Trafficking in Human Beings and Smuggling of Migrants

Andrea Di Nicola. Handbook of Transnational Crime & Justice. Editor: Philip Reichel. Sage Publication. 2005.

Homo homini lupus, wrote Hobbes citing Plautus. The dictum seems even more appropriate today. Hobbes argued that, in order to protect their natural rights against the cruelty of others, all human beings are ready to sacrifice some of their freedom and to give it to the sovereign, who endeavours to ensure a safer society for all. In today’s globalised society, to which “international sovereign” should victims of trafficking and smuggling transfer some of their natural rights in order to receive protection? And—above all—do they have any rights?

—Flathman & Johnston, 1997, pp. 70-71

Migration is not a new phenomenon; it is as ancient as humanity itself. More recent, on the contrary, are the illegal organization of migration and the exploitation of migrants in destination countries by organized criminal groups. These represent a new form of transnational offense. During the past decade, in fact, immigration has become a profitable area for organized criminals, who have started to provide migration services for people from less-developed regions of the world seeking to reach richer countries. The intervening variable in (illegal) migratory processes is therefore organized crime. What has happened? Thousands of people (Africans, Asians, South Americans, citizens of the former Soviet Union) have fled their birthplaces to make better lives for themselves in wealthier countries. Yet today, amid growing unemployment, developed countries increasingly respond to this pressure by closing their gates and tightening their migration policies. Given that the need for emigration remains unchanged and given that would-be migrants are confronted by tighter migration policies and border controls, the result is ever-greater demand for highly professional illegal migration services. Organized criminals have recognized the opportunities for business and moved in.

The smuggling of migrants is a continuously evolving transnational criminal activity. The organized criminal groups involved exploit legislative loopholes and regulatory asymmetries among countries to maximize their profits and reduce their risks. Throughout the world, this illicit activity has acquired stable organizational complexity and relies on the protection of public officers and collusion among different criminal organizations in different areas of the world. The increase in the criminally organized supply of illegal migration has also accentuated the exploitation of migrants in destination countries, where they are set to work in deviant markets such as drug pushing, begging, prostitution, and illegal or untaxed labor. And it has given rise to the phenomenon of trafficking in human beings for the purpose of exploitation.

This chapter—which deals with the forms of transnational offense constituted by trafficking in human beings for the purpose of exploitation and by the smuggling of migrants—seeks to answer the following questions:

  • What criminal activities constitute trafficking in human beings and smuggling of migrants? Are there internationally accepted definitions that can be used?
  • How are these two criminal activities undertaken? Specifically, what are the characteristics of these illicit phenomena, of the criminals, and of the victims? What are the organized crime groups involved, and what form do their modi operandi take? What routes are most widely used?
  • What is the impact of these crimes? How many victims are there? Is it possible to estimate the number of victims and the turnover of traffickers and smugglers in different areas of the world?
  • What efforts have been made to combat these crimes at the national and international levels? Is there a strategy that can be used to tackle them?
  • What will happen in the near future in the field of trafficking in human beings and smuggling of migrants? Is it possible to foresee likely scenarios?

We cannot proceed further without using a common language or a protocol—without, that is, giving terms the same referents. Let us therefore start with the definitions of trafficking and smuggling.

Defining Concepts at the International Level

The international community has been slow to produce normative definitions of human trafficking and the smuggling of migrants or alien smuggling. The need for definitions that distinguish between these two phenomena has arisen for several reasons that relate to the practice of law enforcement, criminological and victimo-logical factors, and policy perspectives:

  • At the level of domestic investigative competencies, the two illicit activities have often fallen within the remits of different bodies.
  • The criminal groups engaged in one or the other of the two activities may be different; they may be independent from each other, and they may have different modi operandi.
  • The characteristics of the victims of human trafficking, and their relationships with the criminals, differ from those of the victims of smuggling.
  • Trafficking and smuggling have had different political significances over time. Whereas illegal immigration has always been a national and international priority, as a problem of security and public order, trafficking in human beings has only recently come to the attention of national governments and international organizations.

During the 1990s, the distinction consolidated in a de facto manner until it was definitively formalized, in 2000, by the two protocols supplementing the U.N. Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.

The first of these two protocols—the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the U.N. Convention against Transnational Organized Crime— deals with the trade in human beings for the purpose of exploitation. The second—the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Air and Sea, supplementing the U.N. Convention against Transnational Organized Crime—concentrates on illegal immigration organized by criminal groups. These protocols were intended to fill gaps in the international legal regime, and among their various objectives was the harmonization of criminal legislation by the states parties to combat the criminal activities in question.

The definition of trafficking in persons is contained in Article 3 (a) of the relative protocol. Trafficking in persons is the activity that consists in 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.” This article also defines what must be considered exploitation, specifying the types of illicit market into which a person may be forced and then exploited: “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.”

According to Article 5 of the protocol, the states parties undertake to criminalize the forms of conduct falling within the above definition. The description of the modes and means of coercion is deliberately left very broad so that it includes a wide range of behaviors aimed at trafficking for the purpose of exploitation. Article 3, subparagraph (b), also states the irrelevance of the consent given at any time by the victim in all cases in which one of the means set out in subparagraph (a) has been used.

We may say that trafficking in persons concerns all cases where human beings are exploited by organized crime groups and where there is an element of duress involved, as well as a transnational aspect such as the movement of people across borders or their exploitation within a country by a transnational organized crime group.

According to Article 3 of the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Air and Sea, supplementing the U.N. Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, the smuggling of migrants consists in “the procurement, in order to obtain, directly or indirectly, a financial or other material benefit, of the illegal entry of a person into a state party of which the person is not a national or a permanent resident.” Subparagraph (b) of the same article defines illegal entry as “crossing borders without complying with the necessary requirements for legal entry into the receiving State.”

A further defining feature of the smuggling of migrants is the intention to obtain a benefit, either financial or material. The profit motive is therefore necessary. Unlike the protocol on trafficking outlined above, this protocol’s definition of smuggling makes no reference to the migrant as a victim and states no provisions regarding his or her consent to the criminal activity. This choice—namely, not to consider a person who voluntarily uses smugglers as a victim—is justified if one considers the role played by the would-be migrant, which is not passive but active. The would-be migrant wants to migrate and invests his or her capital to do so. Almost all smuggling operations are based on a contractual relationship between the would-be migrants and the smugglers. The former buy a service (transport across the borders of a given foreign country); the latter gain by using their migratory skills and expertise to provide the service.

The trafficking protocol entered into force on December 25, 2003. As of April 2004, this protocol was signed by 117 countries and ratified by 52. The smuggling protocol came into force on January 28, 2004. As of April 2004, it was signed by 112 states and ratified by 46 (U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, n.d.).

