Developing Support Programs & Services

20 posts / 0 new
Last post
Developing Support Programs & Services

Thank you to all the Conversation Leaders for their time and commitment to taking part in this important conversation on support services for victims of human trafficking. Please take a moment to learn about the conversation leaders by clicking on their profile photos. Thank you!

Below is a list of questions to serve as a framework for the discussion in this thread:

  • Share stories of success, tactics and tools used to implement programs and services that effectively supported victims of human trafficking
  • What are the most immediate services needed for victims of trafficking?
  • What is the single most important program or service offered to survivors of trafficking to empower and strengthen individuals? Why is this program or service critical?
  • What can organizations do to develop systems and programs to increase the likelihood of long-term reintegration for survivors of trafficking?
Immediate needs and services

Human trafficking is a complex crime, involving different elements and different degrees of coercion and abuse and consequently, trafficked persons have very different experiences and needs. Some may have been abducted, held in captivity for a prolonged period of time and subjected to severe physical, psychological or sexual abuse; others maybe have received some payment for their work but were kept under control through threats of violence; and yet others may have ‘simply’ been deceived about their working conditions and payment and controlled through withholding of documents or wages. In addition, after the end of the trafficking situation, other circumstances can play an important role in the person’s life, such as the their environment (family, friends) and personal psychological capacity for coping and resilience.

Thus, in my experience, there are no universal ‘immediate needs’ or ‘most important services’ that are valid for all survivors of trafficking. Instead, the provision of services should be preceded by a careful needs assessment to determine the indivudla experiences of the person and what their needs are. The needs assessment is performed by a social worker or psychologist immediately after the first contact with the survivor and together with him/her.

But let’s look at some needs and services that are considered more immediate and important in, perhaps, the majority of cases.

Safety is a basic need for every person and should be of primary concern. There may be a risk that the traffickers can find the victims and retaliate against them and in this case, measures should be taken to ensure their safety. This may be achieved through accommodation in a shelter/safe house, or with family/friends or some sort of police protection. Thus a careful risk analysis is one of the first steps that are taken together with the trafficked person.

Accommodation, for example, at an NGO or government shelter, should be offered for a sufficient period of time for the survivors to recover from their experiences and decide what the next steps should be. Shelters should not forbid survivors from going out (of course, with certain conditions, e.g. if there is no risk and after informing someone) as this may resemble the trafficking situation, when the person’s freedom of movement was restricted. Whenever possible, shelters should also provide basic necessities (e.g. food, clothes, toiletries and other hygiene material) and some options for recreational activities, such as books or TV.

(Crisis) Counselling – human trafficking can be a very traumatic experience and survivors can exhibit symptoms of depression or post-traumatic stress disorder, psychosomatic symptoms, or be at risk of self-harm. If they are accommodated at a shelter, they typically receive counselling from a psychologist during their stay. The aim here is to cope with the crisis and the strong emotions, recover from the traumatic experience and regain the feeling of self-worth and confidence.

Medical aid may not be necessary for many victims but can be an urgent issue for others, especially those who have suffered (severe) physical and/or sexual abuse. Victims of sexual exploitation, in particular, should be checked for STIs and HIV. If there is a risk of self-harm or psychotic breakdown, hospitalisation may be necessary.

Legal counselling/aid can take different forms and serve different purposes. In some countries, victims of trafficking can remain in the foreign country only as long as there is a criminal investigation going and if they are willing to cooperate with it. In most European countries, at least on paper, victims of trafficking are entitled to receive support services regardless of whether or not they cooperate with the investigation. But if they do cooperate – they are usually eligible for a residence and work permit (if in a foreign country), at least for the duration of the investigation, as well as to claim compensation for material and non-material damages. However, they should be informed properly what this cooperation means – that they may have to tell their story again and again to different bodies; that they may have to testify in court and perhaps face their traffickers; that the proceedings may take a lot of time, effort and frustration. Typically, social workers at NGOs should be able to provide basic legal assistance, such as information about the procedures to stay in the country and apply for residence or work permit. More in-depth counselling regarding the criminal or civil law suit or compensation claim should be provided by an experience legal advisor, preferably one who has already dealt with cases of human trafficking and is sensitive to the issue.

