You might not realize it, but business travelers are in a unique position to be a line of defense in one of the world’s greatest tragedies: the crime of human trafficking. Because of the element of travel, the world of the business traveler and human trafficking victims overlap in surprising number of areas. Due to our significant time spent in airports, we are uniquely equipped to identify when something “isn’t quite right” with other travelers. Doing so requires us to take a few moments to look up from our mobile phone or laptop and notice what’s happening around us. In this way, each of us can have an impact in the fight against human trafficking as a global community.
Taking the steps listed below will help you determine if the person sitting next to you in the airport or on your flight is possibly a victim or participant in human trafficking.
Airline Ambassadors International provides the following indicators that may indicate an individual is being trafficked:
- Has few personal items when checking in or boarding a flight
- Is accompanied by someone who is much more nicely dressed
- Avoids eye contact or exhibits paranoia
- Is unusually submissive to the person(s) accompanying them
- Is not allowed to speak for themselves if directly addressed, with someone else insisting on answering or translating for them
- Does not appear to know where they are or where they are going
- Does not have the freedom to separate themselves from the person or people accompanying them
- Exhibits signs of physical abuse
- Appears to be malnourished or ravenously eats in-flight food
- Exhibits fear of uniformed security personnel
- Speaks of a “modeling” job or similar without knowing who will be meeting them.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops provides this list of questions to ask individuals you fear may be being trafficked:
- Can you leave your job or house when you want?
- Where did you get those bruises or is anyone hurting you?
- Do you get paid for your employment? Is it fair? How many hours do you work?
- (If foreign national) How did you get to the U.S. and is it what you expected? Are you being forced to do anything you don't want to do?
- Are you or your family being threatened?
- Do you live with or near your employer? Does your employer provide you housing? Are there locks on doors or windows from outside?
- Do you owe debt to anyone?
Generally speaking, poorer countries tend to be sources of victims and richer countries, including the United States, France, Germany and the United Kingdom, are major trafficking destinations. Because of its high traveler volume, Atlanta is believed to be the human trafficking hub in the U.S., but cases of the crime have been reported in every U.S. state and nearly all countries. If you are in the U.S. and feel a person needs help and may be a victim, contact airport security and make a report to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 888-373-7888 or online. Outside the U.S. you can call the Department of Homeland Security at 802-872-6199 or report the incident online at www.ice.gov/tips. The phone numbers above have multiple language capabilities, so any individual can call directly if they choose. Searching Google for 'Report Human Trafficking' will also provide you with resources for reporting incidents in whatever country or region of the world you live in or are traveling in. Increased vigilance by travelers and officials is making an impact on the trafficking trade. Last year arrests occurred at airports in cities as varied as Nashville, Dublin and Delhi.
Please keep the information above in mind when you're on business travel. Let's do our part as a global community to prevent human trafficking from occurring unchecked.