Reviewing International Crime And Human Trafficking Criminology Essay


Human Trafficking has been one of the most controversial topics in international crime discussions for many years. Many issues on this topic have been disputed vigorously, such as what is the exact definition of Human Trafficking, the difference between trafficking and smuggling of migrants, the association it has with prostitution and the legal implication of the consent of victims, just to mention a few. Experts tend to have their own opinion formulated when it comes to these issues. Nevertheless, government officials, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, researchers and the international community are all together on one aspect: that there is a lack of dependable data on Human Trafficking.

A worldwide database was established under the Global Programme against Human Trafficking of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in order to consistently collect and assemble open-source information on such trafficking. An uncanny amount of sources have been investigated thoroughly for information on this ever growing trend of Human Trafficking in order to gain the routes used, learn of the characteristics of victims and offenders and also see what exactly the criminal justice responses are. In the early stages of the paper, it will show the results from the analysis of the database, and then it will begin to concentrate mainly on the quality of information that is being entered into the database. Last but not least, an overview of the source countries, their form of transit and targeted destinations, as well as the characteristics of the victims and offenders, will be touched upon.

What is Trafficking People?

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The International Agreement for the Suppression of the White Slave Traffic, which was adopted in 1904 and has been ratified by 12 states, was the first international document that involved the trafficking of women. In 1949 the Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others was adopted by the General Assembly (resolution 317 (IV), annex) and was later been ratified by 49 States. However, these legal documents do not provide a clear definition of trafficking in persons.

In November 2000, the General Assembly adopted the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, adding to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (General Assembly resolution 55/25, annex II). This marks' the first time that the international community has mutually agreed on a definition for trafficking in persons. The Protocol against Human Trafficking gears toward preventing and combating trafficking and also strengthening international cooperation against trafficking.

The definition of the term "trafficking in persons" in the Protocol includes three elements: (1) recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons; (2) the use of improper means, such as force, abduction, fraud or deception; and (3) the objective of exploitation, such as sexual exploitation, forced labor, servitude or slavery. States that consent to the Protocol are required to enact domestic laws making those activities criminal offences. The Protocol also requires States to take steps to protect and support victims of trafficking. They should be entitled to confidentiality and protection against offenders. Besides general protection, victims should also receive specific forms of protection when they are providing evidence or assistance to the police or when they are appearing as a witness for the prosecution. Social benefits, such as housing, medical care and legal assistance or any other counseling are optional requirements.

The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (General Assembly resolution 55/25, annex I) is also attached to the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air (resolution 55/25, annex III). The definition of "smuggling of migrants" in that Protocol includes procurement of illegal entry of a person into a country of which the person is not a national or a permanent resident in order to obtain direct or indirect financial or other material benefit. It is important to state that there is a difference between the definitions of "trafficking in persons" (aka Human Trafficking) and "smuggling of migrants" (aka Human Smuggling). Human Trafficking is not smuggling. While Human Trafficking and smuggling can appear to be similar, Human Trafficking involves force, fraud, or coercion, whereas smuggling does not. Victims of trafficking never had a choice. A person cannot meaningfully consent to become a slave. Most human trafficking victims are truly desperate to escape. According to Kelly and Regan, Murray and Salt, smuggling of migrants is usually limited to illegally transporting the person to the country of destination, after which the relationship between the smugglers and smuggled persons terminates. In trafficking, on the contrary, persons are delivered to organizations or individuals who have paid for their delivery and the trafficked persons must, after the delivery, repay their debt to the organizers through prostitution or forced labor (Kelly & Regan, 2000, Murray, 1998, Salt, 2000).

Problems with Availability and Reliability of Data

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In recent years, there has been an increase of information on trafficking in persons, but even with that, the reliability of the information still remains to be questioned. Every week new reports, manuals, articles and books are published with information. However, most of the information that is being reported is on individual cases or for information support purposes. According to Laczko, in those reports, if there happens to be figures showing the level of Human Trafficking, they are usually based on published estimates of the level of trafficking and in mostly all cases there usually is no explanation of how those statistics were even calculated (Laczko, 2002).

