LONDON, May 2 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A fearful
customer, a flurry of late-night transactions or suspicious
financial documents; for bank staff these could all be giveaway
signs of the booming global trade in humans.
Bank employees will now be trained to spot and report signs
of human trafficking using a practical toolkit - including
"red-flag indicators" and case studies - launched by the
European Bankers Alliance and the Thomson Reuters Foundation on
The toolkit will be shared confidentially across the
alliance, which was established in 2015 by the Thomson Reuters
Foundation and includes Barclays, HSBC, Western Union, Standard
Chartered, Deutsche Bank, Santander, UBS and Commerzbank.
Nick Lewis, head of intelligence and investigations at
Standard Chartered, said all employees would receive training
based on the kit to fight the "vile and inhumane crimes" of
human trafficking and modern slavery.
"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," said Lewis.
The initiative also involves non-governmental organisations
(NGOs) and law enforcement agencies in a joint response to
rising concerns about the growth of trafficking rings operating
Nearly 46 million people globally are living as slaves,
forced to work in factories, mines and farms, sold for sex,
trapped in debt bondage or born into servitude, according to the
2016 Global Slavery Index by rights group Walk Free Foundation.
In Britain, an estimated 10,000 to 13,000 people are living
as slaves, according to government figures.
Through access to huge amounts of traffickers' financial
data and face-to-face contact with possible victims, banks are
in a unique position to find information to identify and disrupt
trafficking and help law enforcement agencies prosecute the
Activities covered in the kit include customer spending,
flows of money in and out of global accounts as well as
suspicious behaviour observed in bank branches.
Lewis said Standard Chartered staff would be trained to spot
victims in branches who appear threatened or under the control
of traffickers, and would then know what to do.
He said that in certain cases, employees could also ask a
customer if they are ok. "This opens up a whole new domain of
engagement and identification of trafficking victims ... and a
whole new potential avenue for victims to say 'I'm not ok'," he
But he said staff would not interrogate customers and would
only act when particular circumstances arouse suspicion.
Lewis said that collaborating with other partners and a
greater understanding of how money moves in source, transit and
destination countries was also vital.
The alliance also includes anti-trafficking NGO Stop the
Traffik, Europe's police agency Europol, the UK Anti-Slavery
Commissioner, the UK National Crime Agency and pro bono lawyers.
"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 Stop the
"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."
(Reporting by Ed Upright, Editing by Emma Batha. Please credit
Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson
Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights,
trafficking and climate change. Visit news.trust.org)