Spot Trafficking during your Holiday Travels
The holidays; a time when airports, train stations, and busses fill with eager travelers making their way to visit family and friends. Andrea Hobart, trained in teaching flight attendants how to recognize and report signs of human trafficking, encourages us this holiday season to keep our eyes open for these common signs of slavery. Andrea is the Director of Human Trafficking Awareness for Airline Ambassadors International, an organization providing for orphans, vulnerable children, and those at risk worldwide. Below is Andrea's story followed by the common signs of a trafficked victim and what we should (and shouldn't do) if we spot them. Thanks for sharing with us, Andrea!
My first experience with Airline Ambassadors International, was about fifteen years ago, as a brand-new flight attendant.
I was presented an opportunity to fly to Hyderabad, India and accompany an 18- month-old girl, from an orphanage to her new family in the United States. It was an incredible experience!
In the years to follow, I learned about the harsh realities of human trafficking and began looking for ways to do something about it.
In 2014, I became a certified Trainer on Human Trafficking Awareness with Airline Ambassadors International. The primary focus of our team, which includes Flight Attendants and Survivors, is to educate the airline industry on how to recognize and report human trafficking. I currently serve as the Director of the program; however, it is truly a team effort!
I believe the most effective insight and education on human trafficking stems from Survivors themselves. They are the ones to be applauded in this, and they hold the keys to help unlock others that are currently enslaved.
So, why is human trafficking something all of us need to be aware of when we travel?
Traffickers will use all means of transportation, including air travel to transport their victims. Why? It keeps the victims moving and keeps them powerless, especially when victims are traveling to destinations where they do not speak the language. It keeps them away from their families or familiar environments and leads them to be unaware of their location.
We train flight attendants to note details and initiate pleasant and non-threatening conversations when something doesn’t seem right on the aircraft. If I have learned anything, it is that we need to trust our intuition, and if there are one or more indications of human trafficking, to pay attention to the situation and report it.
In August of this year, AAI partnered with AirAsia (the largest airline in Asia) to kick off a company-wide training for AirAsia employees. After several cases of human trafficking had been reported, the airline wanted to equip all frontline employees with the tools necessary to put a stop to it.
According to the United Nations, there are 6 to 8 million people trafficked across international borders each year, yet, less than 1 percent are ever rescued.
Human Trafficking is happening internationally, but it is happening in the United States as well. After talking with survivors, (many who were trafficked in the U.S.) one thing nearly all have said, is that they wished someone would have noticed them early on. Without the freedom to ask for help, they were desperate for someone to see that they were in trouble.
Victims of human trafficking are often threatened and forced to stay clear of law enforcement or getting noticed by anyone. Traffickers will control them with threats against their family members, of being arrested, deported or worse. These tactics keep victims fearful and afraid to run away or ask for help.
If you are traveling this holiday season, be observant of those around you. Be alert to children or young adults appearing to be alone and individuals that are unable to speak for themselves or under someone else’s control.
It is common to see families traveling and a parent or guardian that appears to be the leader of the group, however take note of the indicators below.
Common Victim Behaviors and Indicators:
• Frightened, ashamed or nervous
• Anxious around uniformed security and police
• Under control of a companion
• Unable to move freely without being watched closely
• Avoiding eye contact
• Appearing drugged or malnourished
• With few or no personal belongings • Inappropriately dressed for travel
• Unsure of their destination, or who will be meeting them •
Have scripted or inconsistent stories
• Visible scars, wounds, or bruises
• Without control of passport or travel documents
What Should You NOT Do?
• Do NOT confront anyone you suspect of engaging in human trafficking
• Do NOT try to rescue any possible victim
• Do NOT display any unusual concern or alarm
• Do NOT endanger yourself or others
What Should You Do?
• Be observant of surroundings
• Note details of suspicious incidents
• Report suspected human trafficking incidents to Law Enforcement and the Tipline numbers below
• Alert police, airport police or call 911 If you suspect human trafficking or observe any harmful behavior, report it as soon as possible. If you are on an airplane, tell a flight attendant. If at the airport, alert the airport police or an employee. If needed, write down a description of the situation.
Don’t stop there! You should also report incidents by calling or texting the numbers below, and if urgent, call 911.
Homeland Security Investigations:
1 (866) 347-2423
National Human Trafficking Hotline:
1 (888) 373-7888 or text "BeFree" (233733)