Skies Are The Frontline In Fight Against Human Trafficking

LONDON — Flight attendant Donna Hubbard was deeply concerned when a couple carried a boy who was sweating, lethargic and appeared to be in pain onto her flight from Honduras to Miami in October last year.

After take-off, Hubbard and her crew spoke to the man and woman separately, who gave different names and ages for the boy. Hubbard told the Thomson Reuters Foundation she was suspicious that he was being trafficked, kidnapped or even being used as a drug mule.

The pilot alerted authorities in Miami who met the boy and his companions on arrival. While unable to reveal details, a customs official later told Hubbard that she had made the “right call” and the boy had been safely intercepted by officials.

Hubbard’s actions are the kind of intervention the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) recommended last week when it urged airline bosses at an international airline summit to train flight crews to help prevent human trafficking.

Jean-Luc Lemahieu, UNODC policy director, told the International Air Transport Association (IATA) meeting: “It is not rocket science but most flight attendants spend one hour to eight hours with passengers.

“They can see the signs. It’s an invisible crime but in plain sight, you can you see it if you know what to look at.”

The skies have long been on the frontlines of the fight against human trafficking as criminal gangs transport thousands of children and vulnerable people by air each year.

To read the full story by Ed Upright  on GMA NEWS ONLINE: Click Here

Study Shows 1 In 5 Homeless Detroit Youths Victims Of Human Trafficking

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A study shows that 1 in homeless Detroit youths are victims of human trafficking. The Ruth Ellis Center in Highland Park is a youth social service that helps homeless and at-risk gay, bi-attractional, transgender, and questioning youth. (Tanya Moutzalias | (Tanya Moutzalias |

A study of homeless youth in the U.S. and Canada indicates that one in five are victims of human trafficking. 

Among those surveyed were Detroit youths, with 21 percent of the 60 respondents reporting that they had been trafficked for sex, labor or both.

The survey was conducted by The Field Center for Children’s Policy, Practice and Research at the University of Pennsylvania and Loyola University.

Researchers interviewed 911 people between ages 17 and 24 across 13 cities between February 2014 and March 2017.

In 12 of the 13 cities, researchers interviewed people from Covenant House, which offers services for homeless youth across the nation.

LGBTQ youth accounted for 10 percent of the interviews, and 56 percent were victims of sex trafficking.

About 21 percent were women and 13 percent were men. About five percent reported being trafficked for labor.

“Youth homelessness is like a disease that over time builds up a stubborn resistance and becomes immune to almost any intervention that we can provide,” said Gerald J. Piro, Covenant House Michigan executive director.

“I am greatly disturbed that so many of the youth we serve in Detroit have been victims of trafficking.

To read the full story by Dana Afana on MLive: Click Here

7 Things You May Not Know About Human Trafficking, And 3 Ways To Help

“The trade in human beings, a modern form of slavery, … violates the God-given dignity of so many of our brothers and sisters and constitutes a true crime against humanity.”  —Pope Francis


You may not see the problem, but it’s there. It’s estimated there are more than 21 million human trafficking victims worldwide. This is not something that only occurs in dark alleys in the far corners of the Earth, though. It’s happening around the world every day.

Human trafficking is considered modern-day slavery, and there are more slaves today than at any time in history.

“They are hidden from view. You don’t recognize them in the back kitchens, shops, gas stations and in hospitality. They are also tucked away in fields. They don’t come out and ask for help. It’s a different kind of slavery than long ago,” says Dr. Lucy Steinitz, Catholic Relief Services senior technical advisor for protection. “They are not in shackles or on plantations. People are coerced into harsh employment under horrible conditions, and then have no freedom to leave. They are beaten, violated and told they are worthless—that no one else wants them anymore.”


Here are 7 facts about human trafficking you may not know, plus 3 ways you can help.