A major dilemma with data sources is that the reliability of data remains a problem. Because it is so difficult to collect data in this underground market of Human Trafficking, reliable data is difficult to come by. Even though there is some in-depth research that takes place in the field of Human Trafficking, most of the data is based on "guesstimates" made by the researcher, which in most cases is used for fund-raising purposes or some other form of propaganda.

Shaw, Van Dijk and Rhomberg, state that, "The question of whether global estimates of the scale of trafficking in humans serve any serious policy purposes should be posed. For other serious crimes, such as homicide, assault or rape, global estimates are usually not given even though there are considerable problems with the data in some regions of the world" (Shaw, Van Dijk and Rhomberg, 2003). Estimations on the numbers of persons involved in Human Trafficking are always going to be vague and because of that, it cannot serve as a reliable information base for policy planning. Do to the lack of reliability; it remains open to discussion whether or not this type of information is needed at all.

Global mapping is very useful for planning and assessment purposes. It is a great way of indentifying the main countries involved in trafficking in humans. Mapping "hot spots" give valuable information on the nature and situation of Human Trafficking, such as origin, transit and destination countries. It can also show participation of organized criminal groups in different countries and the main routes they tend to use. This knowledge is very important and can be used for developing teamwork between those agencies/individuals that are in the field of prevention, victim assistance and criminal justice responses and monitoring the impact of those actions. Also, carefully collected and analyzed national and regional data might help for developing regional cooperation in the battle against Human Trafficking.

The database of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has been constructed to include information dealing with all related aspects of Human Trafficking from open sources. The main sources include official reports from Governments, information disseminated by intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, research reports, conference material and media reports (United Nations Convention…, 2010). In order to assess the level of reliability of sources, the database includes a field for the confidence level for each one, on a scale of 1 to 5, the default value for confidence being in the middle (United Nations Convention…, 2010). For each source, the minus and plus factors influencing the confidence level are reviewed. For example, factors reducing the confidence levels include the fact that the figure is based on an extrapolation of a small sample. Factors increasing confidence include, for example, figures on real cases dealt with by the police (United Nations Convention…, 2010).


Some of the researchers that collect data gather information either globally or regionally. Such initiatives usually collect both quantitative and qualitative information on legislation, victim assistance, trafficking routes and other related and helpful information. In most cases the data is not comparable, due to the nature of the information. One of the main goals of the Global Programme against Trafficking in Human Beings database is to collect data that can be compared between different countries and regions (United Nations Convention…, 2010). There are many common recognized problems when it comes to gathering comparative data on crime, such as vague definitions, inaccurate classifications and differences in units of count used. Joutsen believes that even crimes that might be considered to be covered by more or less similar definitions such as homicide are difficult to compare between countries (Joutsen, 1998). With new forms of crime such as Human Trafficking, Organ Smuggling, etc., most of the customary methods of collecting data cannot be used. Major problems with a comparative analysis include some of the following problems:

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(a) The lack of specific legislation on Human Trafficking is resulting in the lack of official criminal justice statistics on cases involving trafficking in humans, such as number of police-recorded cases and number of persons prosecuted and convicted. Where legislation on trafficking in persons is available, the legal definitions vary considerably from one country to the other. For example, the legislation may address only some forms of trafficking in persons: such as trafficking in women for sexual exploitation or trafficking in children. In such cases official statistics include only some types of trafficking crime; (Joutsen, 1998)

(b) In several countries, there is no difference what so ever in the official statistics between cases involving trafficking in humans and smuggling of migrants. This is also usually based on the lack of clear legal definitions of the two crimes. Other countries however, crimes are clearly defined by the legislator but not enforced by definition by law enforcement. Law enforcement might favor investigating some of the human trafficking cases as migrant smuggling crimes because it is easier to collect evidence. Migrant smuggling investigations lead to successful prosecutions more often than Human Trafficking investigations because the testimony of the trafficking victims is too difficult to obtain due to their fear of retaliation by traffickers or deportation by authorities. For that reason human trafficking cases are often entered as migrant smuggling cases in official criminal justice statistics; (Joutsen, 1998)

