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O'Leary and company urged to tackle human trafficking

European low-cost airlines must take a stand against human trafficking, South East MEP Catherine Bearder said today.

key_traffickingpetition.pngRyanair and Easyjet were among a number of carriers Catherine has asked to help put a stop to the vile trade in human beings.

Catherine said: "Airlines are on the frontline to tackle trafficking and I want to know what steps they are taking to deal with the problem."

Meanwhile, Euro 2012 organisers have not yet explained how they plan to address trafficking at this summer's tournament.

Catherine wrote to UEFA president Michel Platini on January 12 to ask whether it had any campaigns in the pipeline.

Here is a copy of the letter sent to airline chief executives, including Ryanair, Easyjet, Wizz, BMI and Germanwings…

Dear Sir / Madam,

This summer's London Olympics, along with the Euro 2012 football tournament in Poland and Ukraine, will showcase Europe in its best light.

Both will undoubtedly be great events, and your airline will be a major player in ferrying thousands of people across Europe during the summer.

But evidence from NGOs has shown major sporting events can fuel an increase in people trafficked into the sex industry and crime.

I am concerned not enough is being done to tackle the number of women and children who will be forced into prostitution, as thousands of sports fans plan their summer trips.

My campaign - Stamp Out Trafficking at Our Olympics - aims to make sure organisers of the London games do as much as possible to curb sex trafficking.

Meanwhile, I have written to UEFA president Michel Platini to raise my concerns ahead of Euro 2012.

But I want to find out what your company is doing to make life as difficult as possible for the gangs behind this horrific crime.

In 2007, the Home Office UK Action Plan on tackling human trafficking, said many victims arrive into Britain on flights operated by low cost airlines, particularly those serving Eastern and Southern Europe.

You are on the frontline and best placed to help prevent this vile trade in human beings.

Virgin Atlantic last year described trafficking as a "real and serious problem" and offered all of its 3,500 cabin crew the opportunity to undertake training to spot the tell-tale signs.

Julie Southern, the airlines chief commercial officer, said: "… our cabin crew are in a unique position to look out for any behaviour which might cause concern."

The airline believes human traffickers work hard to put on a false front when they check in, but the true relationship between passengers can become clear during a long flight.

A hotline has also been set up allowing UK Border Agency staff to take reports and meet a flight and question people concerned.

I am due to meet with Virgin to learn more about its commendable work and I am trying to find out if other carriers are adopting a similar tactic.

Has your airline taken any steps to train cabin crew to spot signs of human trafficking? Or, would it contemplate introducing a similar scheme for its staff?

In 2012, it is more important than ever before to make a stand against traffickers, and I believe your airline can play a vital role in that aim.

I look forward to hearing your response.

Yours sincerely,

Catherine Bearder MEP

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