  1. The real definition of human trafficking.
    Human trafficking is the act of recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing or obtaining a person for compelled labor or commercial sex acts through the use of force, fraud or coercion. It’s important to note, though, that human trafficking can include, but does not require, movement. You can be a victim of human trafficking in your hometown. At the heart of human trafficking is the traffickers’ goal of exploitation and enslavement.
  2. Exploitation covers more than you think.
    Sexual exploitation and forced labor are the most commonly identified forms of human trafficking. More than half of the victims are female. Many other forms of exploitation are often thought to be under-reported. These include domestic servitude and forced marriage; organ removal; and the exploitation of children in begging, the sex trade and warfare.
  3. Causes of trafficking: It’s complicated.
    The causes of human trafficking are complex and interlinked, and include economic, social and political factors. Poverty alone does necessarily create vulnerability to trafficking, but when combined with other factors, these can lead to a higher risk for being trafficked. Some of those other factors include: corruption, civil unrest, a weak government, lack of access to education or jobs, family disruption or dysfunction, lack of human rights, or economic disruptions.
  4. It’s a lucrative industry.
    Along with illegal arms and drug trafficking, human trafficking is one of the largest international crime industries in the world. A report from the International Labor Organization (ILO) says forced labor generates $150 billion in illegal profits per year. Two-thirds of that money came from commercial sexual exploitation, while the rest is from forced economic exploitation, including domestic work, agriculture, child labor and related activities.

To read the full story by Rebekah Kates Lemke on Catholic Relief Services: Click Here

Flight Attendants Train to Watch for Human Trafficking

Flight attendant Sheila Fedrick says she knew something was wrong when she saw a teenage girl with greasy hair sitting on an airplane next to an older man.

The girl had bruises, possible evidence that she had been hurt. The man, however, appeared very well-dressed.

When Fedrick tried to talk to them, the man became defensive. So the flight attendant left a note for the girl in a bathroom. The girl later wrote back a message that said “I need help.”

Fedrick was able to inform the pilot of the Alaska Airlines flight from Seattle to San Francisco. The pilot spoke to police officials on the ground. By the time the plane landed, officers were waiting for the girl and the man at the airport. She later learned the girl was a victim of human trafficking.

Keeping the skies safe

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation says human trafficking is thought to be the third largest criminal activity in the world. Trafficking involves the illegal transport of people from one country or area to another. This is usually done to force victims into forced labor or the sex trade.

Human traffickers have often used airplanes as a way to quietly transport their victims. Yet one group, Airline Ambassadors International, or AAI, is training airline and airport workers to recognize signs of human trafficking. The goal is to give more workers the same kind of skills and sensitivity Fedrick has.


​AAI was the idea of Nancy Rivard, a former flight attendant. She founded the group as a way for flight attendants to help vulnerable children directly.

Rivard said AAI developed the first industry-specific training on human trafficking and trafficking awareness. She said that training just one person can have a big effect.

To read the full story by Phil Dierking on VOA Learning English.: Click Here

How to Teach Teens About Human Trafficking

Actor Ashton Kutcher made headlines last week after giving emotional testimony before Congress on his efforts to fight human trafficking.

Victims of human trafficking – modern slavery – perform labor or commercial sex acts by force, fraud or coercion. Many victims are children.

While human trafficking occurs nationwide and to people of all socioeconomic levels, runaway and homeless youth are among the vulnerable, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

Recent reports of teenage trafficking have occurred in California, Louisiana and Michigan, among other states.

[Learn how homeless high schoolers face barriers to education.]

“Numerous exploiters have talked about the fact that they do target schools,” says Jeneé Littrell, administrator of safe and supportive schools for the San Mateo County Office of Education in California. “It’s a place where young children are, and young children are vulnerable.”

Teens can go through many typical stages that could put them at risk, like starting to seek external validation as well as independence from the family, says Littrell, who was the lead author of “Human Trafficking in America’s Schools,” a 2015 guide from the Department of Education.

