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Human trafficking, suspicious behaviour the focus of new airport safety campaign

Airport staff and travellers will be taught how to recognise and respond to human trafficking and slavery crimes as part of the Australian Federal Police’s (AFP) rebooted national Airport Watch campaign.

“This is where we have the best chance of stopping harm from occurring before the person goes off-shore, or goes into our community where offending happens behind closed doors,” said AFP Airport Police Commander at Canberra Airport, Simon Henry.

“Airport staff have an important role to play in protecting people who are vulnerable to these exploitative crime types, particularly as international travel increases again.”

The AFP received 223 reports of human trafficking in the 2019-20 financial year, which included reports of trafficking people and children as well as forced marriages, forced labour and sexual exploitation.

The revamped Airport Watch campaign comes as air travel and airport employment begins to increase. According to the AFP, COVID-19 has meant a lot of changes for the aviation environment including new employees who have never worked within airports before.

The Airport Watch campaign also aims to educate aviation and other staff at airports across the country on what suspicious activity looks like and how they can report it.

The AFP said this activity could look like someone displaying an unusually keen interest in security procedures; recording or taking photos in sensitive airport areas; asking questions to gain information about the airport; or trying to gain access to secure areas.

“Airport Watch aims to educate those working in and travelling through major airports about what should be reported and how,” Commander Henry said.

He said the public also plays a critical role in keeping the community safe and called on Canberrans and those travelling through the city to be alert as domestic travel ramps up.

Canberra Airport’s head of aviation Michael Thompson welcomed the reboot of the program saying it would strengthen the airport’s current security measures.

Airport Watch was first launched in Australia in 2012 and has a hotline for reporting concerning behaviour: 131 AFP (237).

For more information on Airport Watch, visit the AFP website.

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