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Human trafficking

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From Himalayan villages to Eastern European cities, people, especially women and girls, are attracted by the prospect of well-paid jobs. Traffickers recruit victims through fake advertisements, mail-order bride catalogues and casual acquaintances.

Upon arrival at their destination, victims are placed in conditions controlled by traffickers while they are exploited to earn illicit revenues. Many are physically confined, their travel or identity documents are taken away and they or their families are threatened if they do not cooperate. Women and girls forced to work as prostitutes are blackmailed by the threat that traffickers will tell their families. Trafficked children are dependent on their traffickers for food, shelter and other basic necessities. Traffickers also play on victims' fears that authorities in a strange country will prosecute or deport them if they ask for help.

Trafficking in human beings is a global issue, but a lack of systematic research means that reliable data on the trafficking of human beings that would allow comparative analyses and the design of countermeasures is scarce. There is a need to strengthen the criminal justice response to trafficking through legislative reform, awareness-raising and training, as well as through national and international cooperation. The support and protection of victims who give evidence is key to prosecuting the ringleaders behind the phenomenon.

Human trafficking can be broken into three constituent parts:

- The act(ion) of: recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons;

- By means of: threat or use of force, coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power or vulnerability, or giving payments or benefits to a person in control of the victim;

- For the purpose of exploitation, which includes, at a minimum, exploiting the prostitution of others, other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or similar practices, and the removal of organs.

How is “trafficking in persons” different from the smuggling of migrants?

Consent: The smuggling of migrants, while often undertaken in dangerous or degrading conditions, involves migrants who have consented to the smuggling. Trafficking victims, on the other hand, have either never consented or, if they initially consented, that consent has been rendered meaningless by the coercive, deceptive or abusive actions of the traffickers.

Exploitation: Smuggling ends with the migrants' arrival at their destination, whereas trafficking in persons involves the ongoing exploitation of the victims in some manner to generate illicit profits for the traffickers. From a practical standpoint, victims of human trafficking also tend to be affected more severely, become more traumatized by their experiences and are also in greater need of protection from revictimization and other forms of further abuse than are smuggled migrants.

Transnationality: Finally, smuggling is always transnational, whereas trafficking in persons may not be. Human trafficking can occur regardless of whether victims are taken to another country or only moved from one place to another within the same country.

Fact sheet on human trafficking

Over the past decade, trafficking in human beings has reached epidemic proportions. No country is immune. Motives: economic disparity, high unemployment, disruption of traditional livelihoods.

Trafficking in human beings is not confined to the sex industry. Children are trafficked to work in sweatshops as bonded labour and men work illegally in the "three D-jobs" – dirty, difficult and dangerous. A recent CIA report estimated that between 45,000 to 50,000 women and children are brought to the United States every year under false pretenses and are forced to work as prostitutes, abused labourers or servants. UNICEF estimates that more than 200,000 children are enslaved by cross-border smuggling in West and Central Africa.

Additionally, the spread of HIV/AIDS among victims trafficked into prostitution makes victim support and repatriation a public health issue. The treatment of victims as a commodity is also a violation of their most basic rights to freedom, autonomy and human dignity.

In the UK:

Up to 15,000 women are trafficked annually for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Women from Eastern Europe, particularly from Albania, Romania, Bulgaria, and Lithuania are brought to the U.K. for the sex trade. The U.K. has become susceptible to child trafficking. Children from Africa are brought to Britain for domestic servitude or sexual exploitation. While women and children are trafficked primarily for sexual exploitation, men are exploited in sweatshops or in the agricultural industry.

January 2002: the U.K. passed a stop-gap measure under the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act that makes trafficking for prostitution a criminal offense with a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison. The Sexual Offenses Bill expected to pass later this year will replace the stop-gap measure. This new bill comprehensively reforms and modernizes the law on sexual exploitation.

The lack of reliable statistics can be attributed to a number of factors. Many countries lack antitrafficking in persons legislation. Even when legislation is in place, laws may only define human trafficking as applying to certain exploitative practices, such as sexual exploitation, and not other forms of exploitative behaviour. Moreover, in many countries, the definition of human trafficking applies only to the exploitation of women and children overlooking the exploitation of adult male victims. Further, if comprehensive laws do exist, they are not always enforced and victims may not be recognized as victims of crime but may be seen as smuggled migrants.

In a study of the magnitude of human trafficking in the United Kingdom, Kelley and Regan, basing their study on 71 known cases, extrapolated the actual figure at between 142 and 1420 cases annually. The Dutch National Rapporteur Against Trafficking in Human Beings estimates that only 5% of victims report their victimization or come to the attention of government .

According to the United States Department of State´s "Trafficking in Persons" (TIP) report for the year 2005, the number of people globally trafficked across international borders is between 600,000 and 800,000 per year. The main criticism of human trafficking estimates is that the ranges are often excessively wide, sometimes as much as a high of 10 times that of the low estimate.

