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Human Rights

Human Trafficking and the Global Financial Crisis

human_traffickingBy Águeda Varela, Institute for Cultural Diplomacy.

What is Human Trafficking? Nowadays, at first instance, people can only think about the definition related to prostitution, but there are other meanings that can also be applied here. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Human Trafficking is “a crime against humanity.” Everything that might involvethe recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of threat, use of force or other means of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the receiving or giving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation, which includes, 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 Trafficking is not as simple as people being forced to do something to which they hadn’t agreed before. At present, we can see a significant number of people across Europe, for example, who are leaving their homes because of the economic crisis that is affecting their countries and especially young people who are now looking for better opportunities abroad. In the past, the home countries of victims were usually economically weak or in a situation of conflict; however now we see victims coming from countries such as Portugal, Italy or Spain that used to have stable economic, social and political environments. Similar to this rise of migration, Human Trafficking has become more difficult to solve because it has been growing all over the world and is already being compared to Drug Trafficking at the level of profit.

According to the Global Report on Trafficking in Persons of 2012 by the UNODC “the share of detected cases of trafficking for forced labour has doubled over the past four years”, which have a close connection to the financial crisis that started around the same time – vulnerability, in all its forms, is the first thing that traffickers look for in their victims and then they are ready to offer all the help, but of course always with a price which is something the victims cannot see. In the Report, causes such as “poverty, unemployment, (and) lack of socioeconomic opportunities (…) are some of the contributing factors that make persons vulnerable to trafficking”. The financial crisis itself may not be enough to explain or draw a pattern in the study of modern Human Trafficking, but it is important to understand that extreme conditions can sometimes put people in such a critical economic situation, forcing them to take unthinkable risks in the hope of getting a better life and with only that in mind, they may not think rationally at all.

Today, even with all the new technologies and rapid spread of information, the exact number of human trafficking victims remains unknown. However, what we do know is that the most crucial aspect in understanding and preventing such crimes is the involvement and cooperation of all relevant stakeholders, including governments, law enforcement agencies and international organizations. 


Center for Cultural Diplomacy Studies Publication
Institute for Cultural Diplomacy



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