AirAsia signs pledge to combat human trafficking

SEPANG, 16 Aug 2017: 

Low cost carrier AirAsia has become the first airline in Malaysia and Asia to join in the global effort to combat human trafficking with US-based organisation Airline Ambassadors International (AAI), says AirAsia Foundation executive director Yap Mun Ching.

She said a total of 5,000 crew – including ground staff – would be trained to raise awareness  of potential human trafficking, and how to spot and deal with suspected cases of slavery in order to help close down the US$150 billion global criminal industry.

Without elaborating on the training course, Yap said the human trafficking module would be added to the existing mandatory training programme as a requirement for new flight attendants and is expected to kick off next week with a series of meetings and module development training.

“Right now, we want to educate ourselves first. We want to play a greater role in tackling the growing problem of human trafficking. It is our joint fight to combat to eradicate this crime and later, we will bring awareness to the public.”

Led by AirAsia Group’s philanthropic arm, AirAsia Foundation, Yap said the airline had invited the trio – Nancy Rivard (AAI president), Donna Hubbard (American Airlines flight attendant) and Andrea Hobart (Alaska Airlines flight attendant) – to bring attention to the global issues through a series of talks at AirAsia’s four main hubs – Manila (Aug 14), Malaysia (Aug 15), Jakarta (Aug 16) and Bangkok (Aug 18) respectively.

Hubbard – who trains airline personnel to recognise trafficking victims and being a human trafficking survivor herself – shared her heart-wrenching experience of being victimised by a pimp, trafficked and finally became a gang property when she was only a 21-year-old mother of three.

“I was young, very naive and in love with a man who treated me well when I needed love.  I was brought to a nightclub and served with champagne, and when I woke up in the morning, different men were standing around me and I was raped. I was ashamed and confused.

“I ran to California, and another man took me and my kids under his wings, and I fell into the hands of a pimp who eventually traded me to a gang. I suffered seven years with them, and obliging to do the task given to me, otherwise the gang threatened to kill my daughter.

“To escape this, I had to allow myself to be arrested and went to prison, and I related my story to my counsellors. The gang was caught and prosecuted,” she said in an emotion-filled voice.

After serving 10 years imprisonment, Hubbard said she once again worked as a flight attendant and in April 2015, went through in-depth training from AAI to teach air crew that human trafficking could happen to anyone and the frontliners could be part of the solution.

“Be aware of what is going on around you. It’s a community effort and it is important to recognise and report it because that is what saves lives. Every year, over two million children disappear.

“For traffickers, people are commodities. So, we must be their voice. We have to start to identify and save them without jeopardising their safety.”

Former flight attendant Rivard, who is also AAI founder, said she was trying to instil in airline staff across the globe as she trained them, on how to spot signs of human trafficking.

She said most trafficked victims might appear drugged or confused, and  could be wearing inappropriate clothing.

“For flight attendants, training involves learning what to watch out for, the importance of making eye contact but direct confrontation is strongly discouraged because it can quickly escalate and become dangerous. In most cases, those victims have very less chance to return to their respective guardians.”

– Bernama

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