Press Releases

On July 1, 2010, Innocents at Risk’s Deborah Sigmund, along with representatives from ICE, CBP, the Department of State, American Ambassadors, and American Airlines, presented on the work they have been doing to raise awareness about human trafficking on flights and streamlining the process of reporting trafficking situations. Other key individuals who came include Congressman Frank Wolfe, Congressman Joe Pitts, Congressman Trent Franks, and Congresswoman Cathy Rodgers McMorris. Representative Chris Smith opened with remarks about how cooperation between “trailblazing” organizations like Innocents at Risk and governmental organizations are the key to success. Amy O’Neill Richard, Senior Advisor to the Director at the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons at the U.S. Department of State, presented next, celebrating the 10th anniversary of both the UN trafficking protocal and the TIP report, which for the first time includes the United States. Richard emphasized the new four-P paradigm- prevention of trafficking, protection of victims, prosecution of criminals, and most recently, partnership of NGO’s, governmental agencies, and companies to combat human trafficking. She closed by suggesting that airlines maintain a zero-tolerance policy on trafficking and ask providers and contractors to do the same, and that they talk about the issue at trade shows, with TSA articles, on their websites and in public service announcements, and that they provide free travel for victims and hire trafficking survivors. Finally, she commended Chris Smith for his leadership on the issue, and praised Jet Blue and AirFrance for their efforts to raise awareness on the issue, and encouraged all companies to adopt an industry-driven, responsible tourism code that commits travel employers to train employees and raise public awareness. The second presentor was Erik P. Breitzke, Unit Chief of the Human Smuggling and Trafficking Unit of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Breitzke emphazised the difference between alien smuggling, which involves illegal movement, and human trafficking, which is exploitation-based. Human trafficking has more severe penalties, but is harder to police because explotitation must occur and be on American soil for smuggling to become a trafficking situation. Aliens however are an incredibly vulnerable population with little protection, and many don’t realize they are victims or do not know how to get help. It is difficult to know the effectiveness of ICE, because they want to address vulnerable populations before exploitation occurs. That is where organizations like Innocents at Risk and other NGO’s come into play. Breitzke closed by stressing the importance of partnership and leveling a multidiscipline approach to the issue of human trafficking. Christopher Dombek spoke as well of the importance of partnership. He explained how Innocents at Risk approached him with the issue of how to report human trafficking in the air. Before, airline personnel were only able to report suspected trafficking to a TSA agent after leaving the plane, leaving only seconds to react before the criminal escaped. This made it very difficult to actually intervene. However, working in a series of meetings with Innocents at Risk, CBP was able to work out a way for flight attendants to report trafficking directly to ICE or the national hotline, now run by the Polaris Project, giving authorities hours to learn details about the incidence and prepare to intervene effectively. They are now working on a unified system of codes in order to make reports more informative and efficient.

The NGO panel came next. Deborah Sigmund, Founder and Director of Innocents At Risk, spoke eloquently about the work that has been done on this initiative, and all that we can do to continue to change the way trafficking is fought. Her speech is below.

Innocents at Risk is honored to be here today to discuss the Flight Attendant Initiative and our partnership with Airline Ambassadors. I would like to thank Congressman Chris Smith and Congressman James Oberstar, the Chairman of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, for hosting this briefing today on how we can save lives by fighting Human Trafficking in the air.

In June of 2008, Innocents at Risk began the Flight Attendant initiative when American Senior Flight Attendant Sandra Fiorini heard about Innocents at Risk through our awareness and educational community outreach programs. Sandra came to us with valuable information, and we learned that an incredible amount of trafficking was taking place via commercial flights. This was a major breakthrough! A task force of flight attendants led by Sandra was formed, and Innocents at Risk sprang into action. We produced a basic brochure, “Protecting Women and Children from Human Trafficking”, a guide to teach flight attendants how to respond to potential human trafficking situations in airports and on airplanes. The brochure also contains the National Human Trafficking HOTLINE number 1-888-373-7888, which is operated by the Polaris Project.

As the flight attendants initiative grew, we were able to hear and pass to authorities valuable information about human trafficking. For example, flight personnel informed us that twice a week young girls were boarding flights to Chigago for Moscow with one way tickets who were told they would be “models” or “work in TV” in NYC. Working together, Sandra Fiorini and Innocents at Risk were able to inform the hotline and DHS/ICE. Soon an ICE Agent was on the flight, a criminal operation was uncovered and girls were rescued! This is what just one flight attendant can do to save innocent lives. Think of all we could do if we got all 90,000 flight attendants worldwide on board! These truly are an army of angels who want to help our effort.

In January of 2009, John Ingham, director of HSTC, learned of the Flight Attendant Initiative. He assembled together the correct players from DHS, ICE and the FBI to meet with an American Airlines representative (Mike Wascom), The Polaris Project, Sandra Fiorini and Innocents at Risk to discuss how to mobilize this incredible resource of flight attendants, who are our “First Line of Defense” against human trafficking.

As the Flight Attendant Initiative gained strength and momentum, we started getting more governmental attention and support. In March 2009, this initiative became the BLUE LIGHTNING CAMPAIGN. In May of 2009, we met again at HSTC to discuss the Blue Lightening Code of Conduct, which was based on the ECPAT (End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes Code of Conduct established to protect children from sexual exploitation in travel and tourism).

It was a tremendous accomplishment! Innocents at Risk applauds American Airlines for coming to the discussion table and we congratulate the leadership of John Ingham for bringing everyone together to establish a protocol to expand this talented force of individuals and agencies.

The Flight Attendants Initiative continued to expand. In July 2009, I met Nancy Rivard, founder of Airline Ambassadors, at a mission training in Miami. My purpose was to brief Nancy and the attending Flight Attendants on “Blue Lightening”. Nancy and Airline Ambassadors were eager to join forces in our growing battle to fight human trafficking.

Airline Ambassadors brings a vital work force of over 6,000 members and corporate partners dedicated to preventing trafficking in the U.S. and around the world. With their focus on ending child trafficking, we have already had some major successes. I have personally witnessed how quickly law enforcement responds to the calls by flight attendants. When reports come in to the hotline, ICE agents come immediately to meet the plane as it reaches the ground. This lightning-fast response is helping to save lives. However, this is ONLY A FRACTION OF CHILDREN WHO COULD BE SAVED.

We need to do more! To date, Innocents at Risk has provided airline personnel with thousands of brochures and blue hot-line wrist bands supported only by private and corporate sponsors, but we can do so much more. We need to train all 90,000 flight attendants worldwide and ALL Airline personal. Today, we are asking the airlines to incorporate Human Trafficking training into their basic annual airline training and to help us educate passengers with acceptable trafficking information in in-flight magazines. Together, we can open thousands of eyes to this horror, and take control of the airways, to form an impenetrable defense that will protect children everywhere.

We thank you in advance for helping us save innocent lives.

Nancy Rivard is President and Founder of Airline Ambassadors, a humanitarian relief organization that escorts kids who need medical care, puts vulnerable children in safehouses, and is the only independent relief organization in the world. Airlines Ambassadors teamed up with Innocents at Risk when Rivard saw an article about Deborah Sigmund and invited her to a training session. Rivard spoke passionately about the power that just a few educated individuals have to save children from trafficking. On a recent mission to orphanages in the Dominican Republic (see more here), Rivard, Sigmund and others were able to spot and assist the flight attendants in reporting three incidences of trafficking. Just on one flight! She urged all airlines to adopt corporate social resonsibility commitments for their company, and to put into place emergency procedure training on trafficking, as well as ensure crew briefing, and provide information in bulletins and in-flight media about what trafficking looks like and what you can do to stop it. She also encourages us all to observe who is on each flight that we are on, and to be especially aware of chidlren and young women traveling alone. Just one (non-confrontational!) conversation about what they are doing can give you a lot of insight as to whether this situation is right.

Innocents at Risk would like to thank Congressman Chris Smith for all of his leadership, speakers Amy O’Neill Richard, Erik P. Breitzke, Christopher Dombek, and Nancy Rivard for their eloquance, and Congressmen Frank Wolfe, Joe Pitts, Trent Franks, and Cathy Rodgers McMorris for their support. This briefing was an enormous success!

Check out the photos here!


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 24, 2009
Contact: Andrea Rodgers
Phone: 202-422-2692
Email: missa@askmissa.com
Website: www.innocentsatrisk.org

 

Innocents at Risk to Host Reception and Screening of the Movie, “Taken” to Raise Awareness about Human Trafficking and to Raise Funds to Expand Their “Blue Lightning,” Flight Attendant Initiative

 

Washington, DC – On June 29, 2009, Innocents at Risk will host a reception and screening of the movie, “Taken” starring Liam Neeson and Maggie Grace. The event will take place at the Letelier Theatre at 3251 Prospect Street NW, Upper Courtyard, Washington, D.C. 20007. This event will raise awareness and raise funds to support the vital work that Innocents at Risk is doing. There will be a reception with wine and heavy hors d’ouevres in the courtyard followed by a screening of the movie, “Taken”. After the screening, experts fighting human trafficking will take part in a Q & A session.