The above international definitions may be considered the normative standards in this particular field. Countries are already incorporating them into their legislations: If we consider a regional context like that of the European Union (E.U.), for instance, the definitions of trafficking and smuggling set out in E.U. legislation replicate those of the U.N. protocols.

Now that we know what kinds of phenomena we are dealing with, the next step is to consider why these criminal activities happen, how traffickers and smugglers organize their criminal businesses in concrete, and who their victims are.

Trafficking in Human Beings and Smuggling of Migrants as Forms of Transnational Organized Crime


Why are there people in the world who fall prey to traffickers and smugglers? The two criminal activities often have common origins. We may start with the ones shared by both human smuggling and trafficking and then concentrate on those typical of the latter.

As a general rule, traffickers and smugglers exploit impoverished and vulnerable individuals seeking a better life (U.S. Department of State, 2003, p. 6). That is to say, the differences of well-being among the countries of the world, and perceptions of those differences, are the main factors responsible not only for emigration but also for the criminal activities of migrant smuggling and trafficking in human beings. Some recent data highlight these differences (U.N. Development Programme, 2002, pp. 10-11, 13-61).

  • In 1999, 2.8 billion people—about half the world’s population—lived on less than 2 a day, and 1.2 billion of them—about a quarter of the world population—survived on less than 1 a day. Because of population growth, between 1990 and 1999, the proportion of the world’s population living in extreme poverty dropped only slightly, from 29% to 23%.
  • The gap between per capita incomes in the industrialized and developing countries is still very wide. The richest 5% of the world’s population have incomes 114 times higher those of the poorest 5%. During the 1990s, the number of extremely poor inhabitants of Sub-Saharan Africa rose from 242 million to 300 million.
  • Every day, more than 30,000 children around the world die from preventable causes, and every year, more than 500,000 women lose their lives as a consequence of pregnancy and childbirth.
  • In 50 countries comprising almost 40% of the world population, 1 in 5 children under the age of 5 is underweight. At the present rate, it will take 130 years to eliminate hunger from the world.
  • In 1998, 113 million of the 680 million children of primary school age were not at school—97% of them were in developing countries.
  • Seventy-three countries, accounting for 42% of the world population, still do not have free and fair elections, and 106 governments around the world do not respect civil and political freedoms.
  • Since 1990, 3.6 million people have died as a result of civil wars and ethnic violence, a number 16 times higher than that of people killed in wars between countries.

More systematically, there are two categories of factors influencing the criminal activities under scrutiny (see Europol, 2002b): (1) those that force people to leave a country and to resort to trafficking or smuggling services (push factors) and (2) those that make the final destination countries attractive for those people (pull factors). Push factors (for a detailed analysis see, e.g., Bales, 1999) comprise the dissolution and disintegration of multicultural states, accompanied by religious and ethnic conflicts, natural disasters, discrimination, political instability and civil wars, economic situation, uncontrollable population growth, vast differences in population and economic growth, and impoverishment. Pull factors, by contrast, are the ones that render richer countries desirable to would-be migrants. They include a shortage of manpower, comprehensive social security, a positive economic situation, democratic systems of government, political and social stability, historical links between the countries, common languages, existing communities, and expectations.

Among the specific causes of human trafficking for exploitation, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) cites the globalization of transport, markets and labor, especially with reference to the exploitation of women in sexual markets, and the socioeconomic inequality of women in their origin countries (IOM, 2002, p. 23). All these factors relate to the supply side. However, some authors maintain that it is, instead, demand that plays the primary role (Keeler & Jyrkinen 1999; O’Connell Davidson & Sanchez Taylor, 2001).

In many destination countries, commercial sexual exploitation and the demand for inexpensive labor have increased over the last several decades. Many traffickers who are part of criminal networks involved in other transnational crimes have recognized that they can profit greatly by supplying people to fill these demands. (U.S. Department of State, 2002, p. 2)

At this point, if the above-mentioned factors are the causes of trafficking in women and children, one may inquire as to why in East and Southeast Asia there is also large-scale trafficking in women and children for sexual exploitation to countries that are not particularly wealthy and are hard to imagine as attractive, at least compared with Western countries. For instance, women and children are trafficked from Burma/Myanmar, Cambodia, and Vietnam to India, Malaysia, Pakistan, and Thailand, countries in precarious economic circumstances (Ministry for Foreign Affairs, 2001, pp. 16-22). At least two explanations can be provided for this phenomenon. First, the factor that induces people to resort to traffickers is a well-being differential between countries, and this may arise even in a very poor region. That is to say, the concept of the well-being differential is a relative one. Second, some of the destination countries in East and Southeast Asia have good tourist relations and connections with Western countries, and they have become centers of sex tourism. In this case, demand indeed plays a specific role in shaping the phenomenon (O’Connell Davidson, 2001, pp. 25-28).

A Spectrum of the Organized Crime Groups Involved

Trafficking and smuggling activities affect almost all the countries in the world—classified as those of origin, transit, or destination—but the level of involvement by criminal organizations varies a great deal.

By organizing themselves to commit crime, offenders are able to maximize expected gains and minimize the risks of punishment (McIntosh, 1975, p. 14), and it is a process similar to the conduct of any legal entrepreneurial activity (see, for instance, Hatch, 1997). The trafficking and smuggling of humans can be straightforwardly interpreted on the basis of a business model (Aronowitz, 2001; Salt, 2000, p. 49; Salt & Stein, 1997). This also aids understanding of why individually run enterprises are not particularly common in these markets, which are almost entirely composed of organized crime groups, of different type and form and often cooperating with each other. This “business metaphor” can be used to describe the criminal groups involved in trafficking and smuggling across a spectrum that ranges from less to more transnational and organized.

Individual entrepreneurs (so-called amateur smugglers or traffickers). This category includes individuals who traffic one or two children or women and exploit them on a private basis or those who provide a single service to migrants (such as transport for a border crossing or locating employers willing to employ illegal migrants in destination countries). The latter are occasional smugglers who gain small sums by supplying national and international transportation. They are usually the owners of taxis, small boats, or trucks used to transport small groups of people departing from secluded coastal areas, effecting short sea passages, and crossing insufficiently guarded frontiers. This activity is not the main source of income for these individual entrepreneurs: It falls under the heading of spontaneous illegal nonorganized and unsophisticated trafficking and smuggling. Very often, these criminals are merely those who do the “dirty work.” Bigger and more sophisticated criminal syndicates may rely on them to undertake particularly risky parts of trafficking or smuggling operations, treating them as hired labor. In many criminal investigations and prosecutions around the world, it is these persons who get caught, but they are only the last link in the chain, and they can be easily replaced. Examples of this category are individual criminals trafficking women to countries of the E.U. or the passeurs who smuggle migrants into Italy or the coyotes who hide migrants in the back of trucks and smuggle them across the U.S.-Mexican border.