Some victims of trafficking, especially outside the sex industry, may not have suffered severe abuse but were forced to work long hours for little or no pay. They may not need accommodation, counselling or medical aid but legal aid can help them decide to sue their employer and claim unpaid wages. Here, the counsellor can help them determine whether to turn to a civil or labour court, prepare their case and possibly represent them in court.

Safe return and referral if the person wishes to return to their country/community of origin or if there are no other legal possibilities to stay in the destination country. In this case, service providers in the destination country should establish contact with service providers in the origin country and inform the person what services they can access after their return.

Long-term counselling or psychotherapy comes only at a later stage and is not an immediate need, but is nevertheless important. Some victims of trafficking may have underlying issues in their past that may have contributed to the situation of trafficking, such as domestic violence or sexual abuse, or more generally, difficulty in establishing interpersonal relationships based on mutual respect. This may hinder their reintegration efforts later, such as finding and keeping a job or entering into a meaningful, violence-free relationship. 


As mentioned above, all these services should be accompanied by careful risk analysis and needs assessment before, during and after each service. Risk analysis is important for the safety of the person, while the needs assessment helps service providers to offer only the necessary services, tailored to individual needs.

It is very important to include trafficked persons themselves in the design and implementation of all services they receive. This helps them regain the feeling of control over their own lives, which they may have lost during the trafficking situation, and ultimately, serves to empower them and assist their recovery. 

Victim-Centered, Trauma-Informed Services

This is a great overview of the issue and response. As we have worked to develop effective local responses to human trafficking in Minnesota USA, we have identified the need to meet victims where they are with victim-centered, trauma-informed services. An example of this was developed through a multi-disciplinary collaboration known as the Runaway Intervention Project which subsequently served as the model for Minnesota's Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Youth Act.

The Runaway Intervention Project was created by Assistant Ramsey County Attorney Kate Richtman, who knew that the revolving door of juvenile delinquency adjudications for girls exploited through prostitution was not working and was convinced that victim-centered intervention could work to get these girls off the prostitution track. The Ramsey County Attorney’s Office worked with the Midwest Children’s Resource Center, the local children’s advocacy center, and with SOS-Ramsey County, the local sexual assault victim services organization. Together they designed a victim-centered intervention program where success was measured by improved outcomes for the youth. The Runaway Intervention Project addresses the needs of both sexually exploited girls and girls at risk of sexual exploitation.

The Runaway Intervention Project’s documented results have been remarkable.[1] Professor Elizabeth Saewyc of the University of British Columbia, who has documented the impact of the Runaway Intervention Project, reports that girls completing the program “have shown dramatic improvement in healthy sexual behaviors, increased connectedness with family and school, higher self-esteem, improved mental health, and reduced drug use. Participants have gotten back on healthy development tracks, almost, statistically, as if they had not been abused.”[2]

[1] Early Intervention to Avoid Sex Trading and Trafficking of Minnesota’s Female Youth: A Benefit-Cost Analysis, a report by Lauren Martin, Richard Lotspeich, and Lauren Stark (2012), p. 52, provides an excellent overview of the Runaway Intervention Project.



I most certainly agree with

I most certainly agree with the views expressed by Ms. Michele Garnett that a multi disciplinary approach is crucial to tackle the issue of redress to survivors of Trafficking. Often we approach issues from a singular standpoint that completely disables a proper insight into the situation and I believe as you have stated that a victim centred approach that enables them to find solutions from a multitude of groups that seek to address their different need, is the solution. The Safe Harbour Legislation and the No Wrong Door Approcah in Minnesotta is the begining to that approach. But there is still a need to incorporate all victims of trafficking within the purview of these legislations to ensure a holistic victim centred approach. 

Absolutely. The Minnesota

Absolutely. The Minnesota approach is limited in scope to children under age 18 who are victims of commercial sexual exploitation. While it's a good step, it fails to address needs of adult victims or of victims of labor trafficking,



I do agree. Safety for those who been victimised is an important key role of human trafficking where you can provide accessibility to services but before all that safety for those who have been victims is HOPE.

Tools and tactics

There are numerous tools and guidelines, produced by NGOs, governments and international organisations, to address different aspects of human trafficking – identification, referral, assistance, reintegration, etc. So I’d only like to share a few in which our organisation, La Strada International, has been directly or indirectly involved.

But