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Lawmaker calls for concrete action to fight modern slave trade
By Adelaide Mena
Rep Chris Smith (Center) listens during an Helsinki Commission hearing on sex trafficking and abuse of children, October 4, 2012.
Rep Chris Smith (Center) listens during an Helsinki Commission hearing on sex trafficking and abuse of children, October 4, 2012.

.- A U.S. congressman urged the international community to train transportation employees to identify and fight human trafficking situations, as well as to establish a hotline for trafficking victims.

“Combatting modern-day slavery is everybody’s business. We are all in this together,” said U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) on June 10.

“Cooperation and coordination are key to mitigating – and someday ending – the cruelty of human trafficking,” he stated. “Best practices need to be shared and implemented to the widest extent possible.”

Smith delivered an address at an international conference on trafficking, held in Kiev, Ukraine, by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

In addition to being the organization’s special representative on human trafficking issues, Smith is a senior member of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee and chair of its subcommittee on global human rights. He also co-chairs the U.S. Commission for Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission.

The congressman focused his address on the need to implement “best practices” to help identify and combat human trafficking throughout Europe and the world.

He specifically recommended situation training and awareness for flight attendants on airplanes.

“Flight attendants are in the unique position – especially on long flights – to observe a potential trafficking in progress and then call a trafficking hotline or inform the pilot to radio ahead so that the proper authorities intervene as they deplane,” he explained.

“The current-day risk to a trafficker of getting caught transporting a victim or victims is pathetically small. And they know it,” he said. “You and I have the ability to change that.”

The congressman added that these methods for flight attendants could, “with minimal modifications,” be altered for use by “bus drivers and station operators, train conductors, trucking associations, and other transportation industry professionals.”

In addition, he suggested the use of a single trafficking hotline for use by victims of human trafficking and those who suspect the illegal transport and use of persons.

Smith reflected on the work that has been done since he first introduced the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 1998. At the time, he explained, there were concerns in Congress and around the globe, largely due to misunderstandings in the nature of human trafficking.

“Today, much progress has been made,” he said. “Most countries in Europe – and many around the world – have enacted comprehensive laws to combat this preventable exploitation.”

But while faithful implementation of laws to decrease trafficking is important, legislation “is only a step,” he stressed.

“I hope you’ll agree that this ‘best practice’ training initiative must be included, be prominent, and thoroughly implemented. Indeed, this effort requires almost no cost, just the will to do it,” he emphasized.

Tags: Human trafficking, Sex slavery


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