GPAT – Global Programme Against Traficking in Human Beings

Designed by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in collaboration with the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI). Launched in March 1999.

Assists Member States in their efforts to combat trafficking in human beings. Highlights the involvement of organized criminal groups in human trafficking. Promotes the development of effective ways of cracking down on perpetrators.

Its objective is bringing to the foreground the involvement of organized criminal groups in human trafficking and to promote the development of effective criminal justice-related responses. The GPAT's key components are data collection, assessment and technical cooperation.

Assessment: The assessment component of the Programme, performed in cooperation with UNICRI, includes data collection on various smuggling routes and the methods used by organized criminal groups in trafficking. The UN is also collecting "best practices" used in combating trafficking and the involvement of organized crime. A database containing trafficking trends and routes, as well as information about victims and traffickers has been established so that policymakers, practitioners, researchers and the NGO community can use the collected data.

Technical Cooperation: Seven countries are now involved in technical cooperation projects. Specific intervention measures are being introduced that are designed to strengthen the capacity to combat forms of trafficking at the national and international levels. These measures will assist countries of origin, transit and destination to develop joint strategies and practical actions.

At the national level the Programme aims to:

· promote awareness-raising (such as public awareness campaigns) of trafficking in human beings and especially strengthen institutional capacity;

· train law enforcement officers, prosecutors and judges;

· advise on drafting and revising relevant legislation;

· provide advice and assistance on establishing and strengthening anti-trafficking elements; and

· strengthen victim and witness support.

At the international level the Programme aims to:

· provide assistance to agencies, institutions and governments as part of an interdisciplinary effort to design effective measures against trafficking in human beings.


Countries of origin: (Based upon the frequency that a country is reported as an origin of trafficking in human beings)

- 11 countries score very high as countries of origin: Belarus, the Republic of Moldova, the Russian Federation and Ukraine (Commonwealth of Independent States); Albania, Bulgaria, Lithuania and Romania (Central and South Eastern Europe); China (Eastern Asia); Thailand (South-Eastern Asia); and Nigeria (Western Africa).

- 27 countries are listed as high: Armenia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan (Commonwealth of Independent States); Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Poland and Slovakia (Central and South Eastern Europe); Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan (South Central Asia); Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, the Philippines and Viet Nam (South-Eastern Asia); Benin, Ghana and Morocco (Africa); Brazil, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Mexico (Latin America and the Caribbean).

Countries of destination: (Based upon the frequency that a country is reported as an origin of trafficking in human beings)

- 10 countries score very high: 5 in Western Europe - Belgium, Germany, Greece, Italy and the Netherlands. 2 Asian: Israel and Turkey, Japan and Thailand. United States

- 21 countries (or territories) are listed as high: Austria, Denmark, France, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom (Western Europe); Australia (Oceania); Bosnia and Herzegovina, Czech Republic, Kosovo (Serbia and Montenegro) and Poland (Central and South Eastern Europe); Cambodia (South-Eastern Asia); Canada (North America); the People's Republic of China, Hong Kong China SAR, Taiwan Province of China, (Eastern Asia); Cyprus, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (Western Asia and Turkey); India and Pakistan (South-Central Asia).

Reported trafficking in Europe:

Central and South Eastern Europe was reported as an origin, transit and destination sub-region, while Western Europe is reported largely as a destination sub-region.

CEE: 4 are very high as origin: Albania, Bulgaria, Lithuania and Romania.

CEE as destination: from the Commonwealth of Independent States.

Western Europe destination sub-region: all origins. Specially to Belgium, Greece, Italy and The Netherlands.

Reported trafficking in Africa:

Destination: Western Europe, followed by Western Africa.

Origin: Nigeria, Benin, Ghana and Morocco. Intra-regional trafficking.

Reported trafficking in Asia:

As origin region: intra-regional trafficking, in particular to Thailand, Japan, India, Taiwan and Pakistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Nepal, the Philippines and Viet Nam.

As a destination: mainly from the Commonwealth of Independent States, followed by South-Eastern Asia. Thailand, Japan (Eastern Asia), Israel and Turkey (Western Asia and Turkey).

Reported trafficking in the Commonwealth of Independent States:

Main destinations: Western Europe and North America are the main destinations. Also Central and South Eastern Europe, Western Asia and Turkey.

Origin: Belarus, Moldova, the Russian Federation and Ukraine. The Commonwealth of Independent States is rarely reported as a destination region.

Reported Trafficking in the Americas:

Origin: No country from this region was ranked very high in the citation index as an origin country, but Brazil, Colombia (South America), Dominican Republic (Caribbean), Guatemala and Mexico (Central America) were ranked high in the citation index. Western Europe as the destination for victims trafficked out of this region.

Destination: USA anda Canada.

Reported trafficking in Oceania:

The region comprises of two sub-regions but human trafficking to the region, primarily a destination region, focuses on the sub-region of Australia and New Zealand. Within this region, only Australia ranks high in the citation index. Victims trafficked into Oceania, are reported to be trafficked predominantly from Thailand and Philippines.

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