Staff at Manchester Airport have been undertaking some unusual training recently, helping them to detect vulnerable men, women and children being brought into the UK illegally.
Front-line immigration officials are of course the most obvious staff likely to pick up tell-tale signs. However, other staff, including cleaners and baggage handlers, have also undergone the training, which was delivered by various agencies, including the Home Office, Greater Manchester Police, and the UK Border Force, as well as charities such as Stop the Traffik and Saheli, a Manchester-based charity that campaigns against forced marriage.
The usual perception that human trafficking involves people being brought into the country in containers or as stowaways is simply not the whole story. They are just as likely to be sitting on a plane and then queuing up at immigration with everyone else.
Staff were trained to look out for signs including over-hearing passengers rehearsing their stories about where they come from and why they have made the journey, individuals in groups who look out of place or unhappy, signs of fear or anxiety including body language, and physical signs of abuse.
They were also told of the need to continue their vigilance after leaving work. Once in the local community, the training can still be useful as it is frequently not until vulnerable people leave the airport that their predicament becomes clear. They may have been lured to the UK with promises of a better life only to discover that they have in fact been duped into working in the sex industry.
The airport chaplain at Manchester, George Lane, has described the training as invaluable not only for helping his staff but also the vulnerable people involved.
For more information on security going in and out of Manchester Airport and whether you’ll be affected, check before you travel.