Efforts to Abolish Human Trafficking at Airports Go in Vain Due to Travel Restrictions

One of the fastest growing crimes in the world — human trafficking is also an illegal source of income for many people. Based on records, nearly 15 million people are transported across international borders via this illegal practise every year. Considering the number, one can say that there is an urgent need to abolish human trafficking at airports.

Have you ever thought the plane you are about to board might also have some victim of human trafficking waiting for you to catch their signs for help? Since most of us walk through airport lanes in a rush, such victims often go unnoticed. To abolish human trafficking at airports, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) called on all states to train cabin crew on identifying and responding to this crime in 2018.

Despite these practises, suspects often go unreported because ordinary travellers like you and me fail to catch the calling eyes of human trafficking victims. Airports must run public campaigns to help travellers to identify when someone is asking for help.

Another reason why it’s difficult to abolish human trafficking is that even when people working for human welfare engage with airlines to control such issues, most airline brands refuse to be associated to such sensitive legal issues.

To prevent human trafficking at airports, Latvia’s Riga Airport, the Ministry of the Interior and the national airline airBaltic have signed a memorandum of cooperation together. Speaking about the move, the Chairperson of the Board of Riga Airport — Laila Odina said, “Human trafficking is one of the most serious crimes, a gross violation of human rights and human dignity. As the largest airport in the Baltics and the main air traffic hub in the region, we are aware of our important role in preventing it. The Airport has already cooperated with both the responsible state institutions and public organizations that help victims of this crime, an Airport training program also includes the topic of human trafficking; however, such a complex issue, which affects both public authorities, the transport sector and the non-governmental sector, requires systematic cooperation”.

Several organisations and airports across various countries are also making efforts to abolish human trafficking, but lockdowns have restricted repatriation efforts. Due to strict travel bans, many trafficking survivors have been left stranded. As per recent surveys by Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, at least a third of anti-trafficking firms are struggling to repatriate survivors amid Covid. It is a matter of great concern that the delay in freeing the victims will increase their suffering.

As more and more countries are opening their international borders gradually and travellers are set to go for their dream vacations, it is important that as travellers we remain vigilant on airports. Henceforth, let the eye of vigilance never be closed.

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