Human trafficking is a complex crime against human beings – a severe human rights violation. It is constituted of three key elements: the act (recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons), the means (coercion or threat in order to have control over a person), and the purpose (exploitation). Exploitation may take various forms: sexual exploitation, labour exploitation, forced begging, organ removal, slavery and slavery-like practices. These three elements need to be connected to be able to define this phenomenon as trafficking in persons. In the case of children, only two (act and purpose) out of the three elements need to be present to be able to define trafficking.
In the middle of an armed conflict – as much as in a natural disaster – migrants, displaced people, other mobile groups, host communities and specific groups or individuals, including women, children, adolescents and ethnic minorities are often the victims of these phenomena. Crises tend to exacerbate pre-existing exposure to risks, threats, abuse and exploitation and introduce new risks and threats. Human trafficking is indeed one of them, taking various forms before, during and after the crisis; but in specific instances still, certainly profiting from the crisis to flourish and remain unpunished .
From November 2014 to May 2015, IOM has conducted research on the manifestations (and responses ) of human trafficking in the contexts of ongoing regional crises in Iraq (including also the impact of the Syria crisis) Libya and Tunisia as part of a global effort of structuring a response to human trafficking and prevention of exploitation of mobile populations in times of crises. IOM has collected best practices from past and on-going humanitarian responses in Haiti, Philippines, Nigeria and most recently Nepal.
Likewise, since January 2014, Secours Catholique-Caritas France, a member of Caritas Internationalis, has coordinated a research-action to study trafficking in conflicts in the Euro-Mediterranean region including a qualitative analysis of forms of trafficking among refugees and other affected people in conflict and post-conflict situations. Caritas members from Albania, Armenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Turkey, Lebanon and France have participated in the research-action.
IOM and Caritas wish to share their research findings but also engage in a consultation with humanitarian practitioners to discuss how to comprehensively respond to human trafficking in times of crises. This event builds on an onsite discussion on the same topic organized as a side event during the Human Rights Council in Geneva in June 2015.