It’s critical for schools to educate staff and students about human trafficking, Littrell says. There could be student victims or others being recruited. Schools are filled with caring adults who have relationships with students who can help young people in need of assistance, she says.

High school officials can use the following strategies to build awareness of human trafficking.

1. Make sure staff understand human trafficking: Teachers don’t need to be human trafficking experts, but they should know what modern slavery is, how it happens in their community, what to look for and who to turn to if there is a student they are concerned about or a victim comes forward.

Some of the warning signs: Students with bruises, tattoos or branding and unexplained trends in absences. For example, if a student is often absent on Monday and Friday it may be because their exploiter is making them travel to different locations.

2. Integrate human trafficking education into the curriculum: Modern slavery lessons naturally fit into a lesson about the history of slavery, says Littrell.

To read the full story by Alexandra Pannoni on US News & World Report: Click Here

Sr. Angela Reed on “Reframing Human Trafficking”

Reframing Human Trafficking: a Human Rights, Life Course Approach

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Following her talk at Notre Dame Law School, Dr. Reed sat with Christine Cervenak, Associate Director of The Center for Civil and Human Rights, for a conversation that touched upon her research methodologies and findings. The conversation was conducted as part of the Asia Working Group, a collaborative effort of the Liu Institute for Asia and Asian Studies and the Kellogg Institute for International Studies. The conversation can be viewed below.

For the original pst by Patrick Deegan of University of Notre Dame’s Liu Institute for Asia and Asian Studies: Click Here

Hotel Industry Responds to Human Trafficking Crisis with New Online Training Program

Human trafficking of children and adults continues to be a serious issue for the global hospitality industry, as traffickers sometimes use hotels to carry out their illegal operations. The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA), in partnership with Marriott International, ECPAT-USA, and the Polaris Project, this month will begin offering an online training program to help hotel employees identify and respond to human trafficking at hotel properties.

Your Role in Preventing Human Trafficking: Recognize the Signs, available through the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute (AHLEI), was developed in response to the growing demand from global hospitality brands for an expansion of the online course, The Role of Hospitality in Preventing and Reacting to Child Trafficking, released by AHLEI and ECPAT-USA in January 2014. The expanded training course provides an overview of the issues of human trafficking, suggested protocols for responding to suspicious activity, and signs of trafficking specific to different hospitality positions (in-room staff, restaurant, lobby, and security).

“Training employees in a variety of roles in hotels is critical, so they can be the eyes and ears of identifying potential survivors in one of the most frequently documented human trafficking venues,” said Courtney Walsh, Advisory Services, Polaris.

Features of the expanded program include:

  • Information on human trafficking of both children and adults for the purposes of both sex and labor
  • Globalized information to make the program relevant at properties around the world, not just in the United States—currently available in English, the training will eventually be available in 14 additional languages
  • Content that is compliant with many new city ordinances and state laws requiring hotels to train their employees on human trafficking.

“We are so excited that the update not only broadens training to include both labor and sex trafficking but it is also now relevant on a global level,” said Michelle Guelbart, Director of Private Sector Engagement for ECPAT-USA. “The hospitality industry has made such headway in the fight against commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking of children and we know that with this re-launch, we will see even more progress.”

To read the full story on HospitalityNet: Click Here

Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent Sheds Light on Human Trafficking in Montgomery County

Sr. Angela Reed at Academic Convocation
Sr. Angela Reed (second from left) spoke about human trafficking at Academic Convocation the day before Special Agent Stefanie Snyder gave examples of trafficking in Montgomery County.

Gwynedd Mercy University continued its Mercy Week Celebration with a presentation on human trafficking given by Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent Stefanie Snyder in University Hall on Thursday.

Special Agent Snyder, who has been with the Homeland Security Investigations Philadelphia Bureau since 2003, has worked on human trafficking cases for 10 years. She has worked to put traffickers in jail and has provided drug treatment, visas, and protection to victims and witnesses.

