The ELECT THB project aims to enhance the identification and investigation of trafficking in human beings (THB) for sexual and labour exploitation and increase collaboration between law enforcement authorities and other key actors to combat it.
The project has been developed in close cooperation with law enforcement and other authorities in Finland, Estonia and Latvia to strengthen the knowledge of and approach to human trafficking. Human trafficking and the wider shadow economy and financial crime are also closely linked. Therefore, the project aims to disrupt the financial business model of trafficking which will help counter the impunity of traffickers, exploiters, profit makers, users and abusers and untangle the trafficking chain.
More about the project
ELECT THB Project Introduction
This project was funded by the European Union's Internal Security Fund — Police.
The content of the project materials represent the views of the authors only and is their sole responsibility. The European Commission does not accept any responsibility for use that may be made of the information it contains.
Latest trends and statistics
Trafficking remains a hidden crime but the detection of trafficking cases is increasing.
Most offences are not reported to the authorities and therefore go undetected. In many countries, there is no comprehensive statistical data available on human trafficking. Different authorities and NGOs working in the field collect their own data.
Eurostat (2023) statistics on registered victims of trafficking, classified by the form of exploitation, show that sexual exploitation is still the most commonly identified form of exploitation in the EU (55.7% of cases). Forced labour or services comprised 28.5% of all registered victims. The share of victims exploited for other purposes (including benefit fraud, criminal activities, begging and trade in organs) was 15.8% in 2021.
Graph 1. Trafficking trends reported by criminal justice actors, 2017-2021.
The number of cases identified by law enforcement authorities primarily reflects the skills and resources available to detect cases of trafficking and do not portray the actual prevalence of the crime, since most trafficking crimes remain hidden.
Graph 2. Trafficking trends based on victims receiving assistance from the state or NGOs in 2017-2021.
Another key source of information regarding the trafficking situation in different countries is statistics on the number of identified or tentatively identified/potential victims of trafficking. These statistics are most often produced and collected by NGOs, victim services or authorities that are in charge of providing assistance to trafficked persons
Picture 1. Some of the main countries of origin of victims of labour trafficking identified in Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Poland and Ukraine.
in the 5 countries studied, migrant victims of labour exploitation have come primarily from Eastern Europe (e.g., Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, Romania and Bulgaria), Central Asia (e.g., Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan) and South-East Asia (e.g., Thailand, India, Nepal and Vietnam).
Picture 2. Some of the main countries of origin of victims of trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation identified in Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Poland and Ukraine.
In the 5 countries mapped, victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation have been identified among nationals as well as among foreigners, primarily from EU Member States such Czechia, Hungary and Romania, as well as from Russia, Belarus, Nigeria, Central Asian and Southeast Asian countries, and Latin America. Victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation are often moved within different countries, regions and cities.
Useful sources for statistics on human trafficking
Modus operandi of trafficking crimes: current themes
Learn more on the modus operandi and different schemes used by traffickers to exploit people and hide their illicit activities and evade taxes and social contributions in order to maximize their profits.
Modus operandi: Human Trafficking for Labour Exploitation by Anniina Jokinen, HEUNI
Modus operandi: Human Trafficking for Sexual Exploitation by Anniina Jokinen, HEUNI
Modus operandi: abusive recruitment
Abusive recruitment is one of the key risk factors for labour exploitation and trafficking. This includes collecting excessive or made-up fees for securing the job, for travel documents and "service costs" etc. As a result, the worker may become indebted and more vulnerable to further exploitation.
A common tactic used by traffickers to exploit vulnerable workers by posting them to work in a different country or region, where they may face precarious employment conditions, inadequate pay, and lack of social protection.
Forced bogus self-employment refers to a situation where the conditions of work resemble an employment relationship but the worker is self-employed on paper and responsible for the risks and obligations related to self-employment, while the employer is able to cut costs. These types of arrangements have become more common of late in the context of labour exploitation also in Finland, Estonia and Latvia.
Investigative interviews remain at the core of criminal investigations and the accounts provided by witnesses, victims and suspects are core evidence. However, successful investigative interviewing requires skill and knowledge on the part of the interviewer and in the context of human trafficking, an understanding of issues such as psychological control and coercion.
In this training material, Dr Julia Korkman provides insights into investigative interviewing, psychological control and taking cultural aspects into account in investigative interviews, and Dr Ivar Fahsing describes the best practise example of Norway where notable organizational and mindset changes have paved the way for an evidence-based way of investigative interviewing to become the norm.
Ivar Fahsing, Norwegian Police University College "Police Investigations and Changes In Norway "
Gain profound understanding of best practices, challenges, and ethical considerations that have shaped Norway's successful investigative interviewing model. The speaker is Ivar Fahsing, Detective Chief Superintendent and Associate Professor at the Norwegian Police University College. Currently, he is co-authoring the UNPOL manual on investigative interviewing and the new UNODC e-learning programme on investigative interviewing.
Human Trafficking in the criminal justice system: investigative interviews & psychological control
ELECT THB Final webinar series
Patterns of Exploitation: Understanding Human Trafficking Risks related to the war in Ukraine
ELECT THB Final webinar series
In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed is king: preventing labour exploitation in Finland
Anniina Jokinen, Senior Programme Officer, HEUNI, Katja-Pia Jenu, Occupational health and safety inspector, Regional State Administrative Agency and Pekka Hätönen, Detective Senior Superintendent, National Investigation Lead on Trafficking in Human Beings, Helsinki Police Department
CCPCJ30 Side event The route to a successful investigation of labour exploitation and trafficking
Session is focusing on showcasing our recent work to prevent labour exploitation, in particular the collaboration between labour inspectors and the police. Speakers from Finland, Norway and the UNODC presenting their experiences and good practice.