Preventing human trafficking: Cabin crew play a crucial role


Training and instinct are key to enabling cabin crew to undertake their crucial role in the prevention of human trafficking. These aviation professionals are in a unique situation, as they can observe passengers over a certain period of time, allowing them to use their observation skills to identify a potential victim of trafficking. Trafficking is a practice similar to slavery, and it is a phenomenon that affects millions of men, women, and children around the world every year. According to the United States Department of Homeland Security, it is estimated that human trafficking generates many billions of dollars of profit per year, second only to drug trafficking as the most profitable form of transnational crime. To heighten awareness and to advance global coordination on suitable training for cabin crew, ICAO featured the issue in the agenda of the recent 11th meeting of the ICAO Cabin Safety Group.

The participation of Youla A. Haddadin, Advisor on Trafficking in Persons to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), has opened the door to the development joint ICAO-OHCHR human trafficking cabin crew guidelines on training.  This will help improve the understanding of why trafficking happens, what the various types of trafficking are, who the victims and traffickers are, and what signals might indicate a case of trafficking. Critically, this document will also provide cabin crew with the reporting and response procedures should they find themselves confronting a potential trafficking situation.

Once the guidelines are completed, ICAO and OHCHR will explore the possibility of developing an e-Learning module for cabin crew and a short video that can be used on board commercial flights to also raise awareness among passengers.

The development of these tools will be informed by the extensive experience cabin crew have already gained in these areas. Candace Kolander of the Association of Flight Attendants was amongst the aviation professionals attending the meeting to provide these crucial inputs.

Pending the release of the detailed guidance, it is crucial that cabin crew abide by the principle of “first, do no harm.” “The concept of ‘Do No harm’ is to ensure that a potential victim is not further jeopardized and to ensure the crew and passenger personal safety,” explained ICAO Safety, Efficiency and Operations Officer Martin Maurino, who convened the meeting. “This means cabin crew should be discreet with the discussions and relaying of information to avoid raising suspicion – act normally, do not display unusual concern or alarm. Crew should not confront the trafficker or attempt to rescue the victim. This must be undertaken by authorities on the ground following coordination through the Captain.”