Skip to main content

Human Trafficking Awareness – An Article By William Dill, Invisible Traffick

How to build awareness, help combat organised crime and discover the benefits which both Private and Public Sector Bodies can achieve from collaboration.
  • 24th October 2023

How to build awareness, help combat organised crime and discover the benefits which both Private and Public Sector Bodies can achieve from collaboration.

Human Trafficking has been defined within the Palermo Protocol as:

The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation …”

This crime is very real and is destroying lives of individuals of all ages and nationalities, communities, as well as presenting a threat to national security. As reported by Anti Human Trafficking Charites and NGO’s this crime is estimated that 50 million people are trapped in modern day slavery worldwide. These organisations also state that it is believed that 12,000 victims of Human Trafficking have been identified in the UK. However, as these reports continue this figure is believed to be vastly underestimated with the figure believed to be closer to 130,000 victims with a global profit of $150 billion a year.

“… Our mission is to combat Modern Day Slavery both locally and internationally. We are committed to making the invisible, visible by raising awareness of human trafficking in all its forms …”   Invisible Traffick

The International Labour Organisation in 2022 reported that:

“… Human Trafficking is the fastest growing international organised crime, second largest criminal industry in the world, second only to drug trafficking …” 

Forms of human trafficking consist of the following:

  • Forced Labour
  • Sexual Exploitation
  • Domestic Servitude
  • Forced Criminality
  • Organ Harvesting

Although some reports have stated that the most common victims of human trafficking are females, human trafficking is not a discriminatory crime as it includes victims from a wide range of nationalities, involving men women and children. The following model breaks down the activity of human trafficking. It also illustrates the weakness and potential target areas where we all can target within our day-to-day activities with the aim of rescuing victims, protecting our staff, our premises, our communities, as well as helping to protect National Security.

The acts of transport, transfer, harbour and receipt requires the act of moving victims, and this requires transportation networks including airports, seaports, lorries, freight containers, trains, buses, taxis etc.  All these types of transport require transport hubs as well and organisation and resources. When the setup of transport hubs are examined, including airports and seaports of all sizes, the commonality which exists are that of frontline staff supported by private security being present, waiting rooms and CCTV monitoring operational activities for the security of staff.

These areas, especially the larger locations, will also have police presence on site if not nearby.  Hence this provides the opportunity and highlights the importance of awareness training to all customer facing staff including security teams and check-in staff. Awareness training can be very effective when introduced correctly, as a real-life case study which the author was involved in illustrates.

2019 in a small regional UK Port, security officers raised a couple of observations to the Security Manager of Police having stopped some customers on the suspicions of human trafficking. From these observations, the Security Manager identified Invisible Traffick, a local Anti-Human Trafficking Charity who was engaged to tailor training to all security and frontline staff on the tell-tale signs of human trafficking victims.

The results produced were evident within the first three months of with security personnel and frontline staff raising 8 observations directly to police, who confirmed that these led to 8 arrests including mobile phones and laptops being seized. Police also confirmed later that two of these arrests interrupted two international chains of organised crime groups. The training consisted of informing attendees of the practical visual and behavioural indicators which are common among victims being trafficked. During the planning for this training the Invisible Traffick visited the Port to tailor training specific to customer / freight check-in procedures.

“… Our main focus is education, and we have several projects running to educate children and young people on trafficking and exploitation and help to keep them safe …”  Invisible Traffick

Also due to the proactive leadership on site, the Port Police agreed their officers would attend to become more familiar with port staff as well as to emphasis to all staff that if they suspect anything, that they should not hesitate to contact them directly. Example of the content of this training and the tell-tale indicators were as follows:

  • Visual Appearance: Inappropriate dress code for travelling (summer clothing in the middle of winter), lack of luggage, disorientation, lack of knowledge regarding travel arrangements.
  • Behaviour: appearing frightened, reluctant to make eye contact.
  • Physical Signs: Looking ill or frail, potentially due to lack of food, sleep or both
  • Controlling Companion: Someone continually speaking on behalf of another person or persons
  • People arriving and paying by cash for out of office hours sailings and travelling with little or no luggage.
  • People having males on mobile phone speaking for them.

At this location is an ISPS certificated site, was being audited twice a year by the Department for Transport and had several years without any security breaches or any major non-conformances.

However, once the security team looked beyond the regulatory checks and searches in line with required procedures, had received relevant training which was never issued before and started applying relevant training, the training started to produce results. Security teams and frontline staff became more motivated with security and safety culture being enhanced. Since then, the security teams and frontline staff continue to raise concerns with successful arrests / victims being rescued and teams being recognised for the proactive response to rescuing victims, protecting customers, staff, location and assets. Training was then recorded onto the company training schedule to be carried out to all staff every two years, with Port Police and other relevant policing agencies staff invited. From these early findings, the following benefits were identified both by the Harbour Authority as well as by the Policing Agencies.

As a result of this training, which was attributed to the empowerment of staff and enhancing security culture, the Port was also accredited for a number of other incidents over a two-year period which staff reported to the authorities including:

  • £200,000 pounds of drugs being discovered by port security and raised to local Police,
  • 4.6 tonnes of illegal food, originating outside the EU being discovered by port security through normal ISPS vehicle screening and raise with the relevant authorities,
  • 2 vulnerable people being identified as wanting to travel but police notified,
  • 1 male allegedly acting suspicious, notified to Port Police who confirmed later that he was wanted by Interpol.
  • The recording and notifying authorities of a total of 375 puppies being transported to GB over a two-year span, 60+ puppies seized and names, addresses and details of individuals recorded for further investigation with regards to puppy smuggling.

The majority of the above have been confirmed by the authorities that this incident very well would have passed under the radars of the authorities. However, these successes are not just down the work of Invisible Traffick and the port security team members / frontline staff, they are also attributed to the proactive on the ground support of the Port Police at this location.

The Port involved in this real-life case study is considered a small regional port, it is not a Dover, Hull, Teesport or any other major UK Port, however it does illustrate that organised crime groups will seek for reliable routes in and out of the UK with minimal security awareness shown on site. Hopefully, this article has illustrated that all transit hubs are a critical element for the criminals of Human Trafficking.

Awareness training, when implemented correctly, with frontline staff have and can make the difference in rescuing victims and interrupting this international crime. To close, the Author would just like to say well done the port security teams and a large thank you to the work of Invisible Traffick, who build awareness not just within industry but within community groups as well.

An excellent article by William Dill, Invisible Traffick

Something peak your interest?