Airlines, U.S. Agencies Partner to Combat Human Trafficking

Under a new partnership with the U.S. government, four American commercial airlines will train their employees to recognize human trafficking indicators, both in flight and on the ground.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and U.S. Customs and Border Protection acting Deputy Commissioner Kevin K. McAleenan announced the new partnership June 6 at a press conference in Washington. They were joined by Delta Air Lines Chief Executive Officer Richard Anderson and JetBlue Airways Senior Vice President for Government Affairs and Associate General Counsel Robert Land.

Under the voluntary partnership, Allegiant Air and North American Airlines also will train their employees to identify indicators of human trafficking.

“We cannot let the American transportation system be an enabler in these criminal acts,” said Secretary LaHood, according to a June 6 Transportation Department news release. “With today’s announcement, we are sending a message to any would-be traffickers — whether you travel by land, by rail or by air, we will be watching you.

“By working together, we can raise awareness and keep an eye out for these activities,” LaHood said.

Together, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) developed a training program called the Blue Lightning Initiative that is available to airlines as part of the DHS Blue Campaign to help them educate their employees on potential indicators of human trafficking and how to identify potential victims, the Transportation Department news release said.

The Blue Lightning Initiative provides U.S. commercial airlines and their employees a voluntary mechanism to identify suspected human trafficking victims and notify federal authorities.

The partnership is part of the Transportation Department’s efforts to raise awareness about human trafficking and ensure that the U.S. transportation system is not being exploited for trafficking purposes. In addition to inviting airlines to join the Blue Lightning partnership, the Transportation Department joined with the Department of Homeland Security and the Amtrak, the U.S. rail passenger service, in October 2012 to help train Amtrak employees on what to do if they suspect someone is being trafficked. Amtrak is currently developing a system for training all 20,000 of its employees.

The Transportation Department has also trained its more than 55,000 employees to identify and report human trafficking, and is working with representatives from all modes of transportation to secure industry support in stopping this crime.

In March 2012, President Obama directed his administration to redouble efforts to eliminate human trafficking. In an address to the Clinton Global Initiative, the president reaffirmed America’s commitment to leading the global movement against human trafficking, calling it one of the great human rights causes of our time and announcing a number of new initiatives.

“The U.S. Department of Transportation welcomes partnerships like the one announced today, which helps build a whole-of-nation approach to eliminating this scourge,” the department’s news release said.

For more information, visit the Transportation Department’s human trafficking website. Information of the Department of Homeland Security’s DHS Blue Campaign can be found on its website.

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