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Combatting Trafficking in Persons by Air - Key Actors Discuss Trends, Challenges and Best Practices Across East Africa, Middle East, and the Gulf


Virtual, 1-2 September – In 2018, 41% of victims of trafficking in persons (TIP) detected in the Middle East countries (outside countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council – GCC) were coming from East Africa according to the GLOTIP Report 2020.

In 2020, Kenyan airport authorities reported more than 200 cases of fraudulent travel documents intercepted at Jomo Kenyatta, the international airport of Nairobi. This year, over 200 Burundi nationals were detected suspected to be victims of trafficking in persons at Uganda International Airport en route to the Middle East.

To effectively prevent and combat TIP by air, UNODC organized a first-ever Inter-regional Workshop on Combatting Trafficking in Persons by Air. The workshop saw more than 100 participants, including 26% women, from 16 different countries in East Africa, the Middle East and the Gulf.

Member State representatives and experts including airport law enforcement officers, TIP-specialized police officers and prosecutors, and Foreign Affairs’ representatives as well as labour market regulatory authorities shared their respective experiences and best practices on trends and challenges of TIP when committed by air.

During her presentation, Ms. Lydia Nambuusi, deputy head of the anti-TIP department of the Ugandan Police remarked that “In Uganda, 25% of TIP cases handled are transnational in nature, with victims of TIP commonly traveling to the Middle East, for forced labour, sexual exploitation, forced surrogacy and organ harvest”.

In turn, Mr. Sasa Gosic, representative of INTERPOL’s Human Trafficking and Smuggling of Migrants Unit, added that “500 victims of human trafficking were detected during Operation Weka led by INTERPOL on the African continent and more than 195 individuals have been arrested.”


Faced with the challenges of TIP by air, the Vice President of Fraud Prevention, Investigations & Cybercrime at Emirates Airlines emphasized the strong stand Emirates Airlines have taken to detect victims and combat networks of traffickers: “Our key measures include the adoption of an anti-slavery and human trafficking policy that advocates a zero-tolerance approach as well as the development of an e-learning course to prevent human trafficking for cabin crew and airport ground staff”.

During the workshop, the Director of Grievances and Protection - Bahraini Labour Market Regulatory Authority, shared good practices implemented at the airport, such as assigning specialized focal points for the procedures of migrant workers, raising awareness of airport workers on indicators of trafficking, and providing tools to monitor potential victims upon arrival or during transit. Rights and duties cards and a 24/7 countering TIP hotline are made available for all migrant workers in nine languages.

This unique brainstorming exercise between Member States from East Africa, Middle East and the Gulf highlighted a call for action on stronger national, inter-regional and international cooperation, including more bilateral agreements and awareness-raising at border points.

UNODC is supporting Member States with countering TIP by air, through the Airport Communication Project (AIRCOP), which is implemented by UNODC in partnership with INTERPOL and the World Customs Organization and is facilitating cooperation between origin, transit and destination countries. With more than 40 Joint Airport Interdiction Task Forces in 36 countries, AIRCOP provides an important network to address TIP by air. During the workshop, the Global AIRCOP Coordinator, emphasized that “AIRCOP strongly promotes gender equality and encourages the active participation of female officers at airports to support female victims of TIP”.


Additionally, through the Better Migration Management (BMM) programme, funded by the European Union (EU) Emergency Trust Fund (EUTF) for Africa and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), UNODC provides capacity building for specialised investigation and prosecution units; supports with strengthening of central authorities and international cooperation in criminal matters; and legislative and policy assistance to assist East African Member States in domesticating the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) and its Supplementary Protocols and builds the capacity of criminal justice practitioners in the region to effectively detect, investigate and prosecute such cases.

This activity is organized jointly by the Airport Communication Project (AIRCOP), the Better Migration Management (BMM) programme and the Global Action against Trafficking in Persons and the Smuggling of Migrants - Asia and the Middle East (GLO.ACT), and it contributes to the 2nd investment area of the UNODC Strategic Vision for Africa 2030, which aims at making people safer from human traffickers and migrants smugglers.

This activity is implemented thanks to the contribution of the European Union Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF), the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the European Union Global Illicit Flows Programme (EU GIFP), the European Union Directorate-General for International Partnerships (DG INTPA), Australia and Austria.

Furthermore, it is organized within the framework of the regional programmes of UNODC’s offices of Eastern Africa (ROEA), the Middle East and North Africa (ROMENA), and the Gulf Cooperation Council Region (OGCCR).

Looking forward, the next step of this new cooperation between East Africa, the Middle East, and the Gulf will be an in-person workshop, supported by UNODC, to be held in the United Arab Emirates, 1-3 November 2021, with a focus on practical solutions to effectively detect and investigate TIP cases by air.


For more information, please contact:

Ms. Cécile Plunet –

AIRCOP Global Coordinator


Mr. Johan Kruger –

UNODC Regional Office for Eastern Africa


Ms. Harsheth Virk –

UNODC Regional Office for the Middle East and North Africa


Mr. Karim Helal –

UNODC Office for the Gulf Cooperation Council Region


For more information, please contact: 

Mr. Johan Kruger –

Head of Transnational Organized Crime, Illicit Trafficking and Terrorism Programmes - UNODC ROEA

UNODC Programme Office in Ethiopia