PETALING JAYA: Airlines and their staff must remain vigilant against human trafficking as they are often the last line of detection and defence against this heinous crime, says Transport Ministry secretary-general Datuk Isham Ishak.
He said that with the reopening of the country’s international borders, there was increased potential for human trafficking.
“So, it is critical for all stakeholders, airlines, airports and border control agencies to continuously work collectively to combat this issue within the aviation industry,” he said during the Aviation Against Trafficking In Persons Conference (AATIP-C) 2022 here yesterday.
He added that transnational and domestic human trafficking was a growing issue that affected the Asia Pacific region.
“Based on the recorded cases received from our crew and whistle-blower data, intra-regional and domestic trafficking are the major forms of trafficking in persons,” he said.
Isham said the Covid-19 pandemic had led to human traffickers using more sophisticated technology to identify, track, control and exploit victims.
“Hence, we must stay vigilant and equip ourselves with as much knowledge to know how these crimes are committed,” he said.
He also reiterated the Transport Ministry’s commitment together with the Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM) alongside airlines and airport operators in rendering their full support towards preventing human trafficking and curbing exploitative practices.
A memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed between Malaysia Airlines Bhd (MAB) and Stop Human Trafficking (SHUT) yesterday to combat human trafficking.
Isham said he was confident that the collaboration between MAB and SHUT would raise Malaysia’s standing at the international level including with regard to the US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Reports.
MAB group chief operations officer Ahmad Luqman Mohd Azmi said the MOU with SHUT would better prepare its crew and ground operations team to be more vigilant in identifying and reporting potential victims of human trafficking.
“This would be done through the development of training materials tailored to all airline staff in observing, identifying and reporting potential human trafficking victims on board (aircraft) and at airports,” he said.
SHUT founder and president Dini Dalilah Wan Nordin said the collaboration would be able to stop vulnerable groups from becoming victims of human trafficking.
“I also hope to see more industry players following in the footsteps of MAB,” she added.
The MOU will see both parties working together to develop specific role-based training modules on observing, identifying and reporting human trafficking victims on board flights and in airports.
It also signified efforts to equip airline staff to recognise and report possible victims of human trafficking in addition to raising awareness through workshops, among others.
Meanwhile, Home Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin said Malaysia recorded 115 human trafficking cases in 2021 compared with only 17 in 2008.
He said data from the Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants Council (Mapo) showed a total of 1,972 trafficking cases were recorded from 2015 up to June 2022 and 2,902 individuals were arrested.
Hamzah added that the government had established a special sessions court in Klang which solely focuses on human trafficking cases.
“Similarly, we have also assigned two specialised deputy public prosecutors in every state in the country,” he said in his speech at AATIP-C 2022.
He said the government had also enacted the Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants Act (Atipsom) in 2007, which was enforced in 2008, to combat human trafficking nationwide.
He added that Atipsom also saw the establishment of Mapo, which was mandated for coordination and implementation of the Act.
“This collective effort demonstrates the government’s commitment in the fight against human trafficking,” he said.