Combating Human Trafficking

Although human trafficking is very commonly associated with illegal migration, this presumption is not precise. In the context of cross-border illegal migration it is inevitable not to confuse human trafficking with people smuggling. A victim of human trafficking may, but does not have to be an illegal migrant. Many persons who fall victims to trafficking migrate legally – either cross-borderly, within their country of origin or within free movement zones among a group of states, sucha s the European Union.

The key to differentiating between people smuggling and human trafficking are international definitions of these crimes stated in the UN Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air and the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, both of which supplement the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. These definitions have been transposed into the Slovak legal system and have been legally binding for the Slovak Republic since 1 October 2004 when the provisions in question became effective.

With respect to the UN Protocol against the Smuggling, smuggling of migrants is defined as “the procurement, in order to obtain, directly or indirectly, a financial or other material benefit, of the illegal entry of a person into a State Party of which the person is not a national or a permanent resident“.

On the other hand, the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons defines smuggling of people as follows:

      (a)   “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse         of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation“.

(b) “Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs“.

(c) “The consent of a victim of trafficking in persons to the intended exploitation set forth in subparagraph (a) of this article shall be irrelevant where any of the means set forth in subparagraph (a) have been used“.

(d) “The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of a child for the purpose of exploitation shall be considered “trafficking in persons” even if this does not involve any of the means set forth in subparagraph (a) of this article“.

(e) ““Child” shall mean any person under eighteen years of age“.

Since human trafficking represents a severe human rights violation, affects a person’s dignity and integrity and can result in victims’ enslavement, it is vitally important to:

a)      Differentiate between human trafficking and people smuggling;

b)      Correctly identify victims of trafficking also among illegal migrants (along revelations of illegal crossings of the Slovak Republic state borders and illegal residence in the territory of the Slovak Republic) and asylum seekers.

Combating human trafficking focuses a lot of attention on educating criminal prosecution bodies. Considerably less attention is devoted to protection of the rights of the victims in criminal and civil proceedings. One of the areas of help and protection for human trafficking victims embedded in the Council of Europe Convention and the Directive 2011/36/EU of the Council of Europe, is legal assistance and procuration of the human trafficking victims in these demanding proceedings. In 2013, Human Rights League decided to adopt also this agenda by joining the project Promotion of the Rights of Trafficked Persons in Bulgaria, Romania and Slovakia with Emphasis on Legal Support – A Human Rights-Based Approach.

Here you can find more information about the project: