Identifying and assisting victims of trafficking

Training materials by HEUNI, the European Institute for Crime Prevention and Control for the CCM-GBV project
About the training material
These materials provide a brief guide regarding the topic of trafficking in human beings to assist counsellors and experts participating in CCM-GBV project and other relevant actors. Designed by the European Institute for Crime Prevention and Control, HEUNI and partly based on the STROM guidelines on Stepping Up Local Action Against Human Trafficking (2016) by Council of the Baltic Sea States Task Force Against Trafficking in Human Beings

What is trafficking in persons?
Vulnerability factors
Forms of trafficking
Forms of trafficking: sexual exploitation, indicators and case examples
Forms of trafficking: labour exploitation, indicators and case examples
Indicators of other forms of exploitation
Trafficking as a process
How to bring up trafficking in human beings and refer the victim to services
Assistance: principles, realities and chain of assistance. Emergency assitance and long-term assistance
Improving assistance & outreach

Useful links and materials

Origins of trafficking victims detected in southern and western europe, by subregion, 2014 (or most recent)
Source: UNODC elaboration of national data, 2014
Hidden crime?
Hidden nature of the crime hinders measuring of the real extent of trafficking
• Both victims and perpetrators want to avoid contact with the authorities
• Lack of information and contacts among victims, also dependency on the perpetrators, fear, debt, shame
• "Culture of disbelief" and stereotypical views what trafficking is
• "Normalisation" of exploitation
• Authorities' fear that victims will "abuse the system"
• Definition of the crime is considered difficult even by criminal justice authorities

Victims of trafficking
  • Originate from all over the world and present a variety of backgrounds and experiences.
  • People who are physically, psychologically or economically vulnerable and who do not have enough inner resources or external assistance and support are at risk to become victims.
  • Migrant women, especially refugees and asylum seekers, (unaccompanied) children and irregular migrants among known risk groups.
  • "Victim of human trafficking" is a legal concept, and not a quality, condition or attribute of a person.
DETEcted victims of trafficking in persons by age and gender, 2014 (or most recent)
SOURCE: UNODC elaboration of national data, 2014
Vulnerability factors
Many factors can render the person vulnerable, which may be taken advantage of by the traffickers:
  • 1
    Young age
  • 2
    Serious illness
  • 3
    Substance dependency
  • 4
    Serious illness or substance dependency of a close family member
  • 5
    Difficult economic situation
  • 6
  • 7
    Psychological state
  • 8
    Physical or mental disability
  • 9
    Previous traumatic experiences
    E.g. previous sexual exploitation or prostitution
  • 10
    Status of being a migrant/asylum seeker/refugee
  • 11
    Gender identity or minority status
Irregular migrants
Often irregular migrants face the highest risk of exploitation because of their vulnerable, even clandestine status which is then exploited by traffickers and other criminals, including in the formal or informal job market or in prostitution.
Usually undocumented migrants find it very difficult to contact authorities or seek help from governmental institutions because they are afraid of deportation.
This lack of trust results in problems of identification which is exacerbated by lack of awareness of trafficking in the first place. Therefore cooperation among NGOs, local authorities and other local actors is of utmost importance when it comes to building trust among vulnerable populations and groups at risk.
  • Traffickers are commonly seen as part of highly organized and powerful criminal networks that span countries and regions and operate swiftly and fluidly.
  • However, traffickers often function as small time operators, drawing on personal and sometimes family relationships.
  • There are various ways in which individuals can be involved in trafficking process e.g. in recruitment, in transportation, in collecting money, in facilitation of prostitution, working as "madams".
  • Former victims may turn "criminals" to gain better status.

persons investigated for trafficked in persons, by gender and region, 2014 (or most recent)
persons convicted for trafficking in persons, by gender, 2014 (or most recent)
Traffickers according to TRACE-project
Risk factors to get involved in trafficking :
  • 1
    Low level education
    Failing in school is an important factor that contributes to becoming involved in crime
  • 2
  • 3
    High debts
  • 4
    Family relations
    Unstable, cold and/or violent family relations, criminal families
  • 5
    Previous criminal record
    Violent crimes, thefts, rape, possession of drugs and weapons etc
  • 6
    Personality disorders
    Narcissistic personality, instrumental use of others for own gain, lack of empathic skills and feelings of guilt or regret.

