In order to prevent human trafficking, we need to be aware of the crime and learn to recognize the signs.

What is human trafficking?

Human trafficking is a process comprised of three elements:

  1. the act (recruitment, harbor, transport)
  2. the means (use of deception, force, coercion, and threats)
  3. the purpose (exploitation)

It is sometimes confused with human smuggling, which may be the means of transport in some trafficking cases. Smuggling, however, is not necessarily a component of trafficking and the main difference is that human smuggling ends upon arrival at the destination. Human trafficking culminates in the exploitation of the victim.

Human trafficking involves three stages

  1. Recruitment – methods include recruitment through informal networks of families or friends, advertisements for work or study abroad, agencies offering work, study, marriage or travel abroad, false marriages, purchase of children from their guardians
  2. Transportation – victims may be covertly smuggled in vehicles, containers, trains, or on foot, or may be overtly transported by presenting stolen or forged documents or genuine documents providing the right of entry (trafficking, furthermore, may occur domestically without crossing any border)
  3. Exploitation – common forms of exploitation include, but are not limited to, forced labor, sexual exploitation, removal of organs or body parts, criminal activities, begging, forced marriage, illicit adoption, armed conflicts

How do people fall victim to trafficking?

Anyone can become a victim of human trafficking. However, there are a number of vulnerabilities of which traffickers take advantage, including: poverty, discrimination, and lack of opportunities.

Recruitment methods generally involve deception, preying on these vulnerabilities. Once under the control of a trafficker, victims are held by force or coercion, often accruing exorbitant “debts” to their traffickers for their services, and yet are concurrently exploited for the traffickers’ profit.

It is important to remember that, while some victims will be engaged in criminal activities, they are victims first and foremost, and need to be treated as such.

Recognizing the signs

Persons exhibiting these general indicators may be victims of a trafficking case:

  • Believe that they must work against their will
  • Be unable to leave their work environment
  • Show signs that their movements are being controlled
  • Feel that they cannot leave
  • Show fear or anxiety
  • Be subjected to violence or threats of violence against themselves or against their family members and loved ones
  • Suffer injuries that appear to be the result of an assault
  • Suffer injuries or impairments typical of certain jobs or control measures
  • Suffer injuries that appear to be the result of the application of control measures
  • Be distrustful of the authorities
  • Be threatened with being handed over to the authorities
  • Be afraid of revealing their immigration status
  • Not be in possession of their passports or other travel or identity documents, as those documents are being held by someone else
  • Have false identity or travel documents
  • Be found in or connected to a type of location likely to be used for exploiting people
  • Be unfamiliar with the local language
  • Not know their home or work address
  • Allow others to speak for them when addressed directly
  • Act as if they were instructed by someone else
  • Be forced to work under certain conditions
  • Be disciplined through punishment
  • Be unable to negotiate working conditions
  • Receive little or no payment
  • Have no access to their earnings
  • Work excessively long hours over long periods
  • Not have any days off
  • Live in poor or substandard accommodations
  • Have no access to medical care
  • Have limited or no social interaction
  • Have limited contact with their families or with people outside of their immediate environment
  • Be unable to communicate freely with others
  • Be under the perception that they are bonded by debt
  • Be in a situation of dependence
  • Come from a place known to be a source of human trafficking
  • Have had the fees for their transport to the country of destination paid for by facilitators, whom they must payback by working or providing services in the destination
  • Have acted on the basis of false promises

For more specific indicators of different types of trafficking situations, please refer to the pages below:

What needs to be done to prevent human trafficking?      

  • Awareness
  • National legal framework
  • Policy and response capacity
  • Victim protection and assistance
  • International cooperation