Be a ‘Force Multiplier’ in the Fight Against Human Trafficking
Within a global struggle to combat a problem of epidemic proportions, Flight Attendants can play a key role in the fight against human trafficking. In a recent meeting between AFA International President Veda Shook and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano concerning aviation security issues, Secretary Napolitano invited AFA to participate in an initiative to involve aviation employees in the fight against human trafficking. The DHS Customs and Border Protection’s “Blue Lightning” initiative provides a voluntary mechanism to identify potential human trafficking victims and to notify federal authorities for front line workers at U.S. commercial airlines that operate U.S.-bound international routes.
“We like to talk about ‘boots on the ground’,” said Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Acting Commissioner David V. Aguilar. “Flight Attendants and airline employees will be the ‘boots in the air’ fighting human trafficking.” Human trafficking is a modern-day form of slavery. It is defined as:
• the recruitment, harboring, transport, provision or obtaining of a person by force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery; or
• Sex trafficking, in which a commercial sex act is induced by force fraud or coercion—or the person induced to perform such acts is under age 18.
It is estimated that at least 12.3 million adults and children are enslaved around the world and that 56 percent are women and girls. The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimated that in 2005, 980,000 to 1,225,000 boys and girls were in forced labor situations as a result of trafficking. In 2000, Congress passed the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act, which launched a large-scale effort by the U.S. government to fight human trafficking.
In 2010, Secretary Napolitano launched the Blue Campaign – a first-of-its-kind initiative to coordinate and enhance the Department’s anti-human trafficking efforts. The components of the Department of Homeland Security combat human trafficking through a variety of programs, and the Blue Campaign coordinates and unites this work.
The ‘Blue Lightning Initiative’ is coordinated as part of the Blue Campaign by CBP in collaboration with the Department of Transportation. The key to the success of this initiative, however, is the participation of the frontline workers in the airline industry.
As Flight Attendants, we are uniquely positioned to identify human traffickers and assist their victims. Flight crews are skilled observers, and with the appropriate training, they can be the frontline against trafficking, according to CBP. Indicators of human trafficking can include: physical control of travel documents of an adult traveler by a co-traveler; restricting the movement and social interaction of an adult traveler by a co-traveler; an adult traveler who is unclear on details of his/her final destination or point of contact; or a child traveler who appears to be accompanied by someone claiming to be the parent or guardian who is in fact not related to the child. Blue Lightning will roll out a training program in 2012 tailored for Flight Attendants who do U.S.-bound international flying, which will be available through AFA and participating airlines.
In-flight notification gives authorities time to investigate and formulate an appropriate response, which may include coordination with other federal agencies. With the appropriate training, Flight Attendants can become a ‘force multiplier’ in the fight against trafficking.
To Learn More About Human Trafficking
• Go to: www.dhs.gov/humantrafficking
• Take the DHS General Awareness Training
To Report Human Trafficking*
If you suspect a case of human trafficking:
• Call toll-free (866) 347-2423 from anywhere in the U.S., Mexico, and Canada.
• Call (802) 872-6199 (not toll-free) from any country in the world.
• Report the tip online at www.ice.gov/tips.
• Follow your airline’s reporting policy and procedure, including using cockpit communications or other methods as part of the Blue Lightning Initiative.
* Please identify your tip as a Blue Lightning Initiative (BLI) report.