  • 7
    In need for sensation and action
Motives and incentives to become involved into trafficking:
  • 1
    Financial gains
  • 2
    Desire to change his/her social life and integrate into a group
  • 3
    Prestige and the enjoyment of power
    A wish to be somebody within the scene.
  • 4
    Sexual motivation
  • 5
    Drug consumption
    And the euphoria determined by the drugs.
Many forms of trafficking
  • Forced prostitution and sexual exploitation
  • Forced labour and labour exploitation

  • Forced and (exploitative) sham marriages
  • Domestic servitude

  • Criminal activities
    Cannabis cultivation, pick-pocketing, shoplifting, bank fraud etc.
  • Forced begging

  • Forced military service

  • Organ removal
shares in forms of exploitation among detected trafficked victims, 2012 - 2014 (or most recent)
Sexual exploitation

• Most commonly identified form in Europe
• Victims are often moved around different towns, cities or countries, they cannot choose their own "clients" and their earnings are often confiscated partially or fully
• Exploitation is often based on psychological and/or physical means of control, including threats towards family, violence, voodoo, debt bondage, posing fines for different "offences", and monitoring the person e.g. via smart phone, webcam, and blackmailing them with sensitive materials or disclosure
• Lover boy method becoming more common?
Indicators of sexual exploitation:
…perform sexual services against her/his will or under control?

…perform or provide services in an environment that is different from that advertised or expected because the environment is sexualised?

…provide sexual services under different circumstances than previously agreed?
Indicators of sexual exploitation:
…allowed to choose the services given or to whom?

…able to stop providing services on her/his own accord?

…able to refuse unprotected or violent sex?

…aware of the regulations on prostitution in the country in which she/he is in, including the legal age to be involved in prostitution?

threatened with violence or other forms of punishment or threats to loved ones?

…able to keep all or part of her/his earnings?

threatened to be reported to the authorities for deportation?

…allowed to keep their passport or is it been confiscated by someone?

Labour exploitation

Increasing numbers of labour exploitation cases detected globally
Serious forms of labour exploitation are widespread in the EU (FRA 2015)
Migrants are at risk to be exploited especially in some sectors which often employ low-skilled and flexible workforce:
• Agriculture
• Cleaning
• Catering and food processing
• Manufacturing/ processing e.g. in textile industry
• Domestic work and home care sector

Women are also at a higher risk of facing sexual harassment and sexual violence at work, or their activities are not considered/qualified as "work" -> "helping around" in restaurant/farm/private home
Indicators of labour exploitation:
… have a contract?
… have a right/permit to work?
… work illegally long hours?
… receive very low or random payment or no payment at all?
… work in dangerous conditions (including physically dangerous and unsanitary)?
… have the necessary safety gear (including equipment and clothing)?
… have the ability to terminate her/his work situation?
… know her/his labour rights and that she/he can join a trade union?
… work in an environment other than advertised?
… have their passport, bank card or other document or has it been confiscated by the employer?
live with the employer?
… have any free time which they can spend without monitoring from the employer?

Asian restaurant in Finland
A Vietnamese couple operated two Asian restaurants in the Pirkanmaa region in Finland.
Between the years 2006–2012 they recruited at least ten women and men from Vietnam to work as chefs and waitresses in their restaurants.
For example, one of the exploited chefs received starting wages of 500 EUR per month and had to work 6−7 days a week, up to 10–15 hours a day. The wages were raised by 100 EUR after each year of working in the restaurant.
The waitresses got even lower wages.
The exploited workers lived in accommodation organised by the employers. Some also lived with the employers themselves and did household chores for them after work.
The workers were dependent on the employers 24/7 due to debt & because they could not speak any languages other than their mother tongue
Workers did not know about their rights as workers or the minimum wages that they were entitled to according to Finnish system
The workers were threatened and controlled psychologically by the employers, who said that they would be sent back to Vietnam if they were to complain. They were advised to keep away from Finns.
The couple was sentenced by the Pirkanmaa district court to imprisonment for 6 years and 10 months on eight counts of trafficking for forced labour, two counts of extortionate work discrimination as well as tax fraud and accounting offences
Other forms of exploitation
Indicators of other forms of exploitation:
forced to beg or commit acts of petty crime – for example stealing or selling drugs; especially if she/he is disabled, elderly or underage, or in debt?
threatened with violence or punishment if she/he does not steal or collect enough?
forced to give part or all of her/his earnings to someone else?
… living and travelling in large groups across the entire country or region without ability to leave or move freely on their own?
… have their own identity documents with them or have they been confiscated or sold?
living in a site which is controlled through e.g., video surveillance or has windows with bars? in a place which is over-crowded, unhealthy or has no basic hygiene facilities?

