The world is becoming more connected through the convenience and luxury of air travel. However, this has created an avenue for human trafficking as well. Most Americans at some point have flown on an airplane but have probably never thought that trafficking could be happening on their very own flight.
Although the numbers are hard to calculate, in 2004 it was estimated between 600,000 and 800,000 victims were transported by planes annually. Since that time the number of flights and routes has increased tremendously, therefore the numbers on airline trafficking could now be even more. As the busy travel season has now started it is more important than ever before to know how to spot the signs and take the appropriate actions. While international trips are the most at risk, domestic flights are still part of the equation.
Fortunately there are incredible organizations doing their part to educate flight crews, passengers, and pushing for international policies to change. One example is Airline Ambassadors International, who push for education on trafficking for everyone involved in the airline industry.
Below are some helpful tips on how to identify potential signs of trafficking while flying during the holiday season.
Spot the Signs of Trafficking In The Skies
* Have few or none of the personal items commonly traveled with
* Are accompanied by someone better dressed with more authority
* Doesn’t seem to know where they are traveling to
* Avoids eye contact
* Acts paranoid and submissive
* Will not speak for themselves
* Will not be left alone i.e. walking around airport, to the bathroom, on plane
* Talk about a unrealistic job offer they are flying to that sounds too good to be true i.e. modeling agency, au pair
* Appear to be abused i.e. malnourished, bruises, and other physical signs
* Appear to be under the influence of some substances
What To Do If you Suspect Trafficking While Traveling
Do NOT approach the victim. If you feel you have witnessed suspicious behavior that could be a trafficking case, let someone know. If you are on the ground report to a TSA agent, a customer service agent, or call the Homeland Security Tip. If in the air, report to a Flight Attendant or any flight crew on board. Today, major airlines offer training to flight attendants and pilots on how to identify and report this type of crime. They are the first line of defense when it comes to getting the victims rescued.
If you are a frequent flyer there are also other things you can do to play your part in stopping human trafficking. Here are some examples:
* Download the app “TraffickCam” for your phone. It allows you to take pictures and tag the location of your hotel room. This is entered into a database where investigators can find and match the location of victims photographed in these hotel rooms.
* Download another app called “TIP Line” developed by AAI to make it easier for an anonymous tip to be made to the right sources if you suspect trafficking.
* You can even take an online course through AAI meant for Airport/Airline personnel, but helpful for anyone.
* Spread the knowledge you have to others! When more people are aware of this epidemic the quicker we can save those trafficked.
* Have the Homeland Security Tipline on hand: 1-866-347-2423