The current international definition of trafficking in human beings (THB) is set out in Annex II of one of the supplementary protocols of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (Palermo Convention; 2000), namely in the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children (Palermo Protocol), in Article 3 as follows:
(a) “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.
The current European definition of trafficking in human beings (THB) as set out in paragraph (1) of Article 2 of Directive 2011/36/EU which states:
‘The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or reception of persons, including the exchange or transfer of control over those 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’.
Paragraphs (2) and (3) of Article 2 of Directive 2011/36/EU define the two key elements of vulnerability and exploitation as follows:
(2) Vulnerability is a situation in which the person concerned has no real or acceptable alternative but to submit to the abuse involved and
(3) exploitation is prostitution or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, including begging, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude, or the exploitation of criminal activities or the removal of organs
Myths and facts in relation to human trafficking
Human smuggling and human trafficking are the same.
Human smuggling is a crime involving the facilitation of illegal entry or residence of a person into a State of which the person is not a national or a permanent resident in order to obtain a financial or other material benefit. While a smuggled person consented to being smuggled, a trafficking victim never did so or if he or she initially consented, that consent has been rendered meaningless by the coercive, deceptive or abusive action of the trafficker(s). Human smuggling usually ends with the person’s arrival in the destination country whereas human trafficking involves the exploitation of the victim – the actual purpose of the crime – at the final destination or even already during the journey. Furthermore, smuggling is always transnational whereas trafficking may also occur within a State’s territory. These two types of crime can connect to each other as the service provided to the smuggled person can easily transform into an exploitative situation.
THB does not exist within the European Union.
European Union Member States, mostly those in the north-western region are destination countries for victims of trafficking as their socio-economic status makes them an interesting destination, while many poorer countries in the East and South of Europe function as source countries.
All victims are being trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation.
Within Europe almost seventy percent of all victims are trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation. However, this number may be biased as sexual exploitation is the most heavily investigated form of trafficking and therefore more often identified than human trafficking for the purpose of labour exploitation or other forms of human trafficking. Human trafficking for the purpose of labour exploitation occurs mainly in the agriculture and care sectors, the construction, textile and hospitality industries, and fisheries. Victims are also being exploited for the purposes of forced begging, domestic servitude, benefit fraud, general criminal activities, and removal of organs.
All victims are women.
Although approximately 70% of the identified victims are women, men do also fall victim, although the type of exploitation usually differs.
All victims are foreign-born individuals.
Even though many victims are foreigners, 43% of the identified victims are nationals of the country they are being exploited in. It is, however, important to note that the ratio of internal and cross-border trafficking differs from country to country.
All victims are deprived and poor.
There is no single profile for victims of human trafficking as it spans all demographics. Deprivation and poverty are examples of vulnerabilities which can lead to and will increase the chance of victimisation. Another major influence is war, which forces people of all social groups to flee and which increases vulnerability. Frequently there is no single reason as most factors are entangled with other circumstances, i.e. peer and family pressure.
All victims are kidnapped or coerced.
Very few victims are kidnapped and although some victims may have been forced from the start, others started to work voluntarily but have been deceived with false promises. Sometimes the victims are aware about the type of work they are going to do but they are being deceived about the conditions and are consequently not aware that they are going to be exploited.
Victims and perpetrators are clearly distinguishable.
There are situations where both roles are exchangeable. There are numerous examples where a person became a victim but eventually ended up becoming a victim and perpetrator simultaneously. Clear examples are found within the concept of sexual exploitation. A young girl is brought to the Netherlands where she is forced to work as a prostitute. Over a certain period of time, she is accompanying other victims and because of her seniority she is given privileges over the others. One of the privileges is that she is no longer forced to have sex but rather functions as a substitute exploiter. The promotion involves being forced to let other women start and stay in a life of forced prostitution.
All victims will consider themselves victims and therefore will seek help when given the opportunity.
Not every victim considers herself or himself as an actual victim. Some of the victims consider that their situation under exploitation is better than when they were not exploited. Others (were made to) believe they have chosen to work under exploitative conditions voluntarily, and there are also victims who are bound by family ties or debt.
Traffickers are always strangers to the victims, using kidnapping to recruit them.
Traffickers are very often known to victims, including family, friends, partners or friends of relatives. Family members may also force their relatives into an exploitative situation, either in exchange for money or other benefits, or because the traffickers used existing family power dynamics and vulnerabilities to prey upon the victim.