(c) Very rarely, countries provide official statistics on cases involving human trafficking. The Bundeskriminalamt, the German criminal police, has published a comprehensive yearly report on crimes involving such trafficking since 1999 (Germany Bundeskriminalamt. 1999, 2000 and 2001). The first report of the Dutch National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings gives detailed information on the national situation and includes figures also on victims, investigations and prosecutions (The Hague, 2002). A national rapporteur on trafficking in women is conducted in Sweden, submitting yearly reports on the situation in that country since 1998 (Sweden, National Criminal…, 2008);

(d) The statistics on the number of police recorded crimes, prosecutions and convictions do not necessarily show the levels of crime but rather give feedback on the operations of the criminal justice systems. According to del Frate, when action by the relevant authorities is increased, more cases are registered in the crime statistics. For crimes such as assault, rape or robbery, victimization surveys give more reliable figures on the true level of crime. In such surveys, samples of people are asked about their victimization experiences over a certain period of time (del Frate, 2003). General victimization surveys cannot be used to collect data because the number of trafficking victims is not frequent enough to be represented in a small sample of the population. Nevertheless, a focused victimization study on trafficking experiences could be carried out among, for example, young women from developing countries returning from abroad (del Frate, 2003).

The International Organization for Migration has systematically entered information on trafficking victims into a database using a standardized methodology. It includes both qualitative and quantitative information on numbers of victims assisted, their country of origin, age, trafficking route and the method in which they were trafficked (Laczko, 2003, Omelaniuk, 2002).

The Global Programme against Trafficking in Human Beings, the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute, have developed a questionnaire for the collection of data pertaining to the experiences of victims. The study will be conducted in several different countries in order to compare the data on victims' experiences. They have also developed instruments in order to collect data from criminal justice agencies/individuals in different countries. While conducting research in the Philippines, a pilot test revealed that the cases involving migrant smuggling and trafficking were not clearly separated and defined in the legislation, which had an impact on, for example, non-governmental organizations that provided services to victims (United Nations Office…, 2003). During the data collection stage of the study, it became clear that most of the victims, who had been assisted, had been sent back to their country. This was a problem because the victims were introduced to the researchers as trafficked victims, not smuggled victims. Interviews with the criminal justice practitioners also suffered from the same dilemma. Practitioners then questioned about the actual Human Trafficking taking place, which made them mainly provide information on cases that involved smuggling but not trafficking (United Nations Office…, 2003).

Collecting Data for the Database on Human Trafficking

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime database on trafficking trends is designed to collect a wide range of open-source information on trafficking in human beings (United Nations Convention, 2010). The information may come in the form of official government statistics, reports of research institutes or of intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations. It may also be drawn from newspaper articles as well as news agency bulletins (United Nations Convention, 2010).

When it comes to more traditional types of crime, more data is always available to developed countries than in developing countries. This is furthermore reflected in the collection of data for the database. A total of 284 sources have been entered to date, and most of it coming from developed countries. Many of the sources include data from all over the world, particularly those available by international organizations. The use of data from Western sources has clouded the database due to the fact that it is focusing on the developed countries which in turn are introducing a bias to the data. More efforts have to be made in order to collect information from other regions so it can eliminate the bias that has been created.

The data that has been collected has been entered into three different sections of the database:

(a) Section 1. Country reports - Estimates on the volume of human trafficking in a given country, including trafficking to, within, through and from the country; trafficking for sexual exploitation or forced labor; and persons encountered and ultimately cases dealt with by the criminal justice system;

(b) Section 2. Profiles - Characteristics of victims of trafficking or the traffickers: nationality, sex and age distribution;

(c) Section 3. Trafficking routes - Information on countries included in the routes used for trafficking in humans.

The information for sections 1 and 2 primarily deals with statistics, but victim characteristics can also be put in those sections. This ensures that to some extent, the level of detail is not overlooked by the emphasis of the database on quantitative data. The information gathered in section 3 is mostly non-numeric. However, just like sections 1 and 2, numerical information can be entered in section.

The database was designed so that it included a wide range of source material that would be used in the final analysis. Due to the database being so flexible, incorporating a variety of information complicates taking data from the database. This is so because the same type of information can potentially be entered into more than one section. For that reason, in the reporting phase, the data stored in different sections of the database can be combined.

As mentioned earlier in the paper, the database collects both qualitative and quantitative information about Human Trafficking from a mixture of sources. Those sources usually provide several different types of instances which information can be entered into the database. Those instances, "cases", can include information about different numbers of individual victims, offenders or police responses. In the analysis phase, different types of information can be gathered for a comparative analysis.

Countries of Origin, Transit and Destination

Human Trafficking affects every country in the world. Whether it is as a country of origin, transit or destination; or even in some cases as all 3. Trafficking often occurs from less developed countries (origin) to more developed countries (destination). This is the usual way Human Trafficking occurs because people are rendered more vulnerable to trafficking because of the poverty, conflict or other conditions they face in there less developed countries. Most trafficking is national or regional, but there are also many notable cases of long-distance trafficking. Europe is the destination for victims from the widest range of destinations, while victims from Asia are trafficked to the widest range of destinations (What countries are affected…, 2010). The Americas are prominent both as the origin and destination of victims of human trafficking (What countries are affected…, 2010). Most people would consider the United States of America to be to be a destination country only, but it is not. As this research shows, the U.S. doesn't traffic the same amount of humans as Europe or Asia, but it still does it share to contribute to this ever growing transnational crime.

Profile of the Victim

Although most victims are from a vulnerable and helpless poor of a region, doesn't mean that they are the only victims. Victims can be from anywhere. There is no particular type of victim of human trafficking. People often tend to think that victims are from poor countries but in fact they can also be from a very well-placed family in the U.S. This type of crime occurs in such a way that many times people do not even realize what exactly is happening, let alone grasp the realness of the issue.

Women that are in pressing circumstances are particularly targeted by traffickers, especially for the sex industry. Criminals exploit lack of opportunities and extreme conditions by promising good jobs or opportunities for work or study abroad. They then force the victims to become prostitutes. Agents and brokers play a big role in the process; they arrange the travel and job placements. When the women arrive to their destination, they are delivered to the employers. As the women reach their destination, they begin to realize that they have been deceived about the nature of the work they will do. Almost all the women have been lied to about the financial arrangements and conditions of their employment, which puts them in a violent or abusive situation from which escape is dangerous. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, there were approximately 1,229 (that they know of) human trafficking incidents in the United States from January 2007 to September 2008. Of those incidents, 83 percent were sex trafficking cases.

The trafficking of children often involves taking advantage of the parents' poverty. Parents may sell their children to traffickers in order to pay off debt that they have accumulated or to simply make money. They also could be deceived, by which traffickers promise the parents a better life for their children. Thousands of children from Asia, Africa, and South America are sold into the global sex trade every year. Often they are kidnapped or orphaned, and sometimes they are actually sold by their own families. According to the U.S. Department of Justice 07-08 study, more than 30% of the total number of trafficking cases for that year were children coerced into the sex industry.

Profile of the Offender

It is hard to gather information on offenders than it is on victims. Data on offenders includes information about those who were suspected of being involved in trafficking, whether it be human, organ, or gun, because usually these different types of crimes tie into each other some way. According to reports made by the U.S. Department of Justice, as regards to the nationality of offenders, a total of 76 countries were home for known offenders. These countries were, in order, the Russian Federation, Nigeria and Ukraine. Just like there are "guesstimates" in how many people are trafficked internationally, the same principle would be for profiling an offender. It is hard to profile an offender due to the fact the Human Trafficking market is a "hidden" market.


Even though there are a numerous amounts of difficulties in collecting and analyzing data on Human Trafficking, the first impressions of the database of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime on Human Trafficking are hopeful. The standardized documentation of open-source data was able to give important information for both policy purposes and theory formation (United Nations Convention, 2010).

People were generally recruited from poorer countries, transported through countries that provided safe routes of passage and then faced abuse in other parts of the world. The majority of victims were women and children and sexual abuse was the most common form of exploitation. Evidently, Human Trafficking is a gender-specific phenomenon. That shows how susceptible women and girls in poor, badly governed countries.

The database results of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime on Human Trafficking can be used to set guidelines for international cooperation. Countries that were high in the rankings of Human Trafficking and where domestic capability is poor, need specific attention. It is unfortunate that we may never be able to get "true" accurate data on Human Trafficking, but I feel that the world is making steps toward coming together to fight against Human Trafficking.