People working in banks are to be taught how to recognise victims of human trafficking and modern slavery who visit branches as part of a new initiative launched by the European Bankers Alliance (EBA) and the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Under the scheme, bank staff will learn how to spot and report suspected trafficking victims by looking out for a number of “red-flag indicators”.
Workers will be told to look out for customers who appear to be under the control of another person, and those who are injured or in a state of distress. A customer withdrawing money only to immediately hand it over to another person might also be a victim of trafficking, participants in the programme will be told.
The toolkit will be shared confidentially across the EBA, which includes major lenders such as Barclays, Commerzbank, Deutsche Bank, HSBC, Santander, Standard Chartered, UBS, and Western Union.
Nick Lewis, Head of Intelligence and Investigations at Standard Chartered, commented: “Fighting human trafficking is already a priority for us, but saying that is not the same as giving our staff the skills they need to actually be able to identify it when they encounter it.”
Lewis said all Standard Chartered employees would receive training on how to spot the signs of human trafficking and modern slavery.in a bid to fight these “vile and inhumane crimes”.
“The trafficking of people is a business and it’s about money; a lot of people globally are very wealthy because of slavery and exploitation,” said Neil Giles, Director of NGO Stop the Traffik, which is a member of the EBA.
“It is only through collaboration that we will generate the systemic disruption required to bear down on modern slavery and undermine the markets in which people are bought and sold.”
Nearly 46 million people are trapped in some form of modern slavery worldwide, according to the 2016 Global Slavery Index, which is compiled by rights group the Walk Free Foundation.
Although the Index found India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Uzbekistan were home to the highest absolute numbers of modern slaves last year, human trafficking and forced labour is a growing problem in Europe.
In the UK alone, as many as 13,000 people are living as modern slaves, according to official figures.
Although Britain has been at the forefront of tackling the problem, introducing the Modern Slavery Act in 2015, the UK government has recently come under fire for failing to respond to the needs of trafficking victims once they are identified.
The Work and Pensions Committee last week said many modern slaves were being left destitute while traffickers are able to escape without punishment.
Committee Chair Frank Field commented: “What these people go through is unimaginable, and yet it is happening, here, now, and our response seems almost lackadaisical: a paper exercise earning you recognition as having been enslaved, which then entitles you to almost nothing as far as we can see.”