Trafficking as a process
Human trafficking is a process rather than a single event, the situation of the person can change over time.
It is important to pay attention to the totality of the situation and elements that render the victim unable to leave the situation one is in -> cases are often complicated and difficult to grasp and classify.
Mixed forms of exploitation (e.g. combination of sex and labour trafficking) becoming more widespread which means that different forms of human trafficking often cannot be clearly separated as they overlap with each other.
Complex realities
Often THB indicators present – but few clear cut cases.
Victims who do not fit the model of "an ideal victim".
Victims who refuse assistance.
Language and cultural barriers, lack of trust in authorities and changing nature of the victim's story.
Stigmatisation or even criminalisation of victims.
Migrants who "accept" exploitative conditions and "choose" to work long hours because situation in home country is even worse.
(CBSS 2016)
How to bring up trafficking in human beings and refer the victim to services
  • Unwilling to be labeled as a victim or stigmatized;
  • Unaware of her/his rights and the concept of human trafficking or that her/his experience constitutes human trafficking;
  • Unaware of the assistance granted to a victim of trafficking;
  • Having feelings of guilt or shame about her/his exploitative situation;
  • Afraid of retributions to her/his family or her/himself;
  • Afraid of imprisonment, deportation or monetary fines;
  • Dependent on the abuser ("Stockholm Syndrome");
  • Regarding her/his situation as "better" than her/his previous (unemployment, extreme poverty, violence, conflict and similar scenarios).
The importance of accurate and early identification
Victims of trafficking…
  • ...require specialised assistance and protection.
  • ...are likely to have immediate and acute physical and psychological health needs.
  • ...have suffered from serious and grave crimes and may still be at risk. Particular arrangements and procedures can therefore be necessary for both the victim, his/her loved ones and the personnel working for the organisation providing assistance.
  • ...may have been forced to commit crimes while being trafficked or as a result of their trafficking situation and are afraid of authorities.
  • Protection of human rights
    As trafficking itself constitutes a serious human rights violation and often leads to further violations of the rights of the victims, all assistance and protection efforts should seek to restore the victim's rights and prevent further violations without discrimination.
  • Confidentiality
    From the first meeting with the victim up to the completion of the assistance process, service providers should ensure that all personal information regarding the victim and the particular case are kept confidentially.
  • Safety, including a risk assessment
    The first step in confronting a threat to the victim is to properly identify and assess the level of risk. Effective risk assessment involves a generic risk assessment conducted in the country of destination, continuous review of the risk assessment, and specific assessment of risk in response to specific events.

  • Informed agreement and choice
    All assistance to victims should proceed on the basis of the victim's full and informed consent from the time the counselor comes into contact with the victim up to the time that the victim is fully reintegrated. The service provider should explain relevant actions, policies, and procedures to the victim in a way that she understands before asking her consent to any action or proposal.
  • Empowerment
    In recognition of the rights and needs of victims of trafficking to make their own informed choices and decisions, counselors should encourage them to participate as much as possible in the decision-making processes.
  • Non-victimizing attitude (victim-blaming attitude) and non-discrimination
    Counselors should provide the best suitable assistance to the victims of trafficking without discrimination on the basis of disability, ethnicity or national origin, colour, race, gender, marital status, domestic circumstances, age, HIV status, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, religion, language, political belief or any other grounds.
Realities of assistance
Provision of assistance and support to trafficked persons is not an easy task due to the complexity of victims' situation.
The experience of being trafficked often includes harsh working conditions, betrayal of trust, and a lack of control over one's life.
Victims often have experienced or witnessed violence, threats, serious injuries, rape, and psychological abuse.

