Open Your Eyes When Travelling You May Save A Life

Human trafficking is a huge issue, which I am not about to tackle in its entirety here.  But being a traveller and constantly in airports around the globe, it is a subject that often crosses my mind as I sit waiting for a flight.  People smugglers have to move their victims somehow and using air travel is one of the preferred methods of these diabolical creatures.

The Crisis of Human Trafficking

Petty Airport Woes

All our rants of the inconvenience of screaming babies, overweight smelly bodies invading our personal space and the despicable beings that queue jump at airports, are petty worries and a tiny blip of miniscule proportion on the scale of human misery. Lurking in the human conveyor belt hubs of airports is also the scum of the human race who trade in people.  Not only "nice" people wait in airports to catch planes.

International Problem

Human trafficking is not a problem relegated to under-privileged countries, but one that every country in the world faces.   It is a multi billion dollar criminal industry that is illegal throughout the world.  Human trafficking is modern day slavery where the victim is bound to his or her trafficker by financial, psychological, emotional and physical restraints.  It is estimated that approximately 27 million people worldwide are in forced labor in brothels, manufacturing, agriculture and the restaurant industry to name a few.

The Crisis of Human Trafficking

The Eyes of Tourism and Travel

The tourism and travel sectors are unwittingly vital spokes in the people smuggling infrastructure.  Smugglers quite often transport their victims from one country to another by plane and hotels become venues for hook-ups between trafficked prostitutes, their pimps and clients.  To combat this, there are now international training programs for the staff of hotels and airport personnel to be able to identify who may be at risk and how to handle the situation.  With about one in every 11 employees in the world being involved in hospitality and travel, there is a fighting chance to combat this horrific crime.

Add into the mix the actual eyes of an independent person traveling and there is even more chance to stop this horrific activity.  That is where you, as a traveler, come into the equation.

Red Flag Moments

Look for the telltale signs below:


Clothing and no belongings - holding no personal items at all, not even their passport and boarding pass, dress is unsuitable for the weather, ill-fitting and not up to the standard of their companion.


Tattoos - today it is a fashionable form of expressing oneself, but not if you notice a female with a tattoo barcode or the word "Daddy" on their body. 


Conversing - in general conversation a person is unable to tell you where they are going, what job they have, their speech seems to be rehearsed or scripted, their story is inconsistent, they totally ignore you, look to their companion constantly before answering you or defer to their companion to answer your questions for them.


No freedom - a person appears to have no freedom of movement in the airport or in the plane, is being totally submissive to their travel companion, constantly watched by the companion or appears to be controlled by the person with them.


If a child - he or she may be dressed in an overtly sexual manner, show signs of physical or sexual abuse such as bruises or cigarette burns, or appear to be groggy as if under the influence of alcohol or drugs

Be Aware

Open your eyes and be aware of who and what is around you in an airport. Trust your gut instinct.  Do not attempt to intervene if you suspect there is foul play, but report your suspicions to the airport authorities or police on hand.  Remember it is not always a stranger from a third world country being trafficked.

Gail Palethorpe, a self proclaimed Australian gypsy, is a freelance writer, photographer and eternal traveller. Check out her website Gail Palethorpe Photography and her Shutterstock profile.