Global Resources

Global report on trafficking in persons 2014

Author: K. Kangaspunta, F. Sarrica, R. Johansen
Publisher: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
Publication Date: Nov 2014

Human trafficking, the forced movement and exploitation of persons, is the basest of crimes and yet remains prevalent in every region of the globe, while offenders too often escape prosecution. That is the perspective of this report produced by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), and mandated by the UN General Assembly in 2010. Since then, UNODC says there has seen little improvement in the overall criminal justice response. It is hoped that this report will support countries’ efforts to respond more effectively to human trafficking. With the aim of achieving the broadest possible geographical coverage, the report draws on two years of quantitative and qualitative data (2010-2012), including questionnaires distributed to governments and verified via public records where possible. In terms of qualitative data, UN Member States were invited to submit court records of five cases of human trafficking prosecutions, which shine a light on the process of human trafficking in a way statistics alone cannot.

A global overview of human trafficking is presented in the report, discussing the following in great depth: traffickers; trafficking victims; different forms of exploitation; trafficking flows; trafficking as a business, including the involvement of organised crime; and the response to trafficking in persons, with an overview of country-level legislation. The subsequent section analyses the patterns and flows of trafficking in persons, as well as responses to the crime at regional level. Examples are looked at in more depth throughout the report, including a section asking whether confraternities control the trafficking of Nigerian victims in Europe, in particular the large number of Nigerian girls being trafficked to Italy. Country profiles and information sheets are available at the UNODC website. 

The extensive and data-rich executive summary outlines the major findings and themes that emerged from the study:

  • Trafficking in persons is everywhere: between 2010 and 2012, human trafficking crimes were identified in 124 countries across the globe, with victims of 152 nationalities. While most trafficking occurs within a specific region (making identification of trafficking hubs difficult), transregional trafficking flows are mainly detected in the rich countries of the Middle East, Western Europe, and North America.
  • Trafficking is a transnational crime that often involves domestic offenders, and limited geographical reach: more than six in ten victims of trafficking have been trafficked across at least one national border, and victims are often trafficked by fellow citizens.
  • There has been an increase in the detection of trafficking persons for purposes other than sexual exploitation: this has come from a steady increase in trafficking for forced labour in multiple different sectors, which accounted for around 40% of detected cases of trafficking between 2010 and 2012. Labour-based trafficking is the main form detected in East Asia and the Pacific, compared to Europe and Central Asia which is predominantly based on sexual exploitation. In the Americas, the two types are largely equally detected.
  • Women are significantly involved in trafficking, both as victims and offenders: women comprise nearly 30% of trafficking offenders, which is significantly higher than average conviction rates for most other crimes. Women are vastly disproportionately trafficked for sexual exploitation, while in Asia, they are also disproportionately trafficked for forced labour.
  • Detected child trafficking is increasing: globally, children account for around one-third of detected victims of trafficking, two-thirds of whom are girls. The highest ratio of child trafficking is found in Africa and the Middle-East, where they represent the majority of victims.
  • More than 2 billion people are not protected as required by the United Nations trafficking in persons protocol: despite significant progress, there are still nine countries (down from 100 in 2003) that lack any specific legislation criminalising trafficking, while a further 10 only have partial legislation that leaves some groups vulnerable.
  • Impunity prevails: only 40% of countries report more than ten convictions for human trafficking each year, while 15% report no convictions at all. Furthermore, there is little sign that these figures are improving, with conviction rates remaining stable, and low.
  • Toward a typology of organised crime involvement: while local trafficking often consists of lone individual offenders or small groups, transnational trafficking more often involves complex, large-scale operations run by organised criminal groups.