Special Agent Snyder works on both human trafficking and human smuggling cases, and there’s a stark difference, she said. Human smuggling is transportation-based and is usually voluntary. Residents of another country who want to live in America might pay a smuggler to help them cross the border. Human trafficking, however, is exploitation-based and is never voluntary. An example could be a pimp who coerces young girls into the commercial sex trade, and then keeps their earnings.

Sex trafficking, a $32 billion per year business, is the fastest-growing crime in the United States, Special Agent Snyder said. Financially, it is second only to drug trafficking.

To read the full story by Alyssa Onisick on Gwynedd Mercy University: Click Here

Guilford County Schools Implements Human Trafficking Education 

GREENSBORO — Starting this fall anti-human trafficking education will be taught in 38 Guilford County Schools.

AbolitionNC, a Triad-based organization that helps survivors of human trafficking, is partnering with GCS to help raise awareness.

“The legislatures passed Senate Bill 279 in the fall of last year which requires school systems to implement sex trafficking education, awareness and prevention,” said Guilford County Schools Director of Health Services Robin Bergeron-Nolan.

Starting this fall 8th through 12th graders will learn about the dangers and signs of human trafficking.

“The average age of entry into prostitution here is between the ages of 12 and 14, so we wanted to target that age group,” said AbolitionNC board member Jen Uhlenberg.

Read the full story by Elaina O’Connell of TWC News: Click Here

Women Religious Unite to Eradicate Trafficking

By: Sr. Anne Victory, HM, RN, MSN and Sr. Ann Oestreich, IHM

Jon Lezinsky
 The history of women’s religious congregations is a history of addressing unmet needs. The founders and foundresses of our communities read the signs of their times and gathered women together to serve God and God’s most vulnerable people. When the Second Vatican Council invited us to re-examine our founding charisms in light of the needs of our times, we rediscovered our own preferential option for those who are poor, often with a special care for women and children. While we continued to engage in traditional ministries serving the people of God without distinction, we expanded our outreach through social services, pastoral ministries and work for social justice and systemic change.As sisters, our constant challenge — to remain open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and faithfully live out our charisms — has led us to engage many of the most difficult issues in contemporary society: poverty, climate change, nuclear disarmament, human rights for LGBTQ people, affordable health care for all, comprehensive immigration reform and human trafficking. At the root of all these issues, alienation from one another and a culture of violence are the common threads.

Amid the many horrific stories of violence reported daily in the media, one particularly heinous crime — human trafficking — is gaining more attention. Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery. Its complexity and scope create challenges for understanding the issue; for believing that it is really happening because it often is hidden; and for determining effective ways to raise awareness, prevent the crime and serve victims globally as well as locally.

Human trafficking affects women, men and children, U.S. citizens as well as people who are foreign born. The crime involves commercial sex acts and forced labor. It occurs in every city, town and neighborhood. The traffickers’ methods of force, fraud and coercion trap those who are victimized. Victims experience rapes, beatings, confinement, drug addiction, gun violence and other forms of abuse and torture; often they are frightened into silence and held captive by psychological chains much stronger than any physical bonds.

Human trafficking is a global industry in which unscrupulous individuals and organizations prey upon victims for financial gain. The International Labour Organization estimates trafficking generates $150 billion annually and affects more than 20.9 million people.1 It is not a faceless form of violence; in fact, most of those exploited throughout the world are women and children, many of whom are suffering the effects of poverty, discrimination and other vulnerabilities.

Until very recently, especially in the United States, much human trafficking has gone unnoticed, making it possible for victims to be hidden in plain sight because people never dreamed trafficking could be happening right next door or down the street. As more information — and news of arrests — has become available, public health and community organizations and law enforcement have circulated descriptions of “red flags” that might indicate someone is a trafficking victim, along with toll-free numbers to call for help.

