Child Traffickers Are Using Airlines for Sex and Organ Trade, and… Terrorism!

Help CHILDREN ON TOUR prevent child trafficking!

by Rob Waterlander

Across the world, a terrible hidden trade is fueling the trafficking of children for sex, organ harvesting, and even terrorism!

Children On Tour (COT) has discovered that the Unaccompanied Minor services offered by international airlines can easily be exploited by child traffickers who use them to transport child victims globally. This is likely to someday explode into a significant scandal that will expose this black market trade that currently hides in plain sight.

The loopholes

The public is little aware of a loophole in the system that allows anyone to drop off a child at an airport and hire an unaccompanied minor (UM) service to expedite the child, who may be as young as 5 years of age (some Asian airlines allow even younger kids), through security and onto an aircraft. At the child’s final destination, the child is escorted by another UM service handler, expedited through customs and handed off to whatever individual’s name is recorded as the ‘receiver’ in the UM paperwork.  There is no authority in place to check the validity of identification or the passports of those dropping off and picking up the child; there is no database in place to screen for whether an individual dropping off/picking up the child has a criminal record or is suspected of human trafficking; nor are there guarantees to verify that a child’s parents are the ones who booked such a service.

The only requirement stipulated by most airlines is that a UM-form is filled out and that the ID document of the person dropping off the child at the departures area, as well as the person receiving the child at the arrival airport, merely matches the name supplied on this UM-form.  It can literally be anyone! The address to which the child is going isn’t recorded or even required on the UM-form, which may hamper law enforcement when trying to trace a potential victim of child trafficking after arriving by aircraft.

The UM services are the perfect package deal for child traffickers to move their commodity smoothly, easily and completely unseen.

 The causes

The trafficking of children for sex or organ harvesting is a sick and depraved business run not only by hardened criminals whose motivation is simply greed, but the UM services are also used by people who want to harm Western society on the whole.  Recently COT received information that radicalized children who have become a threat to society itself are being trafficked by and for terrorist organizations.  The West must cut off this transport of recruits before these children develop into tomorrow’s suicide attackers.  While the West stands united in maintaining and protecting our shared values in the face of terrorism, we also have a responsibility to demand that our leaders tackle this threat in EVERY way possible.  Will the citizens of the Western democracies tolerate this threat against our children until the day comes that those children are turned against us?

 States obligations and the responsibility of airlines

Airlines and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) are aware of the loopholes in the UM services that turn children into an easily transported commodity. The UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the supplementing Palermo Protocol, aimed at preventing, suppressing and punishing “People Trafficking,” came into effect in the year 2000.  The Palermo Protocol urges countries to adopt all possible measures to prevent commercial carriers from being used in the commission of child trafficking.  Despite being signed by 117 countries, no signatory state has required airlines to implement initiatives to deter child traffickers.  Airlines, however, have a responsibility to do so on their own.

Principle 5(e) of the UNICEF Children’s Rights and Business Principles states: “The corporate responsibility to respect includes: Seeking to prevent and eliminate the risk that products and services could be used to abuse, exploit or otherwise harm children in any way.”  This principle therefore calls for action by airlines to stop child trafficking within their operations.

To compel such action by airlines, countries could impose a “duty of care” on airlines that would require them to prevent, with all possible means, third parties from using their services to traffic children. The intentional trafficking of children is already penalized to a point, but international criminal law could also be further developed to spur airlines into action if it would penalize the (unintentional) facilitation of child trafficking.

Up to now there has simply not been the proper focus on this issue by airlines.  These corporations seem to turn a blind eye to what is happening!  Someday this might blow up in their faces when airlines and countries find themselves are confronted with a civil case of an Unaccompanied Minor who is trafficked and harmed because of the known loopholes within airline UM services, or the day a young jihadi becomes responsible for blowing up your shopping mall, school or football stadium in Europe or the United States.

We as COT suggest simple solutions to prevent UMs from being trafficked as much as possible:

– Establishment of a database that stores:

*A minor’s passport + notarized birth certificate

*Notarized municipal records of the person dropping off, and the person picking up, any child (pref anyone younger than 18) who is traveling without their parents/unaccompanied.

*Passports of the adult dropping off, and the adult picking up.

*These records should be checked and copied by an airport authority before releasing the child who is approved to fly and before they leave the airport with the adult who is picking them up.

– Creation of a simple “UM app” used by all airlines that connects the information in the database with the authorities.

States and airlines: It’s time to act, protect and respect!

What COT has done to fight child trafficking

For more than 10 years Children on Tour has been working to raise awareness of these issues and the thousands of children worldwide whose futures have been stolen from them by child traffickers.  And now we need your help! Please support our campaign and break the silence so that we may see these children protected.

COT has been striving to further these goals by working with government agencies and non-governmental organizations that are at the forefront of combatting human trafficking.  COT regularly consults with a former agent of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency in Washington DC, and has developed a dialogue with Europol Director Rob Wainwright. Together they have provided a platform to petition even more professionals engaged in combatting child trafficking.  COT continues to establish links with the Ministries of Justice and the police across many nations. Authorities in most countries cannot continue to claim that they are unaware of the loopholes and abuses our research has uncovered.

COT has also been working to establish a dialogue with the European Union’s Commission for Home Affairs and the EU’s Anti Trafficking Coordinator.  Although we have yet to receive a promised response to our initial contacts, we remain optimistic that we can develop a constructive dialogue with these EU offices in the near future.

Our request

COT continues to endeavor to advance the issue of UM reform onto the political agendas throughout Europe.  COT’s strategy also depends on promoting public awareness and garnering public pressure to achieve international review and implementation of the Palermo Protocol and to convince airlines to respect what is stated in Principle 5(e) of “The Children’s Right and Business Principles.”  We therefore ask you to support us and join our campaign in any way you can.

Please consider sharing our information, helping us with funding, or even connecting us with the people who can help in governmental and non-governmental positions or in the media or publishing sectors.  We also ask people to support our future petitions and letter writing campaigns in order to demonstrate to elected officials that the public wants action to close these gaps and loopholes.

The life of a child who is trafficked defies imagination.  Wherever these kids are originally from, please try to see them as “our” children, coming from our streets and our communities.

We should not let them remain invisible as their lives are being taken away from them.  Neither can we allow networks of people who would perpetrate such criminal activity to hide in our midst, unopposed.  If we are aware of child trafficking for sex or organ trade, it will usually involve a child we did not know personally.  However, when a child as young as nine years of age has become a jihadi, suddenly the damage that child can do to our friends and loved ones becomes incalculable.  All children’s lives are worth saving.

We at COT are dedicated to our cause, and we are confident you will feel the same.

Visit our website today: CHILDRENONTOUR.ORG