Speaking with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, Airbnb’s Global Head of Trust and Risk Management has said the short-term property-letting website has teamed up with US anti-trafficking charity Polaris in a bid to prevent the service being used by human traffickers who sexually exploit vulnerable women and girls.
Nick Shapiro said Airbnb will work with Polaris to stop its properties being used as “pop-up brothels”, and train its staff on how to spot the signs of modern slavery and human trafficking.
“We’re taking a modern approach to combating modern slavery by leveraging the innovation of the sharing economy to better spot and stop potential exploitation ahead of time,” Shapiro said.
“Exploitation and trafficking are still all too common in today’s society, but we are eager to use our global reach to help assist in the effort to end it once and for all.”
Police in the UK have warned that traffickers and prostitutes are increasingly using short-term property rentals as temporary bases from which to sell sexual services, and that many are using platforms such as Airbnb to secure accommodation.
Pop-up brothels are typically closed down by the criminals who run them within weeks if not days to prevent police from raiding them.
Last week, officials in the UK city of Oxford urged the British government to better regulate the short-term rentals market after seeing an increase in the number of pop-up brothels appearing in the region.
“We know of short-term lets in Oxford being used as ‘pop-up’ brothels associated with sex trafficking, and reports of parties with up to 100 guests suddenly appearing in residential areas,” Councillor Alex Hollingsworth said.
“The original idea of short-term lets was to rent out unused rooms, or houses that were empty because the owners were on holiday themselves, for a few days at a time.
“What we now see in Oxford, like other cities, is properties essentially being used as hotels or guest-houses, but without any of the regulation and safety checks that hotels and guest houses undertake.”
Many women forced into the sex trade in the UK are trafficked into the country from Eastern Europe, often having been conned into travelling having falsey been promised well-paid work and a better life.
Once they arrive, they are often stripped of their travel documents, and made to sell themselves to multiple clients a day in different brothels around the country.
In July last year, a Romanian couple admitted operating a number of pop-up brothels in and around the city of Manchester, where they employed Eastern European women as prostitutes.
Alexe Popa and Gabriela Diac ran four pop-up brothels across the city, Manchester Crown Court heard.
Rampant poaching decimates South African sea snail populations
Poachers have stolen 96 million abalone sea snails from the coastal waters of South Africa over the past 18 years, leading to a huge collapse in numbers of a species that was once abundant in the region, according to a new report from illegal wildlife trade monitoring NGO Traffic.
The study found that 90% of seas snails smuggled out of South Africa make their way to Hong Kong, where the animal’s meat is considered a delicacy, as it is in many other Asian nations.
Traffic estimates that poachers in South Africa are typically responsible for the disappearance of 2,000 tonnes of abalone every year, more than 20 times the amount that is allowed to be farmed legally.
In total, the illicit market is thought to be worth some $60 million annually.
Traffic’s report, which has been released alongside a documentary that explores the illegal trade, warns that the rocketing illegal harvesting of the animal is resulting in a huge annual loss for the local economy, and is at least partly being controlled by organised crime networks.
According to the study, an average of at least one abalone seizure took place every day between 2000 and 2016.
“Continued illegal harvesting and associated trade will have devastating impacts on abalone stocks and far-reaching negative socio-economic consequences for coastal communities whose economies, to a greater or lesser extent, are dependent on the proceeds of abalone poaching and trade,” the study says.
Noting the trade’s link to organised criminal cartels, it said: “Seizures of abalone often involved seizures of other contraband, commonly cash, cars or drugs.
“A number of seizures have included other high-value wildlife products, suggesting that the syndicates involved are not only focusing on the trade in poached abalone.”
Concluding its report, Traffic makes a number of recommendations, including the establishment of traceability systems, regional collaboration with neighbouring countries to prevent the smuggling of abalone, and the setting up of state-driven socio-economic initiatives to stem poaching of the animal.
Abalone can fetch more than $550 a plate in parts of Asia, driving many poor South Africans to take up poaching, risking their lives by diving in search of the in-demand mollusc.
The decline in local populations of sea snails has also been hit by the presence of Asian organised crime groups, who have moved into the area to take advantage of increasing demand for the animal in their home countries.
No-deal Brexit could hit UK’s ability to tackle organised crime and terrorism, police warn
The UK’s ability to tackle terrorism sand serious organised crime will be severely hampered by a hard Brexit, British police chiefs have warned.
Pulling out of the EU without a deal could see UK law enforcement agencies and security services lose access to vital crime-fighting tools such as the European Arrest Warrant, the Schengen Information System, the bloc’s intelligence systems and data held by Europol.
