Human trafficking

Human trafficking, also referred to as modern slavery, is a type of serious organised crime with both national and cross-border elements and as a crime it is in violation of fundamental human rights. With 27,6 million known victims at any given time it is a serious threat to society, especially as the persons who fall victim are usually the most vulnerable people out of society with no alternative than to submit to the exploitation.

Human trafficking is internationally defined in Article 3, paragraph A, of the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially women and children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational organised crime of 15 November 2000. This definition by the United Nations (UN) was adopted by the European Union in Article 2 of Directive 2011/36/EU on Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Human Beings and Protecting its Victims of 5 April 2011.[1] The basic conditions which are always at the centre of human trafficking are vulnerability and exploitation. Vulnerability is a situation in which the person concerned has no real or acceptable alternative but to submit to the abuse involved, while exploitation is prostitution or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, including begging, slavery, or practices similar to slavery, servitude, or the expectation of criminal activities or the removal of organs.

Reviewing the legal definitions of human trafficking, one can distinguish three core elements knowingly: i. the act (the so-called what), ii. the means (the so-called how) and iii. the purpose (the so-called why). The act includes recruitment, transportation, transferring, harbouring or receipt of a person. The means are the use of force, threat, coercion, abduction, fraud, and deception. Finally, the purpose is always aimed at exploitation, including sexual exploitation, forced slavery and slavery like practices. A closer examination of the why tells us that the exploitation is aimed at the exploitation of the prostitution of others, other forms of sexual expectation, forced labour or services including begging, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude, or the expectation of criminal activities or the removal of organs.

In general two (main) forms of trafficking are distinguished, knowingly domestic and cross-border trafficking. Domestic trafficking is where recruitment and exploitation take place in one country, while cross-border trafficking (arrival, departure and travels) is the situation in which recruitment and exploitation take place in (at least) two different countries. This distinction is visible in almost all types of human trafficking which can be extracted from the legal definitions. The four main types currently being; sexual exploitation, labour exploitation, criminal exploitation and organ trafficking. Human trafficking can be linked to various types of serious organized crime, like drug trafficking but also to different types of subversive crimes, like money laundering but it also link with different global problems like climate change. The nexuses between human trafficking and global challenges and other types of crime are omnipresent.