A Sign for the Times
Nick Kinsella, Centre Head of the UKHTC, details how the Blue Blindfold campaign is aiming to symbolise change and open people's eyes to human trafficking across the globe . . .
The trafficking of people for exploitation is a world-wide phenomenon and not something suffered by the UK alone. Human Trafficking is the third largest source of income for organised crime, exceeded only by arms and drugs trafficking. It is the fastest growing form of international crime, already generating $7 billion per year in criminal proceeds. There are even reports that some trafficking groups are switching their cargo from drugs to human beings, in search of high profits at lower risk (source: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime). The typical victims are teenage girls tricked into forced prostitution, but victims also include young boys in cannabis factories, forced farm workers and domestic slaves. All are physically and emotionally abused.
Encouragingly campaigns have sprung up around the world in the last few years to create public awareness about human trafficking. The public are seeing increasing numbers of press articles as evidence of community, law enforcement and government awareness. These campaigns have proven successful in raising public awareness, with training support being given to law enforcement agencies to give them an understanding of how to tackle this crime. This, to a large extent, the role of the UK Human Trafficking Centre and its campaign Blue Blindfold.
It is the UK and international campaign of UKHTC, focusing on law enforcement, other professionals, targeted public and victims of human trafficking. It encourages law enforcement, other professionals and sectors of the public to 'Open Your Eyes to Human Trafficking'.
Specifically to law enforcement and other professionals, it provides awareness and training as well as encouraging a victim-centred response and information sharing. To the public it provides awareness in vulnerable communities. It supports victims of human trafficking through a victim-centred human rights approach to awareness, communications and welfare. The logo of the Blue Blindfold is expected to be adopted by partners, as an internationally recognised symbol of united effort, particularly amongst law enforcement and other professionals, and as a recognised symbol of help by victims.
The Blue Blindfold campaign was launched in December 2007. A formal launch took place in the Houses of Parliament in February 2008 with support from the 'All Party Parliamentary Group on Trafficking'.
Nick Kinsella, Head of the UK Human Trafficking Centre said:
"The blindfold represents how people are blind to the fact that human trafficking is not remote, but something that is local and impacts on local communities. It does not represent the victims of human trafficking".
"The blindfold is a symbol of our ignorance and the need to keep our eyes open to what is going on around us. If people see something, we want them to take positive action by reporting the matter to the local police or Crimestoppers, and not closing their eyes to it".
The campaign aims to raise awareness among key groups about the nature and extent of human trafficking. Its main goal is to establish an internationally recognisable symbol for human trafficking. The blindfold indicates that we are blind to trafficking that is all around us, and that trafficking is not a "remote" issue but rather something that is local to us and impacts on our communities.
The campaign has received international acclaim in the form of two special mentions in the US State Department Trafficking In Persons (TIP) Report, published on 16 June 2009. In addition Blue Blindfold has also received the backing of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
The Blue Blindfold campaign was highlighted as a 'Commendable Initiative around the world'. The TIP report commended the campaign's message that human trafficking can happen in any town, community or workplace. The report also endorsed the aim of the Blue Blindfold [symbol] itself in creating a powerful and recognised worldwide symbol that could be recognised without the need for words, along with the use of the Crimestoppers telephone number to encourage people to report any suspicions they had about human trafficking. The report commended the overall aim of Blue Blindfold as a 'unified campaign that could reach across borders'.
Both the UKHTC and the UNODC have committed to a strategic partnership between Blue Blindfold and the Blue Heart campaign, run by the UNODC. The latter is a global initiative for the public, aiming to raise awareness about the millions of victims of human trafficking. The Blue Heart campaign will refer those people who want to take action to the Blue Blindfold campaign. In turn the Blue Blindfold campaign will continue to raise awareness at national and local level amongst law enforcement, professionals and targeted community groups.
Nick Kinsella, Head of the UKHTC said:
"This international recognition for Blue Blindfold is very important towards creating international awareness of the issue of human trafficking, that affects everyone".
"The support from both the UNODC and TIP Report is vital to the development of Blue Blindfold as a prevention tool that can reach victims and the general public. With this support the campaign can continue to help create awareness of human trafficking and ultimately break the control the traffickers have over victims".
The United States Human Smuggling and Trafficking Centre has also endorsed the Blue Blindfold brand and are currently promoting the campaign to Federal and local agencies across the USA.
The Blue Blindfold campaign has specific target audiences, which are victims of human trafficking; the general public, other professionals including sexual health clinics, social services and law enforcement.
As the campaign has progressed it has been used to support law enforcement operations that have tackled human trafficking. Police forces across the country took part in Operation Pentameter 2 between October 2007 and July 2008, which targeted sexual exploitation. Pentameter 2 was supported by the Blue Blindfold campaign.
So far 66,000 police officers and investigators throughout the UK, have seen the Blue Blindfold DVD/Intranet Briefing. 9,800 aide memoirs detailing the key indicators of human trafficking have been distributed to forces and other agencies including CEOP. This awareness raising helps show agencies how the Blue Blindfold campaign can be used.
BlueBlindfold has been endorsed by Crime Stoppers International (CSI) as their global brand on human trafficking. CSI intend to encourage all 1200 Crime Stopper programmes across the world to do the same. CSI will be engaging in programmes throughout the world in the forthcoming months and the campaign will be promoted as a tool to be used for awareness raising of this type of crime.
In addition Blue Blindfold was developed within the G6 anti-trafficking campaign, which included Europol and Interpol. As part of this work the Minister for Justice in the Republic of Ireland launched the Blue Blindfold campaign in October 2008.
Crimestoppers is interested in what people know, not who they are, which makes it the ideal reporting mechanism for anyone who may have information about human trafficking, or who is a victim of human trafficking but are afraid to go the police.
In addition to the material, there is a website that gives further information about the campaign. It also provides detailed information of the signs of human trafficking, to help the public with what to look out for.
For more information log onto www.ukhtc.org or contact the UKHTC direct on 0114 2523891.