Forced labor is particularly challenging to identify and address due to the diverse forms it can take in a variety of industries. Labor traffickers, including recruiters, contractors and employers, use lies, threats, violence, debt bondage and other forms of coercion to exploit people to work against their will. Trafficked workers may be men, women or children; U.S. citizens or foreign born. They may have been recruited with the promise of an educational opportunity or a good job, only to find they are forced to work long hours for little to no pay. Often they are threatened and abused, told they must work to repay a debt, or have had their identity documents and money taken away. Victims feel trapped and helpless — some don’t speak English.

Common forms of labor trafficking in the United States include people forced to work in homes as domestic servants, in factories under inhumane conditions, in restaurants, door-to-door sales, construction, agriculture and nail salons, among many others. Ordinary citizens may encounter labor trafficking victims but never recognize their plight, lacking knowledge of the crime and its prevalence in our country.2

Fortunately for “Adele,” a young woman who thought she was coming to the U.S. for an education but who was trafficked for six years as a domestic servant, a neighbor did recognize the signs of labor trafficking. Adele was confined to her trafficker’s house and required to do all of the housekeeping and child care, working from 5 a.m. through midnight each day. She was required to eat her meals on the floor, not at a table like the family members she served.

One day, a small boy she cared for ran out of the house, and Adele ran outside after him. A neighbor happened to see her and spoke to her very briefly. The neighbor had been observing the house for a while because she felt that something there was not quite right.

On subsequent, rare occasions when Adele was briefly outdoors, the neighbor again spoke to her, very deliberately and carefully gaining Adele’s confidence. Eventually she gave Adele her phone number and a cell phone to use if an opportunity arose to escape.

Adele’s trafficker began to feel that something might be going on, and he moved Adele to another location, away from the concerned neighbor. One day, however, Adele was left alone, and she used the cell phone to call her former neighbor. The woman got in touch with an anti-trafficking organization, and Adele was rescued and taken to a short-term safe house provided by Catholic sisters. From there, Adele was moved to a long-term safe house provided by LifeWay Network, an organization based in New York that provides safe housing for women who are trafficking victims and that works to educate the public about trafficking.3 Adele lived in the safe house for a year, receiving the services and support she needed to resume a life of dignity and freedom.

Sr. Joan Dawber, SC, executive director of LifeWay Network, reports that Adele worked to prosecute her trafficker and now reconnects with her friends at LifeWay Network each year at Thanksgiving.

For those working in health care ministries, it is especially important to recognize signs that a patient may be a trafficking victim and under someone else’s control. We in health care must be prepared to respond to the deep wounds —
physical, psychological, social and spiritual — that the violence of human trafficking inflicts on those who come to our hospitals, emergency rooms, urgent care facilities and offices every day. Yet a 2014 study published in the journal Annals of Health Law revealed that among approximately 100 women and girls who were survivors of sex trafficking in the United States, 88 percent had interacted with health care providers and were not identified as sex trafficking victims.4

How are health care professionals, including those in Catholic-sponsored health systems, addressing this enormous challenge? To raise awareness among clinicians, administrators and support staff, many health care systems across the U.S. are implementing guidelines to address the complex needs of suspected victims of both commercial sex and labor trafficking. For example, Via Christi Health System, based in Wichita, Kansas, Dignity Health, headquartered in San Francisco and Catholic Health Initiatives, based in Englewood, Colorado, all have instituted protocols within their respective systems to better identify and serve suspected victims. Other health systems are working collaboratively with local health providers, social service agencies and law enforcement to address these needs.

In many cases, Catholic sisters are intimately involved in efforts to address the violence that is trafficking. In fact, 15 women religious from across the United States who work on the issue decided in 2013 to connect their individual congregations’ anti-trafficking efforts and become a united, national voice addressing the complexities of human trafficking.

