why it’s important for cabin crews to learn how to recognize the warning signs of human trafficking – so they can report it, giving victims a chance to escape their traffickers.

The free e-learning course explores the unique opportunities cabin crew have to observe passengers over the duration of their flights and potentially identify and assist human trafficking victims. Additional course elements will also be of value to airport and other aviation industry professionals.

“The entire global aviation community has a key role to play in preventing trafficking in persons,” stressed ICAO Secretary General Dr. Fang Liu. “The development of the new training, based on the ICAO-OHCHR guidelines provides an important foundation from which we can offer critical capacity-building, and ultimately help put an end to the abuse of international air transport by traffickers.”

“Human trafficking is an appalling crime and an appalling violation of victims’ rights. This is why the efforts of the international air transport sector in combatting it are so important. This expansion of training for cabin crew and the wider travel industry is a crucial element in protecting the human rights of some of the most vulnerable people,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet.

The International Labour Organization reports that 1-in-200 people worldwide are still being forced into work and living conditions resulting from trafficking in persons, a practice considered akin to modern slavery.

Reflecting the fact that many of these victims were moved from country to country via commercial aircraft, the ICAO-OHCHR training includes video interviews with trafficking survivors and airlines who already train their cabin crew on this subject.

Mar Brettmann, PhD, is the founder and CEO of the Seattle-based nonprofit, Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking. She created an online human trafficking prevention training specifically for aviation employees, Flights to Freedom. She says, “When we developed our training we knew it was critically important that the training be survivor-informed so that survivors themselves could educate airline employees about the indicators they can watch for. They told us to look for signs of distress, injury, confusion, or unusual control of one person over another person or group. If cabin crews are not properly trained in human trafficking awareness, unfortunately these behaviors can often times be missed.”

The new ICAO-OHCHR training to combat trafficking in persons for cabin crew must be supplemented by further airline training on specific internal procedures and practices. It is accessible to cabin crew members and other aviation professionals through ICAO’s e-learning portal.

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Kylie Bielby has more than 20 years' experience in reporting and editing a wide range of security topics, covering geopolitical and policy analysis to international and country-specific trends and events. Before joining GTSC's Homeland Security Today staff, she was an editor and contributor for Jane's, and a columnist and managing editor for security and counter-terror publications.

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