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Airlines denounce human trafficking, set new control measures

Dana Air COO, Obi Mbanuzuo (left) and Area Manager, International Air Transport Association, Dr Samson Fatokun, at the presentation of the International Ground Operations Manual (IGOM) certificate to Dana Air recently in Lagos

The recent rise in cases of human trafficking via air travel has jolted airlines to denounce the nefarious activity and set new control measures.  
 
The airlines, under the aegis of International Air Transport Association (IATA), unanimously committed to a number of actions related to anti-trafficking initiatives and rallied stakeholders to effective cooperation.
 
At least two foiled cases of alleged trafficking in persons were reported in Nigeria in the last one week.

The first was a three-month-old baby allegedly trafficked to Accra, Ghana, aboard Air Peace airlines, until crew of the airline suspected and alerted the authorities. 

The second was the foiled attempt to traffic nine under-aged children to Russia from the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos. Both cases are still under investigation in Ghana and Nigeria, in that order.
 
IATA disclosed that an estimated 24.9 million people are illegally trafficked and live in conditions of modern slavery.

The extensive reach of the global air transport network means that unfortunately, airlines are used by traffickers to facilitate their activities.
 
IATA’s Director General and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Alexandre de Juniac, reiterated that aviation is the business of freedom, flying four billion people to every corner of the earth last year alone.

“Some, however, try to use our networks nefariously. Trafficking in people creates misery for millions, and funds criminal gangs and terrorism.

As a responsible industry, our members are determined to help authorities stamp out human trafficking,” de Juniac said.

 
The resolution of the airlines highlights several areas key to fighting human trafficking. It includes observance of best practices, training and control agencies promptly alerting the airlines of suspects. 
 
Specifically, the resolution calls for sharing of best practices among airlines.

Many airlines are already active in the fight against human trafficking.

Many of the best practices they have developed now appear in the IATA Human Trafficking Guidelines, designed to assist airlines to take the right response to this challenge.
 
The resolution also commits airlines to train relevant operational staff with the objective of identifying potential trafficking situations and taking appropriate action that does not compromise the safety of the victim.
 
The resolution also calls on government authorities to establish clear, practical and discreet mechanisms for the reporting of potential trafficking activity in the air transport system.

Human traffickers operate in plain sight and can only be stopped with the full cooperation of all parts of the value chain, especially airport operators, ground handling agents and other air transport system stakeholders.
 
An Academy Award-winning actress and Goodwill Ambassador for the UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Mira Sorvino, commended IATA for working with UNODC to raise awareness and provide tools and guidance to help airlines get involved in anti-trafficking initiatives. 
 
Sorvino added: “Your ‘eyes open’ campaign has really helped to bring this issue up the agenda. And many congratulations to all of those individual airlines that are already working on this issue.

No one is expecting the aviation industry to take over the role of law enforcement.

But you and your staff can become additional boots on the ground to support them in the fight against this horrific crime,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Police has denied that one of its officers, Inspector Matthew Esan, was complicit in the foiled child trafficking attempt at MMIA.
 
The MMIA Police Command, confirmed that Esan, who was among five suspects arrested on Sunday, has been vindicated and freed.
 
Officials of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) on Sunday rescued nine young girls and a boy, who were being trafficked to Russia.
 
Spokesperson for the police command, DSP Joseph Alabi, however, denied the involvement of the arrested officer.

Alabi told reporters that Esan’s arrest was carried out in error by operatives of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons.
 
Alabi said investigations by the command showed that the officer was arrested by overzealous NAPTIP operatives, while carrying out his legitimate duties at the airport terminal.

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