What is human trafficking?

Trafficking in human beings is a global phenomenon and occurs in most precarious sectors with weak labour rights, such as the sex industry, building and agricultural sectors, but also in private households. Trafficked persons are exploited for their labour and experience a series of rights violations, ranging from restriction of movement and confiscation of pay, to violence and abuse. Although trafficking is widely recognised as a serious human rights violation, support for trafficked persons is still inadequate, only a small fraction of trafficked persons is identified, and an even smaller percentage decides to press charges. Trafficking is caused by a variety of factors (so-called root causes) that occur in all stages of the trafficking process: in countries of origin (poverty or unequal gender relations) and destination (demand for cheap labour or repressive migration policies) and during the migration process (lack of safe/ legal migration opportunities)

 Trafficking does not always involve the illegal crossing of borders. It can also occur within a country, i.e. without crossing any national borders. Moreover, in many cases trafficked persons enter a country legally, for example as tourists, spouses, students, domestic workers or au pairs. Sometimes they become illegal when they remove themselves from the power of their exploiters, e.g. in the case of workers who only receive a work (and therefore residency) permit for working with a particular employer in a particular industry.

Trafficking in human beings is not a static phenomenon. Although the core of the crime (exploitation, violence and abuse) unfortunately remains the same, the ways, routes and purposes of trafficking are constantly changing under the influence of global and national developments. 

According to Article 3 of UN Protocol to Prevent, Supress and Punish Trafficking in Persons

'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 shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of 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; 

(b) The consent of a victim of trafficking in persons to the intended exploitation set forth in subparagraph (a) of this article shall be irrelevant where any of the means set forth in subparagraph (a) have been used;