Since 2004, Innocents at Risk has been doing essential work to create awareness of the global threat of human trafficking in the United States and abroad.  This illicit industry, which generates over $32 billion annually, is the fastest growing criminal business in the world and the most lucrative, second to drug trafficking.  The numbers are staggering.  More than 3,000,000 women and children are sold into servitude annually; 18,000 enter the United States by train, car or plane and 300,000 are trafficked within the U. S.   
 
In 2008, Innocents at Risk launched their Flight Attendant Initiative, providing approximately one-third of American Airlines’ 19,000 flight attendants with their brochure, “Protecting Women and Children from Human Trafficking”.  The brochure alerts flight attendants to the signs of trafficking and gives them the National Hotline Number 1-888-373-7888 to call in addition to other critical information.  As a result, hundreds of flight attendants have called the Hotline to report situations of potential victims, and lives are being saved. The Flight Attendant Initiative, recently named “Blue Lightning” by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is supported by the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, ICE, Customs Border Control and countless NGOs in the United States and around the globe. 

A donation of $75 is required to attend. Proceeds from the evening will be used to expand “Blue Lightning” to reach 50,000 more flight attendants at American and other airlines who are in a position to call the national Hotline Number immediately when they notice suspicious activity and possible victims.  The guest list is limited, so it is important to respond as soon as possible by purchasing your ticket online at http://www.innocentsatrisk.org. If you prefer to pay by check, please send a check for $75 per person made payable to “Innocents at Risk” to Deborah Sigmund at 1101 30th Street, Suite 500, Washington, DC 20007.

For more tickets and more information, contact Andrea Rodgers at 202-422-2692, missa@askmissa.com, or visit www.innocentsatrisk.org.

About Innocents at Risk

Innocents at Risk a child-advocacy non-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization established to fight the trafficking and exploitation of women and children through awareness programs aimed at educating the public of these crimes. Innocents at Risk partners with NGO’s and has The United States Department of State, which has endorsed the organization’s efforts on behalf of the three million women and children who are trafficked annually worldwide.

 

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 19, 2009

Contact: Andrea Rodgers
Phone: 202-422-2692
Email: missa@askmissa.com
Website: www.innocentsatrisk.org

 

Members of Congress, The Diplomatic Community, The Corporate Sector, Non-Government Organizations and The Philanthropic Community Come Together To Fight Human Trafficking

An Evening to Benefit Innocents at Risk Hosted by The Ambassador of France, H.E. Pierre Vimont

 

Washington, DC – On May 20, 2009, the 3rd Annual Evening to Benefit Innocents at Risk event will take place at the Residence of The Ambassador of France, H.E. Pierre Vimont.   An Evening to Benefit Innocents at Risk brings together Members of Congress, the Diplomatic Community, the Corporate Sector, Non-Government Organizations and the Philanthropic Community to fight child exploitation.  Each year, this event draws an extraordinary crowd of VIP’s in support of the fight against human trafficking. During the evening, Innocents at Risk will honor The Honorable Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), a strong leader in Congress who has worked tirelessly to combat human trafficking.  

“Innocents at Risk applauds the work that Carolyn Maloney has done to protect children from this evil,” said Innocents at Risk Founder, Deborah Sigmund. “I hope that others will get involved in the fight to end trafficking. In the name of children, we all must work to end these atrocities.”

 An Evening to Benefit Innocents at Risk has solidified itself as the most exclusive must attend event in Washington, DC featuring both style and substance.  This year’s Emcee will be Pamela Brown, Anchor for ABC 7/WJLA-TV. Tickets cost $500 per person, and benefit Innocents at Risk,  a child-advocacy non-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization established to fight the trafficking and exploitation of women and children through awareness programs aimed at educating the public of these crimes.  

Following the Reception, guests are invited to a private after-party at Washington’s exclusive L2 Lounge in Cady’s Alley at 3315 M Street, NW, Washington, DC 20007.

 For more tickets and more information, contact Andrea Rodgers at 202-422-2692, missa@askmissa.com, or visit www.innocentsatrisk.org.

 About Innocents at Risk

Innocents at Risk a child-advocacy non-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization established to fight the trafficking and exploitation of women and children through awareness programs aimed at educating the public of these crimes. Innocents at Risk partners with NGO’s and has The United States Department of State, which has endorsed the organization’s efforts on behalf of the three million women and children who are trafficked annually worldwide.

 

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