Immigrants as Human Trafficking Victims


Human trafficking entails enlisting, keeping, and transporting individuals into a condition of abuse through coercion, deception or violence. The trafficked persons are forced to engage in abusive activities against their will. According to Ahn et al., people are trafficked for various kinds of exploitation (285). They include forced labor, prostitution, forced begging, terrorism purposes, forced organ removal, and domestic servitude among others. A common misperception regarding human trafficking is that people must be shipped across borders. Indeed, transporting victims does not necessarily amount to trafficking. In the case of child trafficking, the perpetrators do not have to use force. The public and human rights movements pay much attention to trafficking for sexual abuse. They fail to understand that a majority of individuals who are victims of the crime are shipped for labor exploitation. Ahn et al. claim that many people who are trafficked hail from poor backgrounds (287). The desire to improve their livelihoods, escape poverty, and look for ways to support their families lands them into the hands of traffickers. Studies indicate that women are at high risk of falling victims of trafficking. In spite of the numerous laws that criminalize human trafficking and the presence of anti-trafficking organizations, the crime remains a significant form of human rights abuse across the globe.

Problem Statement

The influx of immigrants from impoverished and war-torn countries has been a prevalent phenomenon for decades. Today, cases of immigrants drowning as they try to cross into the European nations are common. Human traffickers take advantage of desperate immigrants escaping from poverty and civil unrests. Early this year, international media was awash with news concerning human trafficking in Libya. Immigrants were captured and sold for forced labor. Those opposed to the trade were tortured and even killed. The international community and anti-trafficking organizations were criticized for not taking stringent measures to curb the problem. The lack of common laws to counter human trafficking has resulted in it being among the favorite activities amid the international criminal syndicates.

Global Actors

Numerous governmental and non-governmental (NGO) bodies fight human trafficking. Efrat maintains, “The field of anti-trafficking effort is complex, with a diverse array of actors, many of which conduct their activities transnationally” (37). Currently, there are limited studies that focus on the global anti-trafficking efforts. The majority of the existing literature analyzes the effectiveness of the available programs and policies. Efrat argues that a few scholars have paid attention to inter-organizational coordination matters (41). It demonstrates that one of the factors that hinder the fight against human trafficking is lack of a universal definition of the crime and limited information.

States acknowledge that they require cooperating to combat human trafficking. Consequently, intergovernmental institutions like the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) advocate alliance formation between anti-human trafficking movements to bolster their effectiveness (Efrat 46). Currently, numerous global actors fight human trafficking. They include the Alliance against Trafficking in Persons, Terre Des Femmes, Amnesty International, Global March, and Polaris among others. The objective of the Alliance against Trafficking in Persons is to unite the efforts of various interlocutors to fight crime. Hernandez and Rudolph aver, “The spirit of the Alliance has been to develop effective joint strategies, combine efforts of relevant interlocutors in setting a common agenda, and to provide all the OSCE participating states with harmonized approaches and decision-making aids” (121). The OSCE works in collaboration with other anti-trafficking movements to formulate strategies and champion for stoppage of human exploitation.

The fight against human trafficking is not limited to intergovernmental organizations only. Terre Des Femmes is an NGO that fights human trafficking in Europe. Additionally, Global March, an India-based NGO has operations in over 140 countries (Hernandez and Rudolph 127). It partners with other anti-trafficking organizations such as Amnesty International to champion for children’s rights and education.


Government bodies and NGOs have instituted numerous strategies to combat human trafficking. They include the anti-slavery and human trafficking policy and sex trafficking (ST) law. The anti-slavery and human trafficking policy seeks to protect immigrants from exploitation (Orme and Ross-Sheriff 289). Human traffickers take advantage of individuals who are in need of employment. They promise to get them well-paying jobs only to end up being sold to slave masters. The policy requires employers to ensure that they understand the background of their workers. Additionally, they are expected to deal with reputable recruitment agencies and to make sure that all employees have work permits. The policy has considerably helped to combat human trafficking by reducing the demand for undocumented workers.

One of the primary forms of modern slavery is sex trafficking. Women and young girls are forced to engage in prostitution against their will. The call for a ban on sex trafficking by anti-trafficking organizations has resulted in at least 166 nations adopting anti-sex trafficking policies (Orme and Ross-Sheriff 291). In spite of the remarkable attempt to fight sex trafficking, the problem seems to worsen by the day. Consequently, there has been a change of approach to battle the crime. Today, anti-sex trafficking efforts are directed towards buyers and sellers of sexual services (Orme and Ross-Sheriff 293). The policy has paved room for the establishment of programs aimed at assisting victims of sex trafficking. Additionally, it has facilitated the introduction of therapeutic services to aid individuals who are addicted to prostitution. The decision to target buyers has gone a long way towards discouraging men from procuring the services of sex workers. Orme and Ross-Sheriff argue that the policy has contributed to some traffickers abandoning the crime due to fear of being arrested (294). However, a lot of work to do since criminals keep on changing their mode of operations. The anti-trafficking organizations are calling on the governments to address social inequalities, which lead to many people falling prey to human traffickers.

The success of Global Actors

The NGOs do not have the power to prosecute architects of human trafficking. However, they gather data, share reports of their findings, and conduct case studies that are helpful in understanding how human traffickers operate. According to Hernandez and Rudolph, organizations such as Amnesty International have managed to raise public awareness, thus saving thousands from falling victim of traffickers (130). The Global Alliance against Trafficking of Women (GAATW) is one of the organizations that assist law enforcement agencies to combat human trafficking. The collaboration between the governments and NGOs enables the law enforcement agency to meet their international duties of tackling the spread of the crime.

Fighting human trafficking does not only involve dealing with perpetrators but also helping victims to overcome trauma and lead a good life. Most NGOs offer programs that help to rehabilitate women and children who are rescued from forced prostitution (Hernandez and Rudolph 137). An organization such as Hagar documents cases of human trafficking in Cambodia and uses the information to sensitize the public on the issue. It also trains communities in positive parenting, which is helpful in reducing cases of child abuse that contribute to children running away from their homes and being vulnerable to traffickers.


Human traffickers operate in secrecy, thus making it difficult for the NGOs to gather sufficient information. Roots claims, “even if an NGO was able to gain entry into a group running a human trafficking scheme, the chances of discovering the information that a state government needs to investigate and prosecute the scheme are very slim” (23). Currently, NGOs encounter challenges in collecting data that can facilitate conviction of human traffickers. The data gathered offers statistical information regarding the kind of work that victims are forced to undertake, the total number of people trafficked, and the duration they remained in captivity. Roots maintains that NGOs collect information from people rescued from detention (24). In other words, they are unable to amass contemporaneous information. GAATW cites the lack of reliable and modern methods of data collection as a significant weakness of the NGOs that fight human trafficking. The organizations use techniques that do not enable them to produce stronger evidence. Some organizations are in the process of enhancing their research methods. It will help the state agencies in prosecuting architects of human trafficking.

Alternative Solutions

The cooperation between state agencies and NGOs has highlighted the need for collaboration between countries. Currently, the majority of the nations that are signatories to The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) do not have local laws that prohibit crimes outlined in the convention (Roots 28). The lack of such policies leaves a possibility for overlapping suits or contradicting laws. The UNTOC demands that states must consult before addressing crimes that transcend borders to guarantee coordinated actions. Today, countries use diplomatic negotiations, which do not work in the fight against human trafficking. There is the need for nations to come up with a standard prosecution scheme to help in the fight against trafficking. Roots affirms that the establishment of a joint system promotes teamwork and good faith amid countries.

The war against human trafficking requires the stakeholders always to be a step ahead to the architects of the crime. Increasing the number of prosecutions will discourage individuals who might think of joining human trafficking syndicates. Currently, less than 4,500 traffickers are convicted globally despite the high number of people engaging in the offense (Roots 39). A concerted effort between NGOs, the business community, and state agencies is essential in helping to root out the crime.


Many NGOs have been in the forefront in the fight against human trafficking. Even though the organizations lack prosecutorial powers, the information they gather and share with law enforcement agencies helps in the prosecution of the architects of human trafficking. The NGOs believe that the fight against human trafficking requires a concerted effort between countries. One of the challenges that anti-trafficking organizations encounter is the inability to gather instantaneous information. They rely on narratives from individuals who are rescued from captivity. It becomes hard for the government to present substantial evidence that can result in the conviction of criminals. There is the need for countries to establish common prosecution system to ensure that architects of human trafficking get similar sentences across the globe. It will go a long way towards curbing the crime.

Works Cited

Ahn, Roy, et al. “Human Trafficking.” American Journal of Preventive Medicine, vol. 44, no. 3, 2013, pp. 283-289.

Efrat, Asif. “Global Efforts Against Human Trafficking: The Misguided Conflation of Sex, Labor, and Organ Trafficking.” International Studies Perspectives, vol. 17, no. 1, 2016, pp. 34-54.

Hernandez, Diego, and Alexandra Rudolph. ”Modern Day Slavery: What Drives Human Trafficking in Europe?” European Journal of Political Economy, vol. 38, no. 1, 2015, pp. 118-139.

Orme, Julie, and Fariyal Ross-Sheriff. “Sex Trafficking: Policies, Programs, and Services.” Social Work, vol. 60, no. 4, 2015, pp. 287-294.

Roots, Katrin. “Trafficking or Pimping? An Analysis of Canada’s Human Trafficking Legislation and its Implications.” Canadian Journal of Law and Society, vol. 28, no. 1, 2013, pp. 21-41.

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