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Human trafficking across the world

Human trafficking is a global phenomenon that can take many forms. Establishing the prevalence of the phenomenon is difficult, and the estimates on the number of victims vary from tens of thousands to millions.

Taustalla-on-itkuaAccording to a UN report from 2016, the total number of victims detected worldwide was 63,251, whereas the International Labour Organisation estimated that in 2016 there were more than 40 million victims of human trafficking in the world. The majority of the victims were subjected to forced marriage or labour exploitation.

Circa 60 per cent of human trafficking is transnational crime

Human trafficking is estimated to be one of the most profitable forms of organised crime globally, alongside drug trafficking and trade in arms. It is important to bear in mind, however, that human trafficking is in many cases not connected to organised crime at all. Similarly, not all human trafficking is transnational: it can just as well happen within one country.

According to a UN report, the majority of human trafficking globally is transnational crime. Approximately 40 per cent of human trafficking is conducted within one country.

Victims are trafficked from poor areas to wealthy ones

Most trafficking streams lead from poor areas to wealthy ones because the profits from criminal activity are higher in the wealthier areas.

The direction of human trafficking within one country is typically from rural areas to cities. In the case of transnational human trafficking, the country of origin is usually a relatively poor country in which the threshold for going abroad in search of a better future is high and where the level of education often is low.

Textile industry, mining industry, nut trade...

ihmiskauppaa-vaateteollisuudessa-mekkoja-rekilläHuman trafficking has been found to occur in the supply chains of many everyday products used in Finland. The textile industry in particular is known as an industry where human trafficking and sometimes even slavery-like practices are being detected all the time. The working conditions are extremely poor in many cotton fields and clothing factories.

Also gold, diamonds and mica, a sparkly mineral used for example in cosmetics, are often being mined under conditions that might constitute human trafficking. Minerals such as mica are often mined using child labour.

In food production, for example, shrimps produced in Thailand, some fish products from Southeast Asia, West African chocolate and cashew nuts have probably at some point of the supply chain passed through the hands of trafficking victims. Also the working conditions in large Mediterranean greenhouses may resemble forced labour.

For more information on human trafficking in supply chains, see, for example, the website of Anti-Slavery International.

Conflicts fuel human trafficking

Conflicts have been found to generate a favourable environment for human trafficking, and a clear connection between human trafficking and refugee flows has been established. Refugees are in an especially vulnerable position because of their situation and thus in a great risk of becoming victims of trafficking-like exploitation during their journey.

In conflict zones, armed groups may force children to become child soldiers or make women and girls marry the group’s fighters.

Majority of victims are women

According to international estimates, sex trafficking and labour trafficking are by far the most common forms of human trafficking worldwide. Other forms of human trafficking include forced marriages, forced criminal activity, forced begging, and organ trafficking.

sandaalit-ja-kengätIt has been estimated that the majority of the victims of human trafficking are women. In addition, approximately a quarter of the victims are estimated to be children, most of whom girls. Women appear to be especially vulnerable to exploitation linked to human trafficking.

However, the share of men among the detected victims of human trafficking has, according to a UN estimate, increased by almost ten percentage points after the year 2004.