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Viewpoint: The invisible risk of human trafficking

08 January 2016
Viewpoint: The invisible risk of human trafficking

Hospitality managers must not turn a blind eye to the possibility that they are harbouring slaves in their businesses, writes Peter Ducker FIH, chief executive of the Institute of Hospitality

Human trafficking (or modern slavery) is one of the most profitable crimes today after arms and drugs, with an annual value of around £21b. It is not something that only happens in countries with unscrupulous regimes. Estimates suggest that in Europe alone more than 1.15 million slaves are trafficked.

Trafficking involves the deceptive or coercive recruitment, transportation and harbouring of individuals by traffickers who have absolute control over them and exploit them in many ways: forced prostitution, forced or bonded labour, domestic servitude, forced criminality and forced organ removal.

A large proportion of trafficking is done, often unwittingly, through hospitality and leisure businesses, which, by their nature, facilitate the movement and accommodation of traffickers and their victims.

The European Commission has funded a consortium of researchers from Oxford Brookes University and the University of West London in the UK, the Lapland University of Applied Sciences in Finland and the Ratiu Foundation for Democracy in Romania in a project called Combat, aiming to research human trafficking in hospitality and propose preventative action.

One of the first staggering results of this research is that, in Europe alone, an estimated 94,000 sex slaves are exploited in hotels, 15,000 labour slaves are exploited in restaurants and bars, and 7,000 labour slaves are exploited in hotels.

Traffickers always seek paths of least resistance. The Combat study revealed that hospitality offers plenty of these paths. For example:

  • Traffickers using booking systems to secure and then cancel hotel group bookings as a way to gain entry visas for their victims.
  • Lack of due diligence in drawing up outsourcing contracts, leading to trafficked slaves being implanted in housekeeping and construction jobs.
  • Lacklustre human resource practices, enabling the infiltration of trafficked slaves into full-time positions where they could carry out forced criminal activities.
  • The hotel manager, who is employed by the brand, will try to establish a policy of no prostitution within the hotel, but this may be at odds with the hotel owner's

    position or view of what is beneficial for the business.

Awareness campaigns are not enough. What is needed is a co-ordinated and decisive industry response with clear policy statements, as well as actionable standards and procedures that raise barriers to traffickers, facilitate their effective prosecution and help trafficking survivors to reintegrate back into society.

Now in its second and final year, the Combat project seeks to take such action by developing a training toolkit to combat human trafficking in hospitality. This toolkit will be available on completion of the Combat project via the Institute of Hospitality.

For details, visit www.brookes.ac.uk/microsites/combat-human-trafficking

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