Human Trafficking Indicators

Victims of human trafficking can be found in a variety of situations. Any person, professional or otherwise (e.g. neighbour), can come across victims of human trafficking and can play an important role in their identification.

What is an ‘indicator’ of human trafficking?

An indicator is a fact or even an attitude adopted by a person that may point to a human trafficking situation, as such fact or attitude is often associated with a human trafficking situation.

The indications hereunder outline what one is to look for when encountering potential victims:

1. Is the victim in possession of identification and travel documents; if not who has control of the documents?

Remember that a trafficker seeks to exercise control over his or her victims, and therefore he or she may take possession of documents.

2. Does the victim show distrust towards the authorities?

Remember that the victim may have been told that if he or she is apprehended by the authorities he or she would be deported, or suffer some other undesirable consequences. Deception often plays a central role in human trafficking.

3. Does the victim have restricted or controlled freedom of movement?

Remember that some traffickers actually control the physical movement of their victims and sometimes have them accompanied by someone else wherever they go.

4. Was the victim recruited for one purpose and forced to engage in some other job?

Remember that deceit is a major component of human trafficking offences.

Before departure from their home country victims are told that they would be performing specific well-paid jobs, possibly including glamorous activities such as modelling, or that they would gain access to educational opportunities, only to find out, upon arrival, they are being forced into prostitution or into under-paid jobs, often in very poor working conditions.

5. Is the victim being held in compulsory service in payment of a debt?

Remember that bondage through debt is a form of control that may be exercised by human traffickers. Although some cases of usury may only involve usury itself, others may in fact involve other crimes, including human trafficking. Foreign victims are forced to perform a certain job, often under-paid and in poor conditions, in order to pay back the trafficker for having arranged their trip to the country of destination.

6. Does the victim show any signs that appear to be the result of the use of control measures, such as use of force or threats?

Remember that some victims have suffered from prolonged psychological abuse, as a result of which they may be withdrawn and intimidated. Others would also have suffered physical abuse, possibly including rape.

7. Was the victim forced to perform sexual acts or engaged in commercial sex?

Remember that trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation is one of the main forms of this crime. Moreover, a victim trafficked for other purposes may be sexually exploited as well.

8. Has the victim been subjected to violence or threats of harm against her/himself or against family members or loved ones?

Remember that threats constitute one of the means whereby a trafficker exercises control. Traffickers that are in a position to convince their victims that they may cause harm to their family members are often able to control such victims without resorting to physical forms of control, including incarcerating the victim.

Such cases may be more difficult to detect because control is exercised subtly.

9. Has the victim been deprived of basic needs, medical care or other life necessities?

Some victims of human trafficking suffer from several forms of abuse, including neglect. Restrictions on their communications may mean that they would have been unable to seek medical attention.

10. Has the victim been unable to communicate freely with members of the family or friends?

Remember that a trafficker will seek to isolate his or her victims, in order to exercise full control over their lives.

11. Has the victim been living in an unsuitable place or in the same place where he/she works?

Remember that some victims of human trafficking are accommodated in poor living conditions and some even live in big groups in a small place. This consideration however has to be looked at in the light of any other circumstances surrounding the alleged victim, since this scenario could also subsist in cases of illegal immigration.

12. In the case of a juvenile, has the victim been engaged in work that is not suitable for children?

Child trafficking is also an unfortunate reality. As for adults, children could be forced into prostitution or labour trafficking.

13. Has the victim been subjected to domestic servitude?

Remember that some traffickers restrict the movement of their victims and make use of their services in specific contexts where it is easy for them to exercise control. Such victims would be forced to work for excessively long hours, further to being also prone to other forms of abuse, possibly including violence and rape.