Announcing a new £2 million ($2.6 million) unit that will explore how alternative systems could be used if no deal is struck between the EU and Britain before the end of next March, Chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) Sara Thornton said: “The fallbacks we’re going to have to use will be slower, will be more bureaucratic and it will make it harder for us to protect UK citizens and make it harder to protect EU citizens.”
“We are determined to do everything we can to mitigate that, but it will be hard.”
Using the recent Salisbury Novichok attack as an example of how a no-deal Brexit could impact UK police operations, Thornton noted how much more difficult it would be for Britain to detain the two men suspected of carrying it out should they enter the EU without a European Arrest Warrant in place.
The new unit will examine the effectiveness of non-EU crime fighting institutions and mechanisms, such as Interpol, bilateral channels and Council of Europe conventions.
In a statement on the contingency plans, the National Crime Agency (NCA) said the withdrawal of resources such as the European Criminal Records Information System and the European Multidisciplinary Platform Against Crime Threats would seriously impact Britain’s ability “to track criminals’ movements, monitor sex offenders and locate fugitives”.
“European law enforcement is more effective when we take coordinated action against shared priorities,” said Steve Rodhouse, NCA Director General of Operations.
“A lack of access to these European tools would mean a reduction in the ability of the UK to contribute to keeping Europe safe.”
In May, the Times of London reported that France had attempted to block British attempts to remain part of EU security systems after Brexit, quoting one UK government official as saying: “Normally France is quite helpful when it comes to security co-operation but on this they are being awkward.”
Indian officials rule out gold import fee hike over smuggling fears
The Indian Government has said it is considering taking action to slow the importation of gold into the country, but wants to avoid an increase in importation duties due to fears over smuggling.
A source told India’s PTI news agency that officials are instead considering alternative policy interventions to curb imports, which are having an adverse effect on the value of the rupee.
“There is not much scope for hike in import duty on gold,” the source said.
“Rather, it would be some kind of policy measures to reduce gold import. Higher import duty on gold may increase smuggling activities.”
While failing to specify the measures the Government is considering, the source said raising import duty on gold so close to the festive season would likely result in an increase in smuggling attempts.
Indian officials are due this week to announce a new list of items that will be subject to importation limits as part of wider efforts to cut the country’s growing current account deficit, and stem the fall of the rupee.
A comprehensive list of non-essential items are being considered, including steel, finished steel, furniture, electronics and a number of food items.
The smuggling of gold into India has rocketed over recent years after the Government hiked import duties to 10% in 2013 as part of an earlier effort to cut the country’s current account deficit.
According to the World Gold Council, traffickers smuggled some 120 tons of gold into India last year, with nearly the same amount expected in 2018.
After searching the flight steward, customs officers discovered gold weighing 1.05kg worth an estimated 3.1 million rupees ($50,000), according to the airport’s Joint Commissioner of Customs Anubha Singh.
Commenting at the time, a Singapore Airlines spokesperson confirmed that a member of its cabin crew staff had been detained by Delhi customs authorities, adding: “Singapore Airlines will provide full co-operation to the investigating authorities. We are unable to provide details of the crew member concerned due to confidentiality reasons.”
- Rampant poaching decimates South African sea snail populations
- No-deal Brexit could hit UK’s ability to tackle organised crime and terrorism, police warn
- #TakeBackPublicHealth: No place for Big Tobacco’s dirty schemes
- Indian officials rule out gold import fee hike over smuggling fears
- Colombian drug gang kingpin charged with multi-million dollar cocaine plot after extradition to US
9 February 2018
9 February 2018
8 February 2018
28 November 2017
28 November 2017
Follow us on Twitter
Articles4 weeks ago
Police find major narcotunnel running across Mexican border to abandoned KFC restaurant
Articles4 weeks ago
Spanish police smash Europe’s largest illegal turtle farm on Balearic Islands
Articles2 days ago
Colombian drug gang kingpin charged with multi-million dollar cocaine plot after extradition to US
Articles4 weeks ago
Big tobacco firms source of two-thirds of smuggled cigarettes, study finds
Articles2 weeks ago
Google unveils new tool to identify child sexual exploitation material online
Articles4 weeks ago
Customs officers in Malaysia seize record $12 million haul of rhino horn
Articles1 week ago
Facebook hosting hundreds of illicit wildlife sales listings in Thailand
Articles2 weeks ago
Malaysia needs new anti-smuggling task force to prevent massive tax losses, MICCI says