Migrant smuggling, trafficking in persons, and white slave trafficking, what's the difference?

Migrant smuggling, trafficking in persons, and white slave trafficking, what's the difference?

Migrant smuggling, trafficking in persons and even white slave trafficking: we might hear these expressions being used as synonyms, when in reality they have very different meanings. Let's start by eliminating one, the term "white slave trafficking".

The term "white slave trafficking" was used at different times in history, but today it is completely outdated, as it only refers to the sexual exploitation of "white-skinned women". The problem with using this expression is that it can imply that only women with certain characteristics can be victims of trafficking (a racist concept), and that the only end of trafficking is sexual exploitation, when the reality is much more complex. This brings us to the second and correct concept, "trafficking in persons".

"Trafficking in persons" refers to all those forms of exploitation for the benefit of a third party, such as debt bondage, child labor, forced labor, forced marriage, forced begging and the removal of organs. In international law, the term is left somewhat open depending on the context, since new forms appear periodically in which one person or group of people forces another to take actions against their will to achieve some benefit. It is a form of modern slavery and can occur within a country or internationally.

According to the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, there are three elements that must be met to characterize a crime as trafficking in persons:

  • The action: That is, the crime carried out by organized networks, where it is evident that actions were taken with the intention of facilitating the exploitation of another person, such as capturing, sending or receiving them.
  • The means: The means is how the criminals manage to carry out the trafficking, for example, through deceit and lies, force, violence, abuse of the other person's vulnerability, etc.
  • Exploitation: In itself, the abuse of another person for the benefit of a third party.

Each of these three elements is made up of many possible actions, but if an action corresponding to each element is carried out, we are dealing with a case of trafficking in persons.

Finally, there is the term "migrant smuggling," which refers to supporting the illegal transfer of a person across border, as "coyotes" do, for exmple. The big difference between "smuggling" and "trafficking" is that traffic violates the laws of the State that is illegally entered, while trafficking violates the human rights of a person. The crime of migrant smuggling is characterized by:

  • The facilitation of illegal entry of a person to another country.
  • The creation or supply of a false identity document or passport.
  • The authorization, by illegal means, of the permanent stay of a non-national or non-resident.

It is clear that both actions, smuggling and trafficking, are often related, since smuggling places people in situations of vulnerability that can trigger a trafficking process. The fact that both crimes are included in the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (also known as the Palermo Convention or Protocol) can also lead to confusion and leads to the belief that they are the same, but they are not.

To learn more about the dangers and characteristics of the crime of human trafficking, we recommend visiting the IOMX campaign.


Strength in diversity: how inclusiveness contributes to disaster risk reduction

Strength in diversity: how inclusiveness contributes to disaster risk reduction
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Autor: Guest Contributor

Disasters due to natural hazards exact a heavy toll on the well-being and safety of persons, communities and countries. These disasters tend to be exacerbated by climate change, and are increasing in frequency and intensity, significantly impeding progress towards sustainable development, especially for most exposed countries.

It is critical to anticipate, plan for and reduce disaster risk to more effectively protect persons, communities and countries, their livelihoods, health, cultural heritage, socioeconomic assets and ecosystems, and thus strengthen their resilience.

According to a recent IOM study on human mobility and the climate agenda in the Americas, countries in the region have advanced in the integration of human mobility in national and regional policies and plans for disaster risk reduction, as well as in other related areas such as climate change, development planning, agricultural policy and housing.

However, in many cases the most vulnerable populations are excluded from contributing to disaster risk management policies and plans, thus suffering more disproportionately when disasters strike.

The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, which sets a series of guiding principles for States and other stakeholders in disaster risk reduction, stresses the importance of inclusive disaster risk management: “There has to be a broader and a more people-centered preventive approach to disaster risk. Disaster risk reduction practices need to be multi-hazard and multisectoral, inclusive and accessible in order to be efficient and effective.”

While Governments have a leading and regulatory role to play, they should engage with different groups including women, youth, persons with disabilities, migrants, indigenous peoples and other communities in the design and implementation of policies, plans and standards.

The framework notes the following opportunities:

  • Migrants contribute to the resilience of communities and societies, and their knowledge, skills and capacities can be useful in the design and implementation of disaster risk reduction;
  • Persons with disabilities and their organizations are critical in the assessment of disaster risk and in designing and implementing plans tailored to specific requirements, taking into consideration the principles of universal design;
  • Children and youth are agents of change and should be given the space to contribute to disaster risk reduction
  • Women and their participation are critical to effectively managing disaster risk and designing, resourcing and implementing gender-sensitive disaster risk reduction policies, plans and programmes; and adequate capacity building measures need to be taken to empower women for preparedness as well as to build their capacity to secure alternate means of livelihood in post-disaster situations;
  • Indigenous peoples, through their experience and traditional knowledge, provide an important contribution to the development and implementation of plans and mechanisms, including for early warning;
  • Older persons have years of knowledge, skills and wisdom, which are invaluable assets to reduce disaster risk, and they should be included in the design of policies, plans and mechanisms, including for early warning.

The inclusion of migrants and other communities can also contribute towards strengthening local capacities, advance an integrated agenda, strengthen local networks and expand the governance base of migration and climate change.

To turn these words into action, the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) developed a companion for implementing the Sendai Framework Target, offering practical guidance to help Government authorities integrate disaster displacement and other related forms of human mobility into disaster risk reduction strategies at local and regional levels.

Similarly, The Migrants In Countries In Crisis Initiative (MICIC), developed a series of Principles, Guidelines, and Practices to strengthen local, national, regional, and international action to better protect migrants in countries experiencing conflicts or natural disasters. The Guidelines provide recommendations on how migration can contribute to resilience, recovery, and the well-being of affected communities and societies. These include practices for implementation, such as migrant-to-migrant learning, regional and cross-border contingency plans, and crisis alert systems. 

While public and private sectors, civil society organizations, academia and scientific and research institutions, communities and businesses can all work more closely together to create opportunities for collaboration, the rights of vulnerable groups should always be contemplated as part of holistic strategies for disaster risk management and climate change adaptation.