From homemade businesses to small enterprises. The groups in this category range from those that display very rudimentary forms of organization through loose trafficking groups with a small number of affiliates to small illegal groups composed of well-organized criminals specializing in the transport of migrants from one specific country to another using tried and tested routes. Although all these criminal groups are more specialized than occasional smugglers, their influence is limited to a small number of countries, usually only two. This is the case of certain “alien smugglers” in Central America, which, because they are not large-scale organizations, can be better described as independent smugglers cooperating in loosely linked networks. They operate as regional subcontractors with associates in Asia, South America, and the United States, covering a limited area (one or two countries) from where they pass the migrants on to other smugglers or guides (U.S. Government, 2000, p. 115). A similar system operates in Europe, where numerous small and loosely connected gangs traffic women to be exploited in the prostitution markets of the E.U. countries. During their journeys, the women are repeatedly sold on, at different prices, from one small group to another until they at last reach their destinations and their final “owner-exploiters.” It is worth noting that the closer they get to the final destination, the higher their price becomes (Transcrime, 2002, pp. 178-192). Generally speaking, numerous gangs throughout the world engaged in trafficking for sexual exploitation fit this position on the spectrum.

Medium and large enterprises. This category comprises very well-organized transnational groups, more highly structured, sometimes involved in a variety of criminal activities, with high levels of expertise, run on a broader geographical (regional or interregional) basis, and invariably operating in more than two countries. Fitting this description, for instance, are Albanian smugglers and traffickers, certain Eastern European groups, the Turkish Mafia, and Nigerian criminal organizations (Richard, 2000, pp. 57-51; U.S. Government, 2000). With reference to Eastern European groups in particular, an example of a medium enterprise is provided by a well-structured Slovenian criminal group that trafficked women from Russia, Moldova, and Ukraine, through Hungary, the Republic of Serbia and Montenegro, Croatia, and Slovenia to Italy. The group was also involved in the smuggling, along the same route, of people from China and Bangladesh on behalf of Asian criminal syndicates, which subcontracted the intermediate part of the journey to the group (Di Nicola, 2003, p. 113).

The Turkish Mafia—which smuggles Kurds, but also Iranians and Afghans, from Turkey to Italy and Germany—is well structured and hierarchical. A cupola (the main board of the criminal organization) supervises the entire operation, and the organization comprises a variety of different roles: from those of its members who recruit migrants, gather them together, and load them onto boats to those who escort migrants during the journey and contact people in the destination countries (Transcrime, 2003).

Nigerian criminal groups traffic their nationals for sexual exploitation, especially in Italy and Spain. These groups consist of recruiters and exploiters, all of them of Nigerian nationality, the former operating in Nigeria and the latter in the destination country (Transcrime, 2002, pp. 178-194). Nigerian groups “also facilitate illegal immigration of Nigerian nationals to metropolitan areas around the world” (U.S. Government, 2000, p. 104).

Multinational enterprises (international networks). This last category includes only the multinationals of trafficking and smuggling: organizations able to transport their migrants and trafficking victims over thousands of miles, often through several countries and continents, and with logistical bases in various nations. Most noteworthy among these criminal syndicates are Chinese Triads and Japanese Yakuza groups (Richard, 2000), which smuggle or traffic their conationals around the world. These groups, too, can be described as networks in which only the key roles are covered by nationals who use the assistance of other criminal groups.

In the light of the above spectrum, current trends can be summarized as follows:

  • The greater the distance to be covered and the more countries to be passed through from the origin to the destination, the more sophisticated and the better organized are the criminal groups involved.
  • Migrant smuggling and human trafficking for the purpose of labor exploitation require a larger number of actors and a higher level of expertise than does trafficking in human beings for other purposes. Consequently, criminal organizations engaged in migrant smuggling and human trafficking for the purpose of labor exploitation are usually more sophisticated and more complex.
  • Loose networks are increasingly common in this area of criminal enterprise. They consist of networks of individuals or of criminal groups, and they display considerable dynamism and fluidity. Hence every attempt to give them static definition—such as the one made above—is in danger of distorting the reality. Those that have been called “individual entrepreneurs,” “small and medium/ large enterprises,” and “multinationals” may work together for specific and contingent purposes, with each group furnishing its specific expertise and acting as just one node in a wider network. Of course, there are also individual large syndicates, but they are frequently not monolithic and hierarchical but flexible in their structure.
  • Smuggling enterprises are usually specialized and nonopportunistic, a feature that may differentiate them from trafficking groups. That is, they do not display a tendency, like certain criminals do, to shift from one illicit activity to another, diversifying their operational sectors on the basis of mere opportunism alone. This may instead be the case of criminal organizations trafficking in human beings for sexual exploitation.

The Trafficking/Smuggling Businesses

How do criminals organize their businesses to move people across borders and, sometimes, to exploit them once they reach their destinations? That is, how do they run their businesses? To answer the question, this section starts with a description of the various phases of the criminal activities under scrutiny and of some routes selected to traffic and smuggle people. It then illustrates some of the basic rules applied by criminals in the organization of their enterprises.

The Stages

People smuggling divides into at least three phases: recruitment, transfer, and entrance into the destination country. Human trafficking involves a further stage—exploitation (Di Nicola, 2003, pp. 112-116; Europol, 2002a; Salt & Stein, 1997), which may take place in a variety of markets operating in the destination countries.

Recruitment usually takes place in the origin countries of the would-be migrants or trafficked victims. A sharp distinction must be drawn here between persons who are trafficked and those who are smuggled. The latter always choose voluntarily to use the smugglers’ services. They must pay (often in advance) a fee to be transported to the selected destination, where they are left to their own devices. The methods used by the smugglers to recruit customers may vary according to their origin. Amongst the most common are the following:

Legal or semilegal “travel agencies,” which organize the transport of migrants. This may be the case of Turkish organized crime, for instance.

Spreading word among acquaintances and relatives. This method is typically used by smugglers in China, where organized criminals take advantage of ethnic factors and common geographic origin to recruit migrants.

Advertisements in local newspapers and on the Internet that publicize the contact details of “travel agencies” (a method in addition to the first one above) or those of intermediaries/ smugglers.

