A woman who has been a victim of human trafficking five times in the last four years across Europe

Hai’s Story

“When I was in Vietnam a man offered me a job in Britain. I managed to raise several thousand dollars for an agent to arrange my travel and accommodation.

When I arrived in Britain, a Vietnamese man drove me to a house in Scotland and told me that I now owed more money for the trip, plus interest.

They made me water cannabis plants to pay off the debt. My captor would lock me up in the house and only return every few days with bits of food and water. When I asked for anything or complained, he would hit me. He threatened that if I left the house, the police would arrest me and beat me.”

What is human trafficking?

Human trafficking involves recruitment, harbouring or transporting people into a situation of exploitation through the use of violence, deception or coercion and forced to work against their will.

People can be trafficked for many different forms of exploitation such as forced prostitution, forced labour, forced begging, forced criminalitydomestic servitudeforced marriage, and forced organ removal.

Contrary to a common misconception, people don’t necessarily have to be transported across borders for trafficking to take place. In fact, transporting or moving the victim doesn’t necessarily define trafficking.

When children are trafficked, no violence or coercion needs to be involved. Simply bringing them into exploitative conditions constitutes trafficking.

Trafficking for sexual exploitation gets much attention. However, the majority of people are trafficked into labour exploitation.

Many people who fall victim of trafficking want to escape poverty, improve their lives, and support their families. Often they get an offer of a well-paid job abroad or in another region. Often they borrow money from their traffickers in advance to pay for arranging the job, travel and accommodation.

When they arrive they find that the work they applied for does not exist, or the conditions are completely different. But it’s too late, their documents are often taken away and they are forced to work until their debt is paid off.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates that at any one time there are two and a half million trafficked people worldwide.

Smuggling or trafficking?

People often confuse human trafficking and people smuggling. People smuggling is the illegal movement of people across international borders for a fee. On arrival, the smuggled person is free.

Human trafficking is different. The trafficker is moving a person for exploitation. There is no need to cross an international border. Human trafficking occurs at a national level, or even within one community.

Human trafficking in numbers

  • 51% of identified victims of trafficking are women, 28% children and 21% men
  • 72% people exploited in the sex industry are women
  • 63% of identified traffickers were men and 37% women
  • 43% of victims are trafficked domestically within national borders

(Estimates by The United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC))