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There are several forms of trafficking in human beings. These crimes occur anywhere and, in any country, and can affect any person, regardless of age, socio-economic background or place of residence.

The most common forms are:

  • Sexual exploitation. This is when a person is deceived, coerced or forced to take part in sexual activity. These activities may include : prostitution, forced marriage, pornography, sex tourism, etc. and include as well internet or telephone services such as sex lines.

Example of sexual exploitation

Leila, a young woman from a village in North Africa, was browsing the Internet when she came across an advertisement promising a well-paid job as an assistant in a hotel in Europe. Attracted by this opportunity, she applyed and began corresponding with the recruiter, who seemed kind and professional. After several exchanges, the recruiter sent Leila a plane ticket and the necessary documents for her trip to Europe. Excited by the prospect of a promising future, she said goodbye to her family and flew to Europe. However, upon her arrival, the reality was far different from what she had imagined. The man Leila met at the airport immediately confiscated her passport and documents. She was taken to a dark apartment where other young women were already being held. She was told that she had to repay a huge debt incurred for her travel and “settlement” by working as a prostitute. Under the threat of physical and psychological violence, Leila was forced to prostitute herself in deplorable conditions. The traffickers used fear, manipulation, and isolation to maintain their control over her and the other victims. Leila found herself with no way to contact her family or seek help.

  • Forced labour. This concept is defined in the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention No. 29 concerning Forced or Compulsory Labour of 1930 as “any work or service exacted from a person under the threat of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered himself voluntarily”. The victim may be forced into forced labour through several means, including violence or intimidation, accumulation of debts, confiscation of identity documents, deprivation of food or sexual abuse. All types of labour, in every industry, are susceptible to exploitation. However, industries where exploitation through forced labour are most prevalent include construction, agriculture, fishing and factory labour. 

Example of forced labour cases

Yusra is 23 years old, she lives in North Africa and was contacted via the internet by a tertiary sector company located in the Gulf countries. The recruiter promised her a position as an assistant, with an attractive salary and benefits in kind. She doesn’t know anyone in this country but accepts the offer that will allow her to send money to her family. The employer organizes her arrival, but she quickly becomes disillusioned. Her money and identity papers were confiscated upon her arrival, she was placed in a room that also served as her office. Her position did not correspond to the employer’s description, she must be available day and night to respond to the latter’s requests and hardly leaves the studio in which she is located.

  • Domestic servitude.  This is a person who works in their employer’s home, performing a variety of tasks. This arrangement becomes abusive when there are restrictions on the movement of domestic workers, and they are forced to work long hours for poor pay or no pay. They may also experience physical and sexual abuse. It is a phenomenon that is difficult to assess. As such, the International Labour Organization (ILO) adopted Convention 189 on Domestic Workers, which emphasizes the need for domestic workers to enjoy the same protection as any other form of work.

Example of a case of domestic servitude

Fatima is 14 years old. Her parents, who come from a small village, entrusted her to a woman in the city who had promised them that she would take care of her, ensure that Fatima continued her studies at a good school, and help her have a better future in exchange for some tasks she would do at the house and for a salary. But Fatima was unable to continue her studies; she was forced to stay at home to take care of the woman’s children and do household chores. She was made to eat the children’s leftovers, work day and night without rest or days off, without receiving any money, and even without leaving the house.

  • Slavery or similar practices. The concept of slavery is defined in the 1926 Slavery Convention as “the status or condition of an individual over whom some or all of the attributes of the right of ownership are exercised”.

For more information on contemporary forms of slavery

  • Forced criminal activities. This is the case of a person who is forced to carry out criminal activity through coercion or deception. Forced crime can take many forms, including dealing drugs, begging, theft, sale of counterfeit.

Example of forced criminal activity

Karim is 16 years old, from a poor family and not enrolled in school. Along with other minors from his neighborhood, he was recruited by a group of adults who offered him housing in exchange for stealing smartphones for them. He was also forced to sell drugs on behalf of the adults, or else they would throw him out on the streets. However, Karim was frequently arrested and ended up in prison. He was labeled a “delinquent” by the police, which prevented him from accessing child protection services. The intervention of an association was necessary to recognize him as a victim of trafficking and provide him with appropriate protection for his situation.

  • Removal of organs. Organ trafficking consists of removing a part of the body for resale. Organs can be harvested in several ways either the organ is removed without the victim’s knowledge in the case of ailments or extortion, but the victim may also have agreed to sell an organ but has not obtained the expected profit or the agreed price.

The Council of Europe adopted the Convention against trafficking in human organs in 2015, which entered into force in 2018. The Convention calls on governments to criminalize the illicit removal of human organs from living or deceased donors. The Convention also provides for measures to protect and compensate victims, as well as preventive measures to ensure transparency and equitable access to transplant services.

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