Although most migration is voluntary and has a positive impact on individuals and societies, migration can increase vulnerability to human trafficking and exploitation. Irregular migrants, for instance, may be subjected to kidnap and ransom demands, extortion, physical violence, sexual abuse, and trafficking in persons. They may start their journeys by willingly placing themselves in the hands of smugglers and become trafficked along the way. Once they reach their destination, migrants who have travelled through regular and irregular channels remain vulnerable to trafficking in persons and other forms of exploitation due to language barriers, challenges of social integration, and unscrupulous employers and landlords who take advantage of their limited knowledge of local conditions and reduced bargaining power. Large-scale displacement caused by humanitarian crises such as armed conflicts, natural disasters, and protracted unrest can also create vulnerable populations who can become victims of trafficking.
Forced labour and migration
Migrant workers and job seekers, who constitute the majority of international migrants, are vulnerable to human trafficking throughout their migration process. Labour migration is an increasingly complex and dynamic phenomenon taking place within and between all regions of the world. In certain migration corridors, such as between Asia and the Arab States and within South-East Asia, the number of international migrants, the large majority of whom are migrant workers, has tripled since 1990. Temporary labour migration, particularly of low-skilled workers, is exceeding permanent flows, and this presents a significant governance challenge in terms of ensuring decent work and reducing migration costs for this category of mi- grant workers. Many migrant workers are concentrated in specific economic sectors such as domestic work, manufacturing, construction, and agriculture. Special attention is required for domestic workers, who are among the most vulnerable groups of workers.
Several recent reports have documented the clear links between human trafficking and migration. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reports that approximately 60 per cent of victims of trafficking in per- sons detected between 2012 and 2014 were from outside the country where they were exploited. IOM also documented the predatory behaviour and the kinds of enabling environments in which human trafficking and associated forms of abuse and exploitation flourish along key migration routes. For example, approximately three-quarters of respondents in IOM’s Flow Monitoring Surveys conduct- ed on the Central Mediterranean route to Europe from North Africa (primarily Libya) reported direct experiences of abuse, exploitation, coercion and practices that may amount to human trafficking. Findings from a recent report by UNICEF and IOM also shed light on the risks of trafficking and exploitation among children and youth on the move through the Mediterranean Sea.
Opportunities for exploitation of migrant workers can include charging recruitment fees, providing false promises about salaries or working conditions, or even the nature of the job itself. Migrant workers may find themselves employed under substandard working conditions, being paid at wage levels below national standards and counterparts, and sometimes kept under these conditions due to their immigration status, difficulties in changing employment linked to restrictive visa regimes, and / or debt bondage. While protections for migrant workers are increasing in some areas, particularly through bilateral agreements, there is a continued need to reform the recruiting and contracting systems that place migrant workers at risk of forced la- bour and human trafficking.
IMAGE CREDIT: IOM