The membership of the U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking now includes more than 80 congregations and coalitions of sisters, along with several individual partners who share in and support this work. This new, not-for-profit organization’s mission is to help people recognize the faces of human trafficking and to develop education and advocacy strategies to eradicate it. Central to the organization’s work is linking members’ actions to the church’s call to affirm the dignity of every human person. The group also is a member of Talitha Kum, based in Rome and formed in 2009 as an international “network of networks” of women and men religious in 70 countries who are working on the issue around the world.5

None of the apostolic works of women religious ever has been done in isolation. Sisters always have relied on the generosity of the wider community for support, advice and the sharing of expertise for the sake of the mission in education, health care, social services and other endeavors. The same is true as we address the complex issue of human trafficking. Sisters are building upon skills learned from our founders’ and foundresses’ vision, courage, scope of influence and networking strategies as we create and expand partnerships with those who share a common vision of eradicating trafficking. The focus is the mission, the concern for upholding the dignity of each individual who may be victimized, providing comprehensive, holistic, trauma-informed care, ongoing support services and prevention of the crime.

Sisters are partnering with others throughout the U.S. and around the world to provide such care and services. A few of the many examples within the United States: Dawn’s Place in Philadelphia, Lifeway Network in New York City, Sisters in Shelter located in Tiffin, Ohio, and CAST-LA in Los Angeles.

Those of us who are professionals in the fields of social work and counseling are using our skills to offer compassionate, trauma-based interventions to support victims at all stages of their recovery. We also are using our influence to explore ways for universities to offer educational grants for victims as they recover from the trauma of having been trafficked. Some religious congregations are offering employment opportunities for survivors at their sponsored ministries.

Since many of our sisters spent their lives educating young people, a number of us are now engaged in creating values-based educational materials to be used by teachers in both elementary grades and high school classrooms. Many are working to integrate the topic of human trafficking into the curricula of such disciplines as nursing, medicine, social work and law. Still others of us are collaborating with retreat and spiritual directors to offer retreat experiences for survivors and for those who care for survivors.

A number of our sisters with backgrounds in the health professions are actively involved in the creation of guidelines to help professional colleagues recognize and address the needs of victims they may encounter in the course of their daily work. This endeavor relies on strong relationships and the creation and nurturing of alliances beyond the walls of the health system with social service providers, alcohol and drug treatment services and the law enforcement community.

Some of our sisters with degrees in law are navigating the complexities of immigration issues, criminal concerns because of convictions for crimes committed while being trafficked, and advocacy for victims of the crime that often leaves them feeling voiceless and abandoned. Still others of our sisters counsel victims prior to court appearances and may accompany them as advocates.

Many of our sisters are engaged in advocacy for the needs of human trafficking victims and for creation and enforcement of laws that address both forced labor and commercial sex trafficking at national, state and local levels. We engage with members of Congress and with our state and local officials to educate them about the importance of the issue and petition for their support of legislation addressing various aspects of the crime.

Ever faithful to the mandate of Vatican II, women religious continue to respond wholeheartedly to the needs of these times. Learning from the past and relying on the wisdom and grace of our charisms, we forge ahead with many others to heal the violence exacted on victims of human trafficking and strengthen the systems with whom we work, making the vision of a slave-free world a reality.

SR. ANN OESTREICH, IHM, is board member/secretary, U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking (

SR. ANNE VICTORY, HM, president, U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking and education coordinator, Collaborative to End Human Trafficking, Cleveland.


  1. International Labour Organization, Profits and Poverty: The Economics of Forced Labour (Geneva: International Labour Office, 2014).
  2. The Polaris Project website,
  3. LifeWay Network website,
  4. Laura J. Lederer and Christopher A. Wetzel, “Health Care Consequences of Sex Trafficking and Their Implications for Identifying Victims in Healthcare Facilities,”Annals of Health Law 23, no. 1 (2014): 61-91.
  5. Talitha Kum website,

Originally published by Women Religious Unite to Eradicate Trafficking.