2.3.14 Trafficking and Cross Border Movements

Facts/messages: Forced migration is that which results from coercion, violence, compelling political or environmental reasons, or other forms of duress, rather than from a voluntary action. It often puts migrants in considerable jeopardy. Although the population of forced migrants is small in comparison to labour migrants, it is made up of some of the most vulnerable and marginalized groups. The best-known and most-measured group within the forced migration category is that of “refugees”: people who flee countries hit by war, violence, and chaos, and who are unable or unwilling to return to their home countries because they lack effective protection. Asylum-seekers are individuals who apply for recognition of their refugee status in another country or through an embassy, and who usually must wait pending a decision from an appropriate body. Asylum-seekers are facing increased scrutiny owing to concerns that non-refugee migrants are misusing the asylum system in order to gain regular admission.

Trafficking in human beings is the third most lucrative illicit business in the world, after arms and drug trafficking. While there is often overlap between human trafficking and smuggling, the key difference is the element of exploitation with respect to trafficking. The UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children defines human trafficking under Article 3 (a) as follows: “Trafficking in persons shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation includes, at a minimum, the exploitation or the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.” Many trafficking victims typically apply for advertised jobs with acquaintances, friends and relatives acting as recruiters. Criminal networks, often in collaboration with customs officials, process travel documents and seize victims’ passports upon arrival. Not only do trafficking victims have to deal with the depression that often ensues, but also social stigma, especially in cases of sexual exploitation.

Smuggling of migrants refers to assisting a person who is not a national or permanent resident of a certain country to enter and remain in a state without complying with the necessary requirements for legally entering and remaining in the state. In addition to smuggling per se, the Smuggling of Migrants Protocol also covers the offense of enabling illegal residence. The intention in establishing this offense is to include cases where the entry of migrants is through legal means, such as visitors’ permits or visas, but the stay is through resorting to illegal means. In response to improved border control measures, the number of irregular migrants who turn to the services of smugglers to migrate has risen significantly.

Smuggling of migrants is always transnational in nature. The UN Protocol on the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air defines migrant smuggling under Article 3 (a) as follows: “Smuggling of migrants shall mean the procurement, in order to obtain, directly or indirectly, a financial or other material benefit, of the illegal entry of a person into a State Party of which the person is not a national or a permanent resident.

Methodology: Due to its underground nature, trafficking data is rough and hard to gauge. Obtain criminal justice data to provide a first insight and independent sources of information on the sources of victims and their destinations. Internationally standardized data are still not available, a limitation that hampers the sharing of information between and among states. Aggregated statistics cannot be put together, neither at geographic nor thematic levels.

Indicators that a person may have been trafficked are general in nature and may not all apply in every case of trafficking. Thus, these indicators should be used with caution to create a profile specific to your local context. If no information/intelligence on trafficking in persons is available, some of these indicators may help identify a new or emerging trafficking problem. Be particularly aware of circumstances where there are a number of indicators present, but they don’t fit into a known pattern. This should trigger further research in order to establish a possible new problem. General indicators include: age, sex, location of origin, documentation, last location, transport, circumstances of referral, evidence of abuse, assessment of referring agency. Person-specific human trafficking indicators include, inter alia, 1) Work against free will; 2) Inability to leave the work environment; 3) Controlled movements; 4) Signs of fear or anxiety; 5) Subject to violence or threats of violence against themselves or against their family members and loved ones, etc. It must be mentioned, that the presence or absence of any of these indicators neither proves nor disproves if human trafficking is happening. However, finding these indicators should lead to further investigation.

Primary Source:

  • Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Trade, Labour, Social Affairs or Immigration.

Secondary Source:

  • UNODC (2009). Global Report on Trafficking In Persons. UNODC collected data from 155 countries, from a variety of sources, primarily national Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Trade, Labour, Social Affairs or Immigration.

67  Article 3 (a). Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (2000).
68 According to research, 64 % of recruiters are acquaintances.
69  UNFPA (2006). State of the World Population 2006. A Passage to Hope. Women and International Migration.
70  Article 3 (a). Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air (2000).