Evidence-based Strategies Needed to Combat Human Trafficking

In 2013, the United Nations General Assembly designated the 30th of July as the World Day against Trafficking in Persons to raise awareness about the severity of human rights violations that trafficking victims endure and acknowledge that human trafficking is a crime that affects all countries in the world.

At the International Organization for Migration (IOM), we have developed a global database to identify trends related to migration and human trafficking. IOM’s global data on human trafficking suggests that all countries are – to different degrees – countries of destination, transit and origin. It also shows that human trafficking is characterized by super-diversity, very much as recent global migration patterns are considered to be. This brings numerous challenges but also a common goal for countries to cooperate in a pragmatic way to fight human trafficking.

IOM is the lead agency in the protection and provision of assistance to victims of trafficking. It has the world’s largest database on victims of human trafficking. The data recorded by IOM is based on its direct assistance of victims by IOM missions working in the field globally. In the past year, IOM has improved its capacity to collect more and better victim data and it aims to provide wider, appropriate public access to information on human trafficking.  

Since last year, another important step in the field of human trafficking has been taken: the global work on poverty and inequality was enhanced by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Agenda for the next fifteen years includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with 169 associated targets.

Migration (including human trafficking) is for the first time included on such a global agenda, and it can be found in the targets of four SDGs.  The inclusion of human trafficking on the global agenda with the follow-up that will see the establishment of national frameworks to achieve the SDGs is another important acknowledgement that human trafficking and migration more broadly need specialized responses at local, national, regional and global level. For example, Goal 16 refers to the prevention and eradication of trafficking in children, while Goal 5 similarly includes the goal of eradicating trafficking of women and girls. Decent work and ethical recruitment, promoted by Goal 8, are also important in the fight against labour exploitation and trafficking for domestic servitude.

The upcoming national strategies to combat human trafficking and alleviate poverty need to be based on evidence. IOM, as the leading migration agency and as an organization that offers direct assistance to trafficked persons and vulnerable migrants, is well placed to offer such evidence. In addition, IOM’s unparalleled database on trafficking in human beings can provide quality data to inform policy-makers, researchers, the public and other stakeholders.

To mark the 2016 World Day against Trafficking in Persons, IOM’s Migrant Assistance Division (MAD) has released data on the profile of victims of trafficking assisted by the Organization over the past ten years, and data on regional trafficking corridors from 2015. The infographic accompanying this article is an example of that.

IOM has a dedicated page for the 30th of July which outlines the current IOM campaigns across the globe raising awareness about human trafficking.

IOM will strengthen its position as an information hub for human trafficking data through its human trafficking data platform that is being established with partners. The platform will bring together and visualize a range of datasets on human trafficking in one open, online resource, addressing the need for up-to-date, comprehensive and reliable data on human trafficking.

Another recent IOM initiative in the counter-trafficking field is the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Prevalence Indication Survey on the Eastern and Central Mediterranean routes. This is a unique set of reports in the context of the migration and refugee crisis, with findings that attempt to quantify the vulnerabilities of migrants and the risks that they face on the journey to Europe. The most recent report can be found here with further reports to be published on the IOM’s Migration flows to Europe page.

While there have been advances in the attempt to challenge human trafficking practices across the globe, more efforts will be needed to build the knowledge base on human trafficking to inform policy-making in pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals.


 Eliza Galos is an IOM Data Analyst on Human Trafficking