Some of these methods are also used when people are recruited to be exploited in destination countries. In this case, recruitment may take the following forms (International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, 2000; IOM, 2001b, p. 51; Transcrime, 2002, 2003):

Direct contact with members of the criminal organization. For instance, in the case of exploitation in the black economy, recruiters may be given the task of finding people who want to work abroad. In the case of sexual exploitation, contacts may be made with women already working as prostitutes in nightclubs.

Employment and travel agencies or model/ casting/talent agencies, depending on the type of exploitation. These exploiters usually advertise in local newspapers. When the prime aim is to exploit prostitutes, the advertisements usually state specific requirements with respect to appearance, social status, and age. Some exploiters also ask for photographs. The women may be offered work as au pairs, dancers, models, housemaids, waitresses, or air hostesses.

Direct and/or indirect knowledge of the victims.

Violence and, in extreme cases, kidnapping, which is perpetrated in many areas of the world on children and women, who are the most vulnerable subjects.

Sentimental attachments and false promises of marriage in the case of sexual exploitation. The criminals get engaged to the girls before they leave the country in order to reassure them.

The transport stage may be long and complex, especially when the trafficked/smuggled persons come from countries very distant from their destinations and several countries have to be crossed. The persons trafficked/smuggled may stay for months in relatively safe “assembly” countries before they move on. Different means of transport may be used: planes, cars, trains, boats and motorboats (in various combinations). Traffickers/smugglers may rely on the help of compliant public officials or of individuals who provide food and lodging for the victims. Counterfeited documents may be used during the journey. The nature of the transport process varies according to the organized groups involved, the origin of the people trafficked/ smuggled, the destination, the price, and the route selected.

Entry into the destination state may be legal or illegal. A tourist visa may be used to enter legally, or a legal work permit can be obtained with the help of cooperating citizens or compliant employers. The latter may provide fictitious work contracts for the traffickers and their victims so that they can acquire legal work permits and live in and move freely around the country. In this case, the document is valid: The illegality resides in the conditions on the basis of which the document is issued. Another legal means to enter a country is claiming political asylum on arrival at its borders. Illegal entry can take place in two ways: with or without border checks. The similarities with the smuggling of goods are evident. In the case of illegal entry without border checks, the migrant may have to cross mountain or coastal borders with the help of passeurs or expert guides. Examples are provided by Mexico or the Asian countries, where traffickers and smugglers are able to take advantage of scant border controls. In the case of illegal entry with border checks, fake identity documents are used, often with the collusion of corrupt customs officials—quite common when trafficking/smuggling victims enter their destination countries through airports.

Once this stage has been completed, if the migrants have been smuggled, they are now abandoned to their fates, and it is highly likely that, given the conditions of marginality in which they will now live in the host country, they will fall victim to other criminal groups or unscrupulous employers or they will commit crimes in order to earn a living (Di Nicola, 2001, p. 65). If the migrants have instead been trafficked, their exploitation begins in the host country, although some of them may have already been exploited during the journey (IOM, 2002, pp. 34-36). Exploitation may consist, for example, in forced labor, prostitution, or begging (usually children). The use of violence, deprivation of freedom of movement, and threats against the victims and sometimes their relatives are very common at this stage, whatever form the exploitation activity takes and wherever it occurs. The victims cannot keep any of the money earned from their work because they must now pay the traffickers for their migration. Exploitation of this kind is reported in all regions of the world: migrants exploited as laborers in the construction industries of Western Europe; women enslaved to work in the sweatshops of the industrialized countries or to sell their bodies in Western cities or the brothels of Asian towns; children compelled to beg in the rich countries or to work as camel jockeys in Asia—these are only some sad examples (see U.S. Department of State, 2003, pp. 5-12).

The Routes

What routes are selected to traffic human beings and smuggle migrants? Criminals seem to abide by the following rules:

Already-tested routes. Criminal organizations may engage in more than one illegal activity at the same time, and they use old routes for new criminal activities. It may happen that a

criminal enterprise … relies on the particular expertise, skills and means acquired in a specific illicit sector to expand its criminal activities, changing into new criminal circuits. In practice, a criminal group with already-trained personnel, already-acquired means, already-tested trafficking routes, already-displaced corruption networks, and already-existing contacts in different countries of the world, will move into new illicit markets (adding new activities to the ones in which it already specialises)…. One thinks, for example, of the connections established between drug trafficking and alien smuggling operations by Albanian groups transporting both nationals and drugs across the Adriatic Sea. The same applies to the organised crime groups of Asiatic origin which move illegal immigrants across the Canada-US border, utilising the routes, means and methods already developed for the smuggling of cigarettes. (Adamoli, Di Nicola, Savona, & Zoffi, 1998, p. 17)

Less risky countries and borders. Several countries have thousands of miles of seacoasts or mountain borders, which are difficult to patrol. Others have merely inadequate border controls or regard the security of their frontiers as the least of their problems. Yet others have loopholes in their criminal law provisions or visa law regulations mixed with high levels of corruption among public officials. These are the first countries of choice for traffickers/ smugglers, who use them as transit hubs or establish their bases in them.

Opportunistic criteria. Traffickers/smugglers can be very flexible; new routes are opened when old ones are closed by contingent events, such as war or a change of policy. The ease of journey from countries of origin to countries of destination and facility of access to ports or land/sea borders are among the main variables influencing the selection of a particular route.

Some examples are trafficking and smuggling routes to the European Union, the United States, and Australia. This is not to imply, of course, that these are the only geographic areas touched by the problem, for unfortunately, almost all the continents and countries of the world are affected (Protection Project, 2002; Schloenhardt, 2001, pp. 343-351; U.S. Department of State, 2003).

The following routes are used principally to traffic human beings and smuggle migrants into the European Union:

The Baltic route, which starts in Asian countries, passes through Russia and the Baltic states, reaches the Scandinavian countries by ferry, and from there continues to the heart of the E.U. (Di Nicola, 2001, pp. 67-68).

Especially with regard to trafficking, the Northern route which stretches from Eastern Europe, through Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic into Germany and then Scandinavia. It is also used as the final part of the journey for people coming by plane from the Far East, Africa, and South America (Europol, 2002a).

The Central European route, which passes through the central European countries and then usually enters Austria and Northern Italy (Europol, 2002a). This route may be an intermediate stage for migrants from the Asian region traveling through the southern CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) countries (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan) to Russia, and from there through Ukraine and the Slovakian and Czech Republics to Western European countries or even further to the United States and Canada (Interpol, n.d.). The route is also used by migrants from China, Sri Lanka, and other Asian countries (Transcrime, 2003).

The Balkan route, which crosses Turkey and the Balkan countries and usually terminates in Germany. It has several variants. From Bulgaria, migrants may travel through Romania and Hungary to Germany, or they may enter Macedonia or Albania and from there make their way to Italy, where they may remain or continue the journey to the Federal Republic of Germany or other Western European countries (Di Nicola, 2001, pp. 66-67; Transcrime, 2002).

The East Mediterranean route across the Mediterranean from Turkey to Italy, sometimes with a stopover in Greece or Albania (Transcrime, 2003).

The North African route From West Africa through Algeria and Morocco, across the Straits of Gibraltar by ship, and from there into Portugal and Spain. This route is also used as the final leg of the journey for migrants arriving by plane from the Far East, Africa, and South America (Europol, 2002a).

In addition to the above (land and sea) routes to Western Europe, there are numerous other direct connections by plane: For instance, people are trafficked into Europe by air from Central and South American countries and from Africa (Protection Project, 2002).

The traffickers of human beings (especially women and children) into the United States also make much use of air travel. The airports of New York, Miami, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco are major gateways for the trafficking of women and children into the United States. The people trafficked arrive from all over the world but especially from South America, Africa, Eastern Europe, and the East (Protection Project, 2002). New entry hubs are Atlanta, Cleveland, Houston, Orlando, and Washington Dulles. It has been reported, for instance, that Atlanta’s airport was chosen as the sole entry point for a Thai trafficker who brought in some 90 women in 2 years (1994-1995). He believed that, amid preparations for the Olympic Games, the Thai women would blend in with the multitude of ethnic nationalities arriving in the city at the time. Atlanta was also a good choice because the city had only a few ethnic Asian immigration officials (Richard, 2000, p. 11).

Other traffickers fly with their victims into Toronto and Vancouver and then transport them overland into the United States (Richard, 2000, p. 11). Trafficked or smuggled human beings also arrive by boat, mainly on the West Coast, even though arrivals by this means have decreased considerably (Interpol, n.d.). However, the most popular route to the United States for Chinese, South Americans, and South Asians is still the one through Central America and Mexico. “Central America has emerged as the primary gateway for US-bound illegal migrants from all over the world” (U.S. Government, 2000, p. 25).

Given its geographic nature, Australia can be entered only by sea or air. A prime sea route starts from Cambodia and Vietnam, being used mainly for Chinese, Vietnamese, and Cambodian nationals (Schloenhardt, 1999, p. 106). Other evidence suggests that migrants from various Middle Eastern countries (especially Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and Bangladesh) are assembled in Indonesia as the final staging post before they are moved by boat to the northwestern Australian shores, and boats arriving directly from China land on Australia’s eastern coasts (Schloenhardt, 1999, p. 106; 2001, pp. 347-349; Tailby, 2001, pp. 3-4). Of course, airports are major entry points as well, with traffickers/smugglers using commercial airlines (Schloenhardt, 1999, p. 107). The majority of women entering Australia to be employed in sex markets are recruited in Southeast Asia and fly into the country using tourist visas (Brockett & Murrey, 1994). Cases of trafficking for exploitation (from West to East) have also been reported from South Africa, Zambia, Turkey, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, and Fiji (Protection Project, 2002).

Organizing a Trafficking/Smuggling Enterprise: Basic Principles

Organized crime groups operating in the trafficking/smuggling of human beings act in accordance with an organizational rationale. The manner in which they organize their businesses by seeking out and combining resources essential for the trafficking/smuggling of human beings (Ekblom & Tilley, 2000, p. 382) is governed by a rational logic of risk reduction while maximizing economic results. Among the basic principles applied by criminal organizations as they undertake these criminal activities are the following:

Networks/Alliances and outsourcing. As we have seen, the organized crime groups operating in the field can be most aptly described as networks. The term may mean two things: that an individual group consists of a loose network of individuals or that an entire smuggling/trafficking operation is carried out by an articulated network of crime groups linked by alliances. If one of the criminal groups maintains the leading role, the best way to describe the relationship is outsourcing. In this case, a central unit with numerous subunits provides specific services. The outsourcing of individual tasks to other criminal organizations or individuals is often essential for the management of trafficking/smuggling activities, and it occurs when human or material resources or both are drawn from outside the main criminal group. It frequently happens that the criminal enterprise retains the core business and allocates some parts of the activity to other more skilled or less risk-averse criminals. Outsourcing is used especially during the transfer and entry phases, but it is not uncommon during the other phases as well (Di Nicola, 2003, p. 118).

Division of labor. Like all serious legal enterprises, criminal groups seek to increase their efficiency by differentiating the roles to be assigned within the organization. “Separating tasks and filling functional positions with qualified members protects the organization as a whole” (Schloenhardt, 2001, p. 341). Possible roles within a trafficking/smuggling criminal organization may be the following: arranger/investor, recruiter, transporter, corrupt public official or protector, informer, guide and crew member, enforcer, supporting personnel and specialists, debt collector, and money launderer (Schloenhardt, 1999, pp. 93-95). When criminal organizations look for people to fill these positions, it is likely that they will find some of them within the legitimate sphere. Thus, using the assistance of individuals from the legitimate sphere in the recruitment, transportation, entrance, and exploitation phases is an extremely common feature of trafficking/ smuggling groups. As seen above, contacts with victims and would-be migrants are established during the recruitment phase mainly by word of mouth, advertisements in local newspapers, and the use of travel and employment agencies. The more sophisticated these techniques, the more the supply of human beings will be constant and wide. The complexity of the method is indicative of the specialization of a criminal group. The second factor to be emphasized is the connivance and help received by traffickers/ smugglers from taxi drivers, the owners and/or managers of hotels, the landlords of houses and apartments, and the owners of legal commercial establishments. These “legal facilitators” work for profit and turn a blind eye to the criminal activity, thereby aiding and abetting it. Some are occasionally convicted, but they are more frequently charged and then acquitted for lack of evidence. These phenomena require careful study, because they are dangerous forms of crime and they are essential if traffickers/smugglers are to minimize their risks and develop their criminal activities. There is no doubt that if these services were not available, the entire organization of the trade would be much more complicated (Di Nicola, 2003, p. 117).

Horizontal interdependencies among criminal activities (diversification). Some crime groups, especially if they are medium to large enterprises and are involved in trafficking for exploitation, may engage in other criminal activities as well (especially drugs and arms trafficking), using organizational skills and tools developed in other sectors to move into new sectors. When this happens, the crime group is endeavoring to diversify its criminal activities in much the same way as an investor diversifies his or her investments to reduce risks and earn higher profits.

Vertical interdependencies among crimes (specializations of criminal activities). The transfer and entry phases of the trafficking/smuggling chain may involve a vertical interdependence among crimes. This occurs when organized criminals commit an offense but also perpetrate a series of intermediate or instrumental crimes as they do so. The commission of a crime of particular importance (in terms of effects or gains) is thus flanked by a chain of concomitant offences. In the case of trafficking in human beings for sexual exploitation, a series of crimes are committed and linked together to profit from the exploitation. They include, for instance, the counterfeiting of documents, the corruption of public officials, the use of compliant individuals who aid and abet traffickers by providing food and lodging for the women trafficked, and breaches of the law on legal immigration. All this displays a pattern of specialization: The more criminal groups commit interdependent offenses, the more they are specialized and the more they reduce their risks of being caught, imprisoned, and having their goods confiscated (Adamoli et al., 1998, pp. 16-18).

Using control devices during the exploitation phase. To minimize their risks, the traffickers of human beings for exploitation exert various forms of control over their victims (in the exploitation phase or during the journey). Seizure of victims’ identity documents is a first control device. After the victims have been deprived of their documents, they may be provided with false ones, and new identities may be given to them as well, these being changed from time to time to avoid recognition by the police during checks. Violence and menace are common because they undermine the victims’ self-confidence. This is especially the case of women forced into prostitution, where the accommodation system also enables the exploiters to keep control over them: Even when the victims are not locked inside houses or rooms, the exploiters are able to monitor their movements. Exploiters of women resort to other devices as well, such as driving the victims to their workplaces, protecting them while working, fixing the prices of services, and giving the women an exact number of condoms. These stratagems ensure close control over the victims. For example, the method of fixed prices and a given number of condoms enables the exploiters/controllers to determine whether the women’s daily income corresponds to the number of sexual services provided, and to detect any theft of the money earned during the day by the prostitutes. The role of the controllers is crucial, because they are in constant contact with the victims by mobile phone and warn them of problems (e.g., the presence of the police). They also collect all the women’s daily earnings.

The Victims

The lowest common denominator of all trafficking and smuggling victims is their vulnerability, which may depend on a set of variables deriving from the fact that a person has no physical, material, social, or psychological resources with which to resist the blandishments of traffickers/smugglers. Such vulnerable persons are desperate to escape from dire socioeconomic and sociopolitical circumstances, and they have no means of knowing that the help of traffickers/smugglers is illegal and may deprive them of their basic human rights. Hence, the concept of vulnerability may assist the prediction of which individuals will become victims and in which geographical areas. It is for this reason, for instance, that traffickers prefer to supply women and children from the rural areas of underdeveloped countries.

The human typology of victims is diverse. It comprises the poverty-stricken, the extremely uneducated, and common criminals but also intellectuals and political dissidents. Persons already working as prostitutes may sometimes become the victims of traffickers for sexual exploitation. The Europol Report 2002 (Europol, 2002a) distinguishes among three types of victim according to the methods employed to recruit them: exploited victims, deceived victims, and kidnapped victims. The first group (exploited victims) comprises those who have worked in the sex industry in their home country and are recruited for similar work in the destination country. Only on their arrival do they realize that they have been duped into working in conditions similar to slavery. The second group (deceived victims) consists of women recruited to work in the service or entertainment industries of the destination country, with no mention being made of their likely prostitution. The third group is made up of women who have been kidnapped and are therefore unwilling victims from the outset.

The Scale of the Problem

Estimating the Scale of the Phenomenon

The U.S. government estimates that 500,000 illegal aliens are brought into the country annually by alien smuggling networks. It also estimates that in 1999 Chinese smugglers helped 30,000 to 40,000 Chinese to enter the United States (U.S. Government, 2000, p. 22). Other recent estimates are very difficult to find, however. An early and widely cited survey was conducted by the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD, 1994) for 1993 and estimated that between 100,000 and 220,000 migrants had used the help of smuggling syndicates, in one or several phases of the transfer, to reach a Western European country in that year. The ICMPD estimate was based on the assumption that between 15% and 30% of the immigrants (250,000-300,000) entering Europe illegally had used traffickers, and that between 20% and 40% of those requesting asylum without genuine entitlement (estimated at 300,000) had done so as well (Widgren, 1994).

In regard to trafficking, according to government and nongovernmental experts in the field, between 700,000 and 2 million women and children are trafficked globally each year (Richard, 2000, p. 3). A recent U.S. government estimate—which includes men, women, and children trafficked into forced labor and sexual exploitation and does not include internal trafficking movements—indicates that about 800,000 to 900,000 people are annually trafficked across international borders in the world, with 18,000 to 20,000 of them having the United States as their final destination (U.S. Department of State, 2003, p. 7). Yet it has also been reported that some years previously, in 1997, according to U.S. government estimates, 45,000 to 50,000 women and children were trafficked into the United States in that year alone, which was 6% to 7% of the world total (U.S. Government, 2000, p. 25). Approximately 30,000 women and children were being trafficked into the United States annually from Southeast Asia, 10,000 from Latin America, 4,000 from the Newly Independent States and Eastern Europe, and 1,000 from other regions (Richard, 2000, p. 3). It is evident, therefore, that official estimates suffer from some inconsistencies.

The IOM (2001a) has reported that until recently an estimated 500,000 women had been trafficked from Bangladesh to India to work in the sex industry and that every year, 5,000 women and girls from Nepal are forced into prostitution in India.

Are Estimates Reliable?

The above-mentioned figures notwithstanding, it should be stressed that estimating hidden phenomena such as trafficking and smuggling in humans is very difficult and that every estimate runs the risk of becoming a “guesstimate.” Research may either overestimate or underestimate the phenomenon. For instance, in Europe (as elsewhere), there are few studies that estimate the number of persons trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation to a given area and explain the methodology used to produce their data (Bruinsma & Meershoek, 1999; Carchedi, Picciolini, Mottura, & Campani, 2000; IOM, 1996; Kelly & Regan, 2000; see also International Organization for Migration, 2000). An example of a study that does so has been conducted by PARSEC (a Rome-based social research organization) (Carchedi et al., 2000), which has shown that the number of trafficked women can be estimated by extrapolating a subset of the population of foreign prostitutes calculated on the basis of empirical surveys. The number of trafficked women estimated by PARSEC ranged from 1,453 to 1,858 (min.) to 1,942 to 2,216 (max.) for 1996 and from 1,103 (min.) and 1,446 (max.) for 1998. Again on the basis of an empirical survey, a U.K. research study, for 1998, estimated trafficked women at between 142 and 1,420 (Kelly & Regan, 2000). In general, regarding all existing research, “Where data on specific aspects of trafficking are quoted they are more likely than not to be derived from small-scale surveys or from sources such as police records which cannot be scientifically representative” (IOM, 2001b).

Another method to estimate trafficking uses the official figures on trafficked victims who have contacted the investigative and judicial authorities. Consequently, improvements in the collection of investigative and judicial statistical data on victims may yield much more reliable estimates of the number of trafficked people and the monetary turnover of traffickers/exploiters. If these figures were available, it would then be necessary only to calculate, with the help of experts, the ratio between the victims who report their traffickers and/or contact the judicial authorities and those who do not (i.e., the “dark” number of victims). That is to say, it would thus be possible to make an estimate on the basis of a reasonable (and agreed on by experts) definition of that ratio.

This approach has already been used by an IOM study of trafficking in women in Austria (IOM, 1996), a country in which (a) the crime of trafficking in women is envisaged by the Criminal Code and (b) data are collected on the offense and on victims. This research reported that in the period considered (1990-1994), the victims trafficked and then induced into prostitution and recorded by official statistics amounted to 751. The research report added, however, that “the real number therefore may be many times higher than shown in the statistics” (p. 32). That is to say, the officially recorded number of victims represents only the tip of the iceberg, but it is certainly a useful basis for calculation of the part of the iceberg that remains submerged.

Recent research by Transcrime (2002) also applied this method and produced the following estimates for Spain and Italy: (a) the yearly number of victims, (b) the yearly maximum monetary turnover from the sale of trafficked people to exploiters (i.e., the profits of criminals who transfer foreign persons from one country to another to procure prostitutes for exploiters in the destination countries) (TT, or turnover from trafficking), and (c) the yearly maximum turnover from the sexual exploitation of trafficked people (TE, or turnover from exploitation).

In Spain, the estimated total population of victims trafficked for sexual exploitation ranged from 4,120 (min.) to 8,240 (max.) for 1999 and from 3,920 (min.) to 7,840 (max) for 2000. The estimated TT for 1999 ranged from € 29,664,000-59,328,000 to 123,600,000-247,200,000 and, for 2000, from 28, 224,000-56,448,000 to 117,600,000-235,200,000. The estimated TE for 1999 ranged from € 177,984,000-355,968,000 to 889,920,000-1,779,840,000 and, for 2000, from €169,344,000-338,688,000 to 846,720,000- 1,693,440,000.

In Italy, the estimated total number of victims trafficked for sexual exploitation in the period between March 6, 1998 to December 31, 2000, ranged from 7,260 (min.) to 14,520 (max.). The yearly estimated average of victims (for 1999 and 2000) ranged from 2,640 (min.) to 5,280 (max.). The yearly estimated TT for 1999 and for 2000 ranged from € 2,640,000-5,280,000 to 36,960,000-73,920,000, and the estimated TE for 1999 and for 2000 from € 380,160,000- 760,320,000 to 475,200,000-950,400,000.

Actions Taken at the International and National Level

What International Instruments Ask Countries to Do

The international community has become aware that a three-pillar approach is needed to tackle trafficking in human beings and the smuggling of migrants. The three pillars are repression, prevention, and protection of and assistance to victims. All the recent international instruments enacted on trafficking/smuggling matters consider these three sets of polices.


The Trafficking Protocol to the Palermo Convention calls for the parties to enact new laws to criminalize trafficking in persons, especially women and children, and to ensure that persons attempting to commit the crime, participating in its commission, or organizing and directing other persons in order to commit it are punished (Article 5). Governments, the protocol continues, should also adopt new measures to tighten border controls by means of stricter identity checks, as well as by inspecting and seizing vehicles (Article 11). The Smuggling Protocol to the Palermo Convention envisages the elimination of safe havens for migrant smugglers and the fast-track prosecution of offenders, requesting that nations adopt laws making the smuggling of migrants (together with the attempt, participation, and organization/direction) a criminal offense. Behaviors to be criminalized include producing a fraudulent travel or identity document and procuring, providing, or possessing such a document for the purpose of migrant smuggling (Article 6).

With regard to the EU, two recent provisions should be mentioned in particular: the Council Framework Decision of July 19, 2002, on combating trafficking in human beings (2002/629/JHA) and the Council Directive of November 28, 2002 on defining the facilitation of unauthorized entry, transit, and residence (Council Directive 2002/90/EC).

The Council Framework Decision establishes the offenses concerning trafficking in human beings for the purposes of labor exploitation or sexual exploitation in the E.U. and calls on E.U. member states to take the necessary measures to ensure that instigating of, aiding, abetting, or attempting to commit such an offense is punishable by effective, proportionate, and dissuasive criminal penalties, which may entail extradition (Articles 1, 2, and 3). Each member state shall also take the necessary measures to ensure the liability of legal persons for the offense of trafficking in human beings for the purposes of labor exploitation or sexual exploitation if the offense was committed for a legal person’s benefit by any person, acting either individually or as part of an organ of the legal person, who has a leading position within the legal person (Article 4). In this case, effective, proportionate, and dissuasive penalties may include criminal or noncriminal fines or other sanctions (Article 5).

The Council Directive refers to the smuggling of migrants (although the term used is “facilitation of unauthorised entry, transit and residence”). According to Article 1, each

Member State shall adopt appropriate sanctions on: (a) any person who intentionally assists a person who is not a national of a Member State to enter, or transit across, the territory of a Member State in breach of the laws of the State concerned on the entry or transit of aliens; (b) any person who, for financial gain, intentionally assists a person who is not a national of a Member State to reside within the territory of a Member State in breach of the laws of the State concerned on the residence of aliens.

Sanctions should be effective, proportionate, and dissuasive (Article 3).


The Trafficking Protocol emphasizes that governments should seek to prevent trafficking with various measures. Information campaigns should be drafted and implemented and should be focused on informing potential victims of the causes and consequences of trafficking, the penalties for trafficking, and the risks they may face. States parties are then required to take steps, also through bilateral or multilateral cooperation, to reduce the vulnerability of persons, especially women and children, to trafficking (e.g., poverty, underdevelopment). States parties shall also adopt or strengthen legislative or other measures, such as educational, social, or cultural measures, to discourage the demand for all forms of exploitation of persons that leads to trafficking (Article 9). This protocol also envisages a form of situational prevention with reference to identity documents. Member states should ensure that their travel or identity documents are of such quality that they cannot easily be misused and cannot readily be falsified, altered, replicated, or issued; they should also ensure the integrity and security of these documents issued by or on behalf of the state party and prevent their unlawful creation, issuance, and use (Article 12).

Similar action on identity documents is requested by the Smuggling Protocol (Articles 12, 13), which also calls for closer attention to be paid to border controls as a means to prevent smuggling (Article 11). The protocol also asks countries to adopt public information campaigns to prevent potential migrants from falling victim to organized criminal groups, and programs to combat the root socio-economic causes of the smuggling of migrants (Article 15).

Preventive measures against trafficking and smuggling are also set out in the Comprehensive Plan to Combat Illegal Immigration and Trafficking of Human Beings in the European Union adopted by the E.U. Council of Ministers on February 28, 2002. With reference to prevention, among the various actions proposed, the plan describes a series of measures to be adopted prior to the crossing of borders in and with the countries of origin. Among them are (a) cooperation with states of origin in combating trafficking in human beings and inducing them to assume their readmission obligations, with technical and financial assistance; (b) awareness campaigns on the risks of illegal immigration; (c) prevention of corruption; (d) improvement of the security of identity documents.

Protection and Assistance

The Trafficking (Articles 6, 7, and 8) and the Smuggling (Article 16) Protocols mandate state parties to assist and protect smuggled persons and victims of traffic. Countries should do the following:

Protect the basic rights of migrants and protect migrants against violence

Assist migrants endangered by the smuggling process, with special attention to women and children

Allow trafficked victims to remain on their territory, temporarily or permanently

Provide for the physical, psychological, and social recovery of victims

Facilitate, without delay, the return of trafficked victims who are nationals or residents in the country

Inform victims about relevant court and other proceedings against offenders and ensure victims’ privacy

Enable victims to seek compensation for damages, including fines, penalties, or forfeited proceeds as well as restitution from offenders

Moreover, the European Commission has recently formulated a proposal for a Council Directive (European Commission, 2002, 71) submitted on February 11, 2002 on short-term stay permits issued to victims of action to facilitate illegal immigration or trafficking in human beings who cooperate with the competent authorities. Although this temporary stay permit is issued to victims in exchange for their cooperation with the investigative and judicial authorities—and is thus mainly a tool in the fight against human traffickers and migrant smugglers—it is a normative device that also affords protection to victims.

What Countries are Doing

Numerous countries around the world have committed themselves to the fight against human trafficking and migrant smuggling of migrants, and they have recently undertaken legislative reforms to strengthen their normative instruments. Nevertheless, there is still a great deal to be done; the efforts made thus far are not uniformly distributed around the world—as evidenced by the results of the recent Trafficking in Persons Report of the U.S. Department of State (2003). This report, issued to Congress as required by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, attempts to group the world’s countries according to their variance from the act’s “minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.” The Trafficking Victims and Protection Act of October 2000 was intended to combat trafficking by ensuring the effective punishment of traffickers, enhancing protection for victims, and creating significant mandates for the Departments of State, Justice, Labor, and Health and Human Services and the U.S. Agency for International Development. It has proved an effective legislative instrument against trafficking.

According to the act’s “minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking,” governments should (1) prohibit trafficking and punish acts of trafficking; (2) prescribe punishment commensurate with that for grave crimes, such as forcible sexual assault, for the knowing commission of trafficking in some of its most reprehensible forms (trafficking for sexual purposes, involving rape or kidnapping, or that causes a death); (3) prescribe punishment that is sufficiently stringent to deter and that adequately reflects the offense’s heinous nature for the knowing commission of any act of trafficking; and (4) make serious and sustained efforts to eliminate trafficking (U.S. Department of State, 2003, p. 15). In particular, the act states seven criteria that may be considered as proving “serious and sustained efforts to eliminate trafficking” (Point 4 above):

  • Whether the government vigorously investigates and prosecutes acts of trafficking within its territory
  • Whether the government protects victims of trafficking, encourages victims’ assistance in investigation and prosecution, provides victims with legal alternatives to their removal to countries where they would face retribution or hardship, and ensures that victims are not inappropriately penalized solely for unlawful acts as a direct result of being trafficked
  • Whether the government has adopted measures, such as public education, to prevent trafficking
  • Whether the government cooperates with other governments in investigating and prosecuting trafficking
  • Whether the government extradites persons charged with trafficking as it does with other serious crimes
  • Whether the government monitors immigration and emigration patterns for evidence of trafficking and whether law enforcement agencies respond appropriately to such evidence
  • Whether the government vigorously investigates and prosecutes public officials who participate in or facilitate trafficking and takes all appropriate measures against officials who condone trafficking (U.S. Department of State, 2003, p. 15)

Countries that comply with the minimum standards are classified in Tier 1; countries whose governments do not fully comply with them but are making significant efforts to bring themselves in line with those standards are placed in Tier 2; countries whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so are allocated to Tier 3. In 2003 there were numerous nations in the world still widely at variance with normative standards that allow the effective repression and prevention of trafficking in human beings and the protection and assistance of victims. The problem is even greater when one considers progress made in the field of policies against smuggling of human beings.

Likely Scenarios

The criminal problems discussed in this chapter result from a set of intractable variables, as follows:

First, differentials in well-being among the countries of the world. A two-speed split between West and East and North and South (i.e., a split between two worlds—rich and poor, two worlds evolving at different speeds) has developed, and it continues to grow apace.

Second, the almost unconditional closure of their borders by rich countries and their general lack of coherent policies for the integration of newcomers.

Third, the continuing absence of a tough criminal law framework against smugglers and traffickers and the difficulty of effective investigative and judicial cooperation.

Fourth, the insufficient harmonization of migration policies, visa regimes, crime prevention, and crime control policies across the countries of the world.

All these variables influence the balance between opportunities and risks that rational criminals weigh before undertaking a new criminal activity. As long as there are easy opportunities (with high profits) and low risks, the trafficking and smuggling of humans as organized crime businesses will flourish. Transnational organized criminals will use their entrepreneurial skills, their flexibility in adapting to new and changing environments, and the ease with which they move across borders to take advantage of criminal markets.

The level of trafficking/smuggling can be reduced by working on the above variables, and the actions taken should be harmonized, global, and agreed on by several countries cooperating to achieve a common goal. Every weak link in the network is an opportunity for criminals, because it gives them a loophole to exploit. A single country working alone is bound to fail. The crucial problem is persuading the wealthier countries to surrender some of their privileges and to reduce unconditional restrictions to legal immigration, and persuading the poorest countries to admit their responsibilities and make their needs more explicit. In short, legislative measures should be tough on criminals and their illicitly acquired wealth, and a global network should be built. Some positive steps forward have been taken, but more concrete action is now necessary. The longer it takes to achieve this pact among the largest number possible of countries in the world, the more likely it becomes that future scenarios will be little different from the present situation.