Border Control – Can they do more to stop trafficking?




Recently we heard the story of a friend who was stopped with her 3 year old daughter at Border Control in the UK. The concern was that they had different surnames. This was exacerbated when the officer asked the 3 year old who this woman was, she chose that moment to refer to her mum by her first name. Luckily our friend was armed with all the appropriate documentation and moved on to enjoy a family holiday.


Once the Border Control was satisfied, she questioned Border Control why they ask so many questions and the answer was simply “we monitor for human trafficking”. This really left a mark on our friend as she recounted the story to us. Before that moment she had not considered that traffickers could move children through countries with ease and in plain sight.



The harsh reality is that they do. Sometimes the victim unwittingly travels on their own passport after being sold the dream of a better life and chance of a great job overseas. Sometimes it is on fake passports that traffickers obtain with the greatest of ease once the victim has been controlled and secured. They are shipped across borders just like we export goods once a transaction has been made.


With Australia being known as a destination country for human trafficking particularly in passages between South East Asia and Australia it makes sense that we should be more alert.


So could Border Control do more? Our friend raised the concern that she has travelled several times across Australia with her daughter and not once was an eyebrow raised yet as soon as she hit Heathrow Airport they were there ready to question her. What signs could our Border Control and even you as passengers look for?


organisations such as Airline Ambassadors and Polaris have shared the following signs of human trafficking you may see on your flight or in the Airport:


A traveller is not dressed appropriately for their route of travel.

You might notice right away that a traveller has few or no personal items. Victims may be less well dressed than their companions. They may be wearing clothes that are the wrong size, or are not appropriate for the weather on their route of travel.


They have a marking or tattoo with a bar code, the word “Daddy.”

Many people have tattoos, so a tattoo in itself is obviously not an indicator, but traffickers or pimps feel they own their victims and a barcode tattoo, or a tattoo with “Daddy” or even a man’s name could be a red flag that the person is a victim.


They can’t provide details of their departure location, destination, or flight information.

Traffickers employ a number of tools to avoid raising suspicion about their crime and to keep victims enslaved. Some traffickers won’t tell their victims where they are located, being taken, or even what job they will have.

Because victims don’t have the means to get home or pay for things like food, they must rely on traffickers in order to get by, forcing them to stay in their situation.


Their communication seems scripted, or there are inconsistencies with their story

Sometimes traffickers will coach their victims to say certain things in public to avoid suspicion. A traveller whose story seems inconsistent or too scripted might be trying to hide the real reason for their travel and merely reciting what a trafficker has told them to say.


They can’t move freely in an airport or on a plane, or they are being controlled, closely watched or followed.

People being trafficked into slavery are sometimes guarded in transit. A trafficker will try to ensure that the victim does not escape, or reach out to authorities for help.


Recently we heard the story of a friend who was stopped with her 3 year old daughter at Border Control in the UK. The concern was that they had different surnames. This was exacerbated when the officer asked the 3 year old who this woman was, she chose that moment to refer to her mum by her first name. Luckily our friend was armed with all the appropriate documentation and moved on to enjoy a family holiday.

Once the Border Control was satisfied, she questioned Border Control why they ask so many questions and the answer was simply “we monitor for human trafficking”. This really left a mark on our friend as she recounted the story to us. Before that moment she had not considered that traffickers could move children through countries with ease and in plain sight.


The harsh reality is that they do. Sometimes the victim unwittingly travels on their own passport after being sold the dream of a better life and chance of a great job overseas. Sometimes it is on fake passports that traffickers obtain with the greatest of ease once the victim has been controlled and secured. They are shipped across borders just like we export goods once a transaction has been made.

With Australia being known as a destination country for human trafficking particularly in passages between South East Asia and Australia it makes sense that we should be more alert.

So could Border Control do more? Our friend raised the concern that she has travelled several times across Australia with her daughter and not once was an eyebrow raised yet as soon as she hit Heathrow Airport they were there ready to question her. What signs could our Border Control and even you as passengers look for?

organisations such as Airline Ambassadors and Polaris have shared the following signs of human trafficking you may see on your flight or in the Airport:


A traveller is not dressed appropriately for their route of travel.

You might notice right away that a traveller has few or no personal items. Victims may be less well dressed than their companions. They may be wearing clothes that are the wrong size, or are not appropriate for the weather on their route of travel.


They have a marking or tattoo with a bar code, the word “Daddy.”

Many people have tattoos, so a tattoo in itself is obviously not an indicator, but traffickers or pimps feel they own their victims and a barcode tattoo, or a tattoo with “Daddy” or even a man’s name could be a red flag that the person is a victim.


They can’t provide details of their departure location, destination, or flight information.

Traffickers employ a number of tools to avoid raising suspicion about their crime and to keep victims enslaved. Some traffickers won’t tell their victims where they are located, being taken, or even what job they will have.

Because victims don’t have the means to get home or pay for things like food, they must rely on traffickers in order to get by, forcing them to stay in their situation.


Their communication seems scripted, or there are inconsistencies with their story

Sometimes traffickers will coach their victims to say certain things in public to avoid suspicion. A traveller whose story seems inconsistent or too scripted might be trying to hide the real reason for their travel and merely reciting what a trafficker has told them to say.


They can’t move freely in an airport or on a plane, or they are being controlled, closely watched or followed.

People being trafficked into slavery are sometimes guarded in transit. A trafficker will try to ensure that the victim does not escape, or reach out to authorities for help.




They are afraid to discuss themselves around others, deferring any attempts at conversation to someone who appears to be controlling them.

Fear and intimidation are two of the tools that traffickers use to control people in slavery. Traffickers often prevent victims from interacting with the public because the victim might say something that raises suspicions about their safety and freedom.


Child trafficking

A child being trafficked for sexual exploitation may be dressed in a sexualized manner, or seem to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

A child may appear to be malnourished and/or shows signs of physical or sexual abuse, such as bruises, scars, or cigarette burns.


If you see anything suspicious report it immediately to Airport security or if you are mid flight tell a flight attendant. It may be nothing but it is better to be safe than sorry. If we are all on alert and Border Control are watching closely we can close the gap on trafficking across borders via the airlines and that’s one way to cut a traffickers supply line. Every little bit helps make a difference!


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