At least 24.9 million people around the world are victims of human trafficking. Human trafficking is one of the most serious human rights violations in today’s world and a form of modern day slavery which involves the trade of humans to bring high profits to traffickers through the acquisition and exploitation of human beings by force, fraud or deception. 

QR Human Trafficking Forum COO
Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker

Qatar Airways recently became the first Middle Eastern airline to sponsor a national forum to combat human trafficking. The Combatting Human Trafficking Forum took place on 28 and 29 October 2018 at Oryx Rotana Doha.

Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker opened the two-day forum. The Minister of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs, and Head of the National Committee for Combatting Human Trafficking, Dr Issa Al Jafali Al Nuaimi, was also at the forum. He presented the initiatives undertaken by the State of Qatar to address the issue.

Also in attendance were Chairman of Labour Sector at the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs, and Secretary General of the National Committee for Combatting Human Trafficking Mohammad Hassan Al Obaidly; Chairman of the Qatar Civil Aviation Authority Abdulla N Turki Al Subaey; Director of Airport Security Department at the Ministry of Interior Brigadier Essa Arar Al Rumaihi; and Director of Airport Passports Department at the Ministry of Interior Colonel Muhammad Rashid Al Mazroui.

The airline also brought representatives from key international partner organisations to share valuable information and inspiration with forum delegates. These included International Aviation Transport Association (IATA) Assistant Director – External Affairs Tim Colehan; United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Advisor on Human Trafficking Youla Haddadin; United Nations International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Technical Officer Martin Maurino; and Airline Ambassadors International (AAI) Board Member Pastor Donna Hubbard, also a survivor of human trafficking.

According to Al Baker, the forum is particularly meaningful at this time because member airlines at the 74th IATA Annual General Meeting, held earlier this year, unanimously approved a resolution denouncing human trafficking. He said that they committed to a number of important anti-trafficking initiatives. He said:

As Chairman of the IATA Board of Governors, I am pleased to be able to give my advocacy and support to this vital resolution. As a member airline, we are committed to raising awareness about human trafficking across our country and the world, to train our staff on every aircraft and in every office around the globe. We are in the business of freedom, and we will not allow this crime to fly under the radar.’

According to Haddadin, at least 24.9 million people are victims of human trafficking worldwide — 51% are women, 21% are men and 28% are children of which 20% are girls and 8% are boys. There are several forms of trafficking which include sexual exploitation, forced labour, agriculture and domestic work, forced begging and organ trafficking. The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region currently has the highest number of cases of organ trafficking in the world.

Furthermore, Haddadin highlighted that people need to learn the difference between human trafficking and human smuggling as the two transnational organised crimes are easily confused. Human trafficking brings high profits to traffickers through the acquisition and exploitation of human beings by improper means such as force, fraud or deception. Human smuggling usually involves migrants and the facilitation of illegal entry of a person into a state of which that person is not a national or resident, for financial or other material benefit. Human smuggling involves moving people beyond borders from one place to another whereas human trafficking can happen within borders.

The forum also supports Qatar’s considerable initiatives in advancing laws, infrastructure and programmes and policies that prevent human trafficking. Qatar demonstrated its commitment to addressing these challenges at the US — Qatar Strategic Dialogue earlier this year, when foreign ministers of both countries signed the US — Qatar Anti-Trafficking Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). Qatar, through its National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking, also hosts workshops and provides advice and resources to address this global concern.

Earlier this year, the US State Department released the ‘2018 Trafficking in Persons Report’, an annual publication documenting the efforts of 187 governments in combatting human trafficking. This year’s report ranked Qatar at Tier Two, the second highest of four possible rankings, and cited efforts by the State of Qatar to prevent human trafficking.

According to Pastor Hubbard, the aviation industry can play a huge role in combating human trafficking. As a flight attendant herself as well as human trafficking survivor, she believes the cabin and flight crew, as well as ground staff can save lives if they keep their eyes open for any suspicious activity at airports or planes. To highlight the alarming fortune traffickers make by exploiting others, she said:

Human trafficking is a USD150 billon business. That’s more than Nike and Google combined.’

IATA and the Airports Council International have also launched a human trafficking awareness campaign called #eyesopen, urging airline staff and the travelling public to have their ‘eyes open’ to human trafficking.

The United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC) launched its ‘Blue Heart Campaign’ in 2009 as a global awareness-raising initiative to fight human trafficking and its impact on society. ICAO has produced resources for aviation cabin crew in an effort to raise awareness about human trafficking. Resources from all of these initiatives will be used across the aviation sector as part of a collaborative global effort to end human trafficking.