ILO action against trafficking in human beings

In its many projects and advocacy activities, the ILO addresses trafficking from a labour market perspective. It thereby seeks to eliminate the root causes, such as poverty, lack of employment and inefficient labour migration systems. ILO led responses involve labour market institutions, such as public employment services, labour inspectors and labour ministries. Moreover, as a tripartite organisation, the ILO consults and involves workers’ and employers’ organisations in its work. This paper serves to outline ILO’s major areas of intervention, some lessons learned and further references.

The ILO has addressed trafficking in human beings early on in its history. All over the world, and in increasing
numbers, people move in search of a better life. Some of them are coerced into work they have not chosen voluntarily. They have been
deceived about the nature of their work or conditions of their employment contract, they work under threat, are subjected to violence, confined to their workplace or do not receive the wage that was promised to them. They are victims of forced labour, and
they have been trafficked into a situation from which they find it difficult to escape.
Women, men and children are trafficked into a wide range of economic sectors and for different purposes. The trafficking of women and girls (and sometimes also boys) to countries where demand for sexual services is high has long been recognized as a serious problem. Only recently, more attention has been paid to the trafficking and exploitation of persons in mainstream economic sectors. Trafficking in persons has become a truly global enterprise. It can involve legal as well as illegal activities. It is fuelled by criminal networks or individuals seeking to exploit loopholes of national migration and labour market regimes.
According to ILO estimates there are at least 2.4 million trafficked persons at any given point in time. Yet there are only a few thousand convictions of traffickers every year. Despite growing awareness and more effective law enforcement responses
trafficking remains a low-risk criminal enterprise with high returns.