Migration-Trafficking Nexus

Modern slavery is one of the most critical problems in the contemporary world. The term “modern slavery” is not explicitly defined by law. However, it is considered an umbrella term combining human trafficking, forced labor, and slavery. According to the estimates of IOM, there are 40 million people living in modern slavery. ILO suggests that by 2016 the world accounted for approximately 24.9 million victims of human trafficking. Breaking down the total figure, 20.1 million were the victims of labor trafficking and the remaining 4.8 million were engaged in sex trafficking. In the latter case, 99% of victims globally were women and girls. Undoubtedly, these numbers are staggering. Thereby, it is not surprising that the global community has pledged to eradicate modern slavery within the context of the SDGs.

Although the forms of modern slavery and especially human trafficking affect all regions of the world, the scale and intensity differ significantly. The risks of being exposed to the forms of modern slavery are also disproportionate for certain groups. Migrants are deemed to be one of the most vulnerable, given society’s diminished ability to protect them.

What is human trafficking?

Anti-slavery international defines human trafficking as “the process of trapping people through the use of violence, deception or coercion and exploiting them for financial or personal gain”. The results of human trafficking are the girls that are forced into sexual exploitation, the men trapped in forced labor, etc. Trafficking victim does not have a single unified profile. Anyone can fall a victim regardless of race, color, origin, disability, religion, age, gender, socioeconomic status, or educational level. However, it is worth noting that certain groups are exposed to greater risks than others.

Migrants as the most vulnerable to modern-day slavery

There are approximately 258 million migrants worldwide. Considering the rising number and intensity of conflicts globally, this number is only expected to grow. Evidence suggests that there are strong connections between migration and criminal forms of exploitation and primarily modern-day slavery. There are many drivers to such a situation, but certain patterns exist.

Migrants become particularly vulnerable to modern-day slavery in the situation of armed conflicts, natural disasters, and other emergencies – During such occurrences the states and societies tend to have diminished to protect victims. Throughout armed conflicts, many of the migrants are forced to flee. Given the broken-down states and dysfunctional legal system and enforcement, migrants become easy targets for human traffickers. They can be forced into trafficking or deceived and lured into slavery. For example, by being offered job opportunities when they are in desperate need of economic support.

Among the migrants themselves, the most vulnerable are children and adolescents. Despite traditionally closed routes for migration for children, there are nearly 31 million child migrants globally. If separated from their families and traveling alone, they are easy prey for traffickers. According to IOM, Crimes against children are usually underreported as they face many barriers including fear of detention and deportation.

How to fight modern slavery?

The key to ending modern slavery is collaboration. By collaboration, we mean a closely connected law enforcement, civil society, and academia as well as governmental, non-governmental, and private sector within and outside national borders. Such a unified approach is pivotal to overcoming the challenge. By combined efforts, we can share critical data and knowledge, tailor technological solutions and greatly facilitate the elimination, detection, investigation, and prosecution of criminal cases.

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