What is Considered Human Trafficking?
Human trafficking can be broken down into three primary elements: what is done, how it’s done and why it’s done — the act, the means, and the purpose.
- The purpose of human trafficking is always exploitation.
- The methods for trafficking in persons include abuse of power, deception, coercion, and threats of or use of force.
- The actual act of trafficking is done through the recruiting, transporting, harboring, transferring and receiving of persons.
Each of the three elements is spelled out in the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children. This United Nations Convention, adopted in 2003, established the formal worldwide definition for human trafficking.
"Trafficking in Persons [is] 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."
Human Smuggling vs. Human Trafficking
As established in the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, human trafficking involves the exploitation of a person. Exploitation isn't necessarily the purpose behind human smuggling.
According to the the Department of Homeland Security, human smuggling involves moving a person across a country’s border in violation of immigration laws, regardless of whether the person consents to be moved.
Human trafficking may involve the illegal movement of persons across country borders, it may include a smuggling component, but human smuggling only becomes trafficking if deception, coercion, abuse of power and threats of or use of force are used to hold people against their will for the purposes of labor or sexual exploitation.
Human smuggling is the illegal movement of someone across a border. Human trafficking is the illegal exploitation of a person.
Indicators of Human Trafficking
Recognizing common signs that a person is possibly a victim of human trafficking is an important part of helping save lives. The following indicators compiled by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security are often present in cases of human trafficking; however, the presence of an indicator isn’t proof someone is a trafficking victim. And not all of the indicators are always present in human trafficking cases.
- Does the person appear disconnected from family, friends, community organizations, or houses of worship?
- Has a child stopped attending school?
- Has the person had a sudden or dramatic change in behavior?
- Is a juvenile engaged in commercial sex acts?
- Is the person disoriented or confused, or showing signs of mental or physical abuse?
- Does the person have bruises in various stages of healing?
- Is the person fearful, timid, or submissive?
- Does the person show signs of having been denied food, water, sleep, or medical care?
- Is the person often in the company of someone to whom he or she defers? Or someone who seems to be in control of the situation, e.g., where they go or who they talk to?
- Does the person appear to be coached on what to say?
- Is the person living in unsuitable conditions?
- Does the person lack personal possessions and appear not to have a stable living situation?
- Does the person have freedom of movement? Can the person freely leave where they live? Are there unreasonable security measures?