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Training Security Professionals in Combating Human Trafficking

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Michael Niner
Michael Ninerhttp://blueravenintelligence.com
Michael Niner is the CEO and Founder of Blue Raven Inc, a private protection and security provider and training academy servicing the greater Virginia, Maryland, and Washington D.C. areas.

In the last few months, we have heard a lot of talk about the plague of human trafficking due to the release of the “Sound of Freedom” movie which is bringing a new level of awareness about the issue to the general public. Although many of us in the security industry have been aware of this horrible crime for quite some time and some of us have even been involved in one way or another combating human trafficking and assisting its victims, it brings a spark of hope to see that people outside the security industry, LE, and other similar organizations are finally recognizing that this type of crime not only exists, but is affecting the lives of millions of people (and so many of them are underage children).

Human trafficking is a heinous crime that involves the exploitation and enslavement of millions of people worldwide. It is a multi-billion-dollar industry that thrives on the vulnerability of its victims to include adults, teenagers, and even extremely young children. There are many myths surrounding this issue and many organizations have been working to educate people about the truths regarding it and how they can help. Although the main public opinion is that victims are pressured into forced labor or sexual exploitation, human trafficking can take different forms aside from that, such as organ trafficking, illegal adoptions, trafficking for exploitative begging, forced marriage, and forced criminal activity.

Here are some important findings to consider:

·        According to UNODC, Global Report on Tracking in Persons 2022, between 2017 and 2020 there were 187,915 victims reported.

·        The Global Estimates of Modern Slavery: Forced Labour and Forced Marriage report, 2022 by the International Labour Organization (ILO), shows that there are 27.6 million people in situations of forced labour and an estimated 22 million people living in situations of forced marriage on any given day in 2021.

·        According to the U.S. Department of Justice and the data published by the Bureau of Justice Statistics on the Human Trafficking Data Collection Activities, 2022 report, for the year 2020, we had 2,198 people referred to U.S. Attorneys for human trafficking offenses. Of which 1,343 got prosecuted.

·        In its 2023 Trafficking in Persons Report: United States, the U.S. Department of State, mentions that ‘’human trafficking cases have been reported in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. insular areas’’ and that ‘’Victims originate from almost every region of the world; the top three countries of origin of victims identified by federally funded providers in FY 2022 were the United States, Mexico, and Honduras.’’

But what is the real number of human trafficking victims, one may ask? While it is estimated to be a multi-billion-dollar industry with millions of victims worldwide, we cannot know the exact numbers because of the underreporting, logistical difficulties, and reporting complexities associated with this crime. Due to the fact that human traffickers operate clandestinely and go to great lengths to conceal their activities, their victims are often kept in isolated locations, subjected to coercion, threats, and physical violence, which makes it challenging to locate them or even for them to come forward themselves and seek help. Many of these victims distrust authorities, cannot speak the language to ask for help, and fear deportation or that they may be charged with a crime (according to UNODC, Global Report on Tracking in Persons 2022, victims rely mostly on ‘’self-rescue’’). This along with the fact that identifying trafficking victims is a complex process, especially when victims may not self-identify as such, contributes to underreporting.

Another important issue is that human trafficking often intersects with other criminal activities, such as migrant smuggling and forced labor. For authorities to be able to distinguish between these crimes and accurately attribute cases solely to human trafficking, the separation between them can be tedious and accurate reporting can be difficult. The fact that trafficking is a transnational crime, there are no real boundaries and it involves movement across borders and victims are often moved through numerous countries. Coordinating efforts and information-sharing between countries can be very challenging (especially between countries who do not have the education and resources on the subject or ones where politics can be strained) making it difficult to track and quantify the global scope of the issue.

Why should security professionals get involved in fighting this crime? Because this issue concerns everyone, it can affect all of us and it can happen to anyone. As frontline defenders, our expertise, unique positions within our societal structure, our training, and not to mention our excessive amounts of travel, positions us to play a crucial role in identifying, preventing, and assisting victims. Having already been trained to identify patterns, criminal activity, and threats/risks, we have the unique skills to identify the signs and indicators of unusual behavior, physical abuse, restricted movement, and fear exhibited by potential victims.

We believe that all of us should be helping to fight this crime, and this type of training, specifically aimed at security professionals to combat human trafficking, is paramount for several reasons:

·        Enhanced Awareness: Specialized training raises awareness among security professionals about the signs and indicators of trafficking. Protection personnel are taught the places where victims are commonly trafficked, enabling them to identify victims and trafficking operations more effectively. Trained personnel are then better equipped to recognize signs of trafficking victims, such as physical abuse, restricted movement, fear, and lack of personal identification. Once identified, they can inform authorities and provide initial assistance and link victims to the proper agencies/organizations that will assist them best.

·        Improved Victim-Centered Approach: Training empowers security professionals to handle victims with sensitivity and empathy, understanding the trauma they may have endured, and providing appropriate support and care until authorities arrive.

·        Efficient Reporting: Specialized training equips security professionals with the necessary skills and knowledge to gather evidence, and report through the proper channels. They will know how to collaborate better with law enforcement agencies, NGOs, and other international organizations to share intelligence and resources, strengthening the overall response to human trafficking.

·        Prevention and Disruption: Trained security professionals can act as a deterrent, and implement proactive measures to prevent human trafficking activities, disrupting trafficking networks and protecting potential victims.

When it comes to training, it is important to make sure your security personnel receive comprehensive training that, at the very least, covers the following:

a. Understanding Human Trafficking: Educating professionals about the different forms of trafficking, its root causes, and the global and local impact of this crime. You cannot fight something you know nothing about. Learning the methodology that these traffickers utilize is critical to accurately recognize signs. Ignorance is particularly why it is such a profitable crime and that it has been easily able to create a global presence with transnational movements.

b. Victim Identification and Protection: Training on recognizing physical signs of trafficking, specific venues and other locations that have a tendency for victims to be present, and how to establish a victim-centered approach, and ensure their safety and confidentiality. If the victims are not handled properly and with empathy and care, they will not be apt to come forward or give information that will assist your efforts.

c. Interagency Cooperation: Promotion of collaboration between security agencies, law enforcement, NGOs, and other stakeholders will foster a coordinated response to trafficking cases. This is not a fight that any one of us can fight by ourselves. The nature of the crime requires a good understanding of how to cooperate with different agencies, vendors, or other professionals. Only through cooperation and coordination can this be overcome.

e. Cultural Sensitivity: Cultivating an understanding of diverse cultural norms and practices to effectively interact with potential victims from various backgrounds. Because human trafficking is a transnational crime, you will most likely have to deal with victims brought in from other countries. Being able to understand cultural differences will help your approach in assisting them.

f. Dealing with Emotional Burn Out: The emotional toll of confronting the horrors of human trafficking, witnessing victims’ suffering, engaging with traumatic circumstances, and sometimes failing to be able to help the victims, can lead to severe psychological and emotional strain for security professionals who are supporting anti-trafficking operations.

We believe that the role of trained security professionals in the fight against human trafficking cannot be emphasized enough. Their expertise, competencies, and unwavering commitment are pivotal in identifying and assisting victims, apprehending traffickers, and dismantling trafficking networks. By investing in proper training programs, we aim to empower security professionals to actively combat this heinous crime and make a significant contribution to the global efforts aimed at eradicating human trafficking.

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