Modus operandi: exploitation of vulnerable groups
Traffickers frequently target marginalized communities, such as migrants, women, children, and individuals living in poverty, to exploit them for labor or sexual exploitation.
Key features:
  • Asylum seekers and undocumented migrants may feel compelled to accept job offers with poor terms and conditions. Undocumented migrants are often unwilling to report even serious abuse if this may result in their deportation.
  • Socially marginalized groups such as those without a home, suffering from a substance dependency, or recently released from prison may be targeted by perpetrators who take advantage of the victims' psychological or socio-economic vulnerabilities.
  • Domestic work poses specific risks as it is a hidden form of employment (hidden from enforcement authorities as well as the general public) and in many countries a part of the informal economy.
A Finnish journalist for the Finnish News Agency STT posed as a Ukrainian refugee and applied for potentially fake jobs in Finland, marketed on Ukrainian recruitment websites. Most of the jobs offered on these sites did not require any previous work experience or knowledge of Finnish language but the salary was good, and there were offers with free accommodation and a daily meal included. Some offers were for made-up companies, and some used the names of well-known Finnish companies such as Valio, Paulig, Luhta, Sinebrychoff and Huhtamäki. The journalist contacted a few recruiting agents on these sites. Some agents did not respond after they were asked for more information about the job in question. Some agents also required a recruitment fee of 300 euros in advance before proceeding with the recruitment process or answering any questions. In addition, they required a copy of the job applicant's passport for the recruitment contract. After signing this contract, the applicant would be offered the actual job for which there was no information available in advance.

Source: Yle 22.3.2022

Case example
Recruitment fees for fake jobs in Finnish companies

Case example
Latvian commune for persons with substance dependencies
Latvian citizens were recruited to a local commune for people with substance dependencies. There were three housing units, in which over 100 persons in total were living. The victims were promised treatment for their addiction through work and religion. The organization, which was owned by three people, had not been officially registered as an NGO or a social enterprise. The recruiters approached potential victims in soup kitchens and other places where homeless persons gather and promised accommodation, food, and treatment for the substance dependency, taking advantage of the vulnerabilities and the social exclusion of the persons. Some people were also brought into the communes by their relatives.

The living conditions of the victims were run down, crowded and offered no privacy, as some areas were even controlled by a security camera. If there were delays in the work, the victims received no food. They were also rarely able to contact their family or friends. The work took place in agriculture and forestry. The victims were taken to the location in vans and had no contact with locals. The organization had made an agreement with the land/farm owners that money was to be paid to the owners of the organization who would then hand out the wages to the workers. In reality, the workers received no pay at all, and the money was divided among the people running the organization.

The police and the labour inspectorate conducted a joint operation to the commune in 2021 after extensive preparation and evidence gathering. Service providers were also involved so that the victims could receive support immediately. The case has not been tried in court yet.

Source: ELECT THB operational exchange visit to Lithuania, March 2023

Modus operandi: exploitation of vulnerable groups
Further reading