HORRENDOUS HUMAN TRAFFICKING: AVIATION TO THE RESCUE

CHLOEeUnfortunately today, everyone is out to make some quick money and this is not always done honestly. Human trafficking is a multi-billion dollar shady business and aviation is quietly implicated in this deceit. Ms. Chloe Grant, Founder of C.R.E.E.R (Centre de Reinsertion et Education pour les Enfants de la Rue www.creerafrica.org) a transit centre for trafficked and exploited children in Cote d'Ivoire, here states the need to counter this horrific trade via aviation.

Q: Human trafficking has inadvertently been boosted by aviation. How did you get involved, and how has your organization taken up the challenge?

A: Over the last few years, in my spare time away from aviation training and consulting across Africa, I founded C.R.E.E.R. This started after meeting an 11 year-old girl from Benin in Cote d'Ivoire who had been trafficked and was placed in an orphanage. Whilst not an orphan as she had a family at home somewhere in Benin, she obviously had very different emotional and psychological needs. I realised there wasn't anywhere specialized for her to stay, whilst her family needed to be found in Benin.

I work in aviation and I help to empower girls enter the industry. I'm not a psychologist, I realized this girl, had been brutally treated in her short life. There had to be somewhere for her to live safely and continue her education whilst repatriation arrangements were being made. On my return home I was dismayed after an internet search that there wasn't anywhere in the sub-region of West Africa to take care of such cases. I had to do something; so C.R.E.E.R was created in 2010.

Q: Collaboration is important to counter trafficking. How much support do you get from other agencies?

A: We've been proud to work with the International Organisation for Migration, INTERPOL and other international and national anti-trafficking organisations. We locally repatriate children in West Africa since becoming operational in 2015 with the assistance of the Ivorian justice system. The children are often taken on public transport to cross borders despite the work that has been done lately to stop them crossing without birth certificates. A 13 year- old Burkinabe girl at our centre, explained that whilst selling oranges she was kidnapped and put on the back of a 'Dyna', a small goods truck. A few hours later she was on a bus bound for Cote d'Ivoire and sold as a servant. Many exploited girls can end up on international flights.

A few years ago whilst leaving Kotoka International Airport in Accra, Ghana I was accosted by two UK police agents asking for my passport. Flicking through it they noted the amount of times I had crossed many African borders, particularly in West Africa and often by land. Questioning as to why, it didn't take long to realise we were all talking the same language. They were there to stop traffickers taking children and adults out of the country on false documents. It was an interesting chat that proceeded, sharing information and different types of cases that we had encountered at C.R.E.E.R. as we are aware of the trafficking routes within the sub-region. Following this meeting in Accra another internet search revealed what was happening in aviation to stop traffickers.

This was when I came across Nancy Rivard who founded Airline Ambassadors (www.airlineamb.org). With our aviation connections we were both thrilled to find each other and talk about the situation worldwide. Airline Ambassadors is based in the USA; they advocate and educate on child protection and human trafficking awareness.

Q: Would you say anti-trafficking efforts are paying off, and how can it be more successful?

A: Without realising it, we are checking-in and flying with humans that are being exploited for someone else's greed. If there were more personnel aware of the signs then traffickers could be stopped in their tracks at departure airports before being whisked off to unknown destinations. Domestic airlines probably have traffickers travelling with them, moving or meeting their precious 'cargo' at an international departure point.

Airline Ambassdors has already had success and trained members have identified trafficking on 15 flights. Their first tip led to the bust of a pornography ring in Boston saving 86 children.

Nancy and I are hoping to talk to African aviation entities who might be interested in joining forces to help stop this phenomenon. There's a need globally for this type of education in the aviation sector; many people aren't aware of the situation of these human beings who are trafficked for exploitation purposes. "Money makes the world go round", as they say; but by working together on this, shady money from trafficking can be stopped!

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