The impact of these events may result in psychological symptoms such as depression and anxiety, which necessitate emotional support and care.
Key issues for the victim
    Personal safety and that of the family or others.
  • FEAR
    Of the reprisals by the traffickers and, in case of participation in court proceedings, fear of having to testify in the presence of their trafficker.
    In the country they have been identified in (legal, irregular migrant, victim or other).
    From reliving the abuse experienced.
    Fear of being stigmatised by the public or media and possible family consequences; this is especially acute in cases of trafficking for sexual exploitation.
    Victims worry about how to secure their income and support their families, including financial assistance, receiving compensation and/or back-pay for unpaid wages or confiscated earnings.
Chain of assistance
The chain of assistance is a concept used to describe the network of cooperation between governmental, local and non-governmental actors working in the field of counter-trafficking to ensure help and support to victims.
The chain of assistance should start as soon as there is a reasonably grounded indication for believing that person might be a victim of trafficking.
The purpose of the chain of assistance is to refer a victim of trafficking to the most appropriate authority ensuring a victim-centred and rights-based approach throughout the assistance process.
Mapping the chain of assistance
• Draw your chain of assistance for a trafficking in human beings victim
• Think of new co-operation partners and stakeholders you could contact
Emergency assistance
Crisis intervention care, including medical, psychological, legal and social support, as well as a prior needs assessment of all above mentioned areas of needs.
Residential care (shelter, safe housing).
Mental health interventions e.g. counselling, cognitive-behavioural therapy, antidepressant drug treatment, alcohol detoxification services or treatment for substance abuse and dependence.
Long term assistance
The emergency assistance should be followed by long term assistance which focuses on the long term needs of the person such as education and reintegration.
Reintegration support is essential to prevent re-victimisation and reduce the risks of re-trafficking.
Clear information should be provided to the victim about the whole process including rights, legal proceedings, appeal, compensation, rehabilitation possibilities and return.
Special assistance
For victims of sexual exploitation
  • Health care
    Specialized health care, including gynecologist and treatment for STDs
  • Accommodation
    Accommodation, and in the long run in cooperation with her home municipality
  • Psychological assistance
    Specialized psychological assistance to deal with trauma, phobias and suicidal thoughts.
  • Legal help
    Legal help in criminal proceedings and to obtain a protection order if one's own family is violent.
  • Safe environment
    Overall creation of a safe environment in order to reduce the risks that got her into trafficking in the first place, and to protect her from traffickers.
  • Child care
    Child support
Improving assistance & outreach
CBSS, 2016
Chain of assistance
Establish a flexible and quick to respond chain of assistance with clear roles and responsibilities assigned to different actors involved.
Provide regular trainings for different actors involved.
Rights-based and needs-based assistance
Provide unconditional and rights-based assistance not only to formally identified victims of trafficking, but also to potential and presumed victims in vulnerable situations.
Outreach activities
Offer and implement outreach activities to support and engage with populations at risk.
Raising awareness
Conduct awareness raising activities among your clientele and professional groups you cooperate with.
Enhance cooperation with other actors when possible.
Information sources
References and materials for further reading
TRACE project materials
Trafficking as A Criminal Enterprise is a EU funded project that run between May 2014 and May 2016. A handbook for policy-makers, law-inforcement agencies and civil society organisations was published by the project partners.
CBSS Task Force against THB
The overall objective of the Task Force against Trafficking in Human Beings (TF-THB) of the Council of the Baltic Sea States is to counteract trafficking in human beings in the Baltic Sea Region through preventive and protective activities.
Guidelines For Municipalities
The "Guidelines For Municipalities: Stepping Up Local Action Against Human Trafficking" are the culmination of the project "STROM - Strengthening the Role of Municipalities in the Work against Trafficking in Human Beings in the Baltic Sea Region".
IOM Handbook on Direct Assistance for Victims of Trafficking
This Handbook provides guidance and advice necessary to effectively deliver a full range of assistance to victims of trafficking from the point of initial contact and screening up to the effective social reintegration of the individuals concerned. Although the Handbook covers assistance to minors, it does not do so in the depth necessary for the concerned practitioner who should be sure to also refer to UNICEF's Guidelines on the Protection of Child Victims of Trafficking .
Exploitative Sham Marriages

HEUNI report and a policy brief "Exploitative Sham Marriages: Exploring the Links between Human Trafficking and Sham Marriages in Estonia, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia".
Lativian National Anti-Trafficking page
Lativian National Anti-Trafficking page feauturing materials on exploiatative sham marriages and trafficking in human beings
"FLOW. Flows of illicit funds and victims of human trafficking: uncovering the complexities" project materials

EU ISF-P funded FLOW project (Flows of illicit funds and victims of human trafficking: uncovering the complexities 2018 - 2020) focused on analysing the business model of labour exploitation and the links between labour trafficking, exploitation and economic crimes in Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Bulgaria. Coordinated by the European institute for crime prevention and control, affiliated with the UN (HEUNI) and the project partners: University of Tartu, Ministry of the Interior of Latvia and the Center for the Study of Democracy, the project developed tools to enhance capacity of businesses and authorities to detect, investigate and prevent cases of labour exploitation.
UNODC Issue Paper "Interlinkages between Trafficking in Persons and Marriage"
The UNODC Issue Paper outlines different links between forced, abusive and exploitative marriage and human trafficking and shows the gendered nature of this underreported form of trafficking. Those women and girls who are affected by different forms of gender discrimination and harmful practices are particularly vulnerable to exploitation. Forced, child and sham marriages in certain cases were found to have links to all three elements of trafficking: act, means and purpose. However, few such cases come to the attention of the criminal justice authorities and even fewer lead to convictions.
HEUNI's director Natalia Ollus participated in an online roundtable dialogue on child trafficking with partners from the Baltic Sea Region. The dialogue, entitled "If you speak up, I will join!" was organised by the Swedish Platform Civil Society Against Human Trafficking, Association Centre Marta in Latvia, Charity Fund Galaxy and ECPAT Norway . The dialogue was opened by three survivors of trafficking – Malaika Oringo, Marie Merklinger and Temiptope Adekoya – who spoke powerfully about their experiences and the support victims need to overcome their experiences: survivors need more than just housing or an income. It was important to hear the survivors remind us about the effects of their trauma; that they need to learn to live again, and find their skills and self-worth, and for this they need support and assistance.
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.
Project partners
Find out more on our website and our partners' resources
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This project has received funding from the European Union's Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme (2014-2020) under grant agreement No 776477 — CCM-GBV.