That extraordinary event was a simple training exercise on combating human trafficking that I, as the Special Representative on Human Trafficking Issues for the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, helped organize with the Ukrainian government. Flight attendants, customs officials, airport police and airline representatives received instruction on how to spot both the victims and perpetrators of trafficking as it happens. These members of Ukraine’s aviation sector became the first civil employees in Europe to get this kind of training. The cost, in both time and money, is low. The benefits, enormous.
On Dec. 5-6, Kyiv is hosting foreign ministers and other top officials from the 57 countries of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Ukraine holds the organization’s chairmanship this year, and the battle against trafficking is one of the focuses of its tenure. As attendees take stock of the progress made and the challenges ahead, my message to all OSCE countries is this: Let’s make training programs like the one I joined in Ukraine a standard practice. With a little encouragement from government leaders, states can make their transportation industries critical allies in the fight against the scourge of human trafficking.
The scope of the problem is sobering. Experts estimate that between 600,000 and 800,000 trafficking victims are moved across international borders each year. Some are killed for their organs. Others have their identities ripped away as they become pawns in the sex trade. Millions of others are forced laborers, leading lives of misery while their captors bribe officials to turn a blind eye. Ukraine has seen well over 100,000 of its citizens fall victim to trafficking since independence. But there are also some key opportunities to interfere with traffickers’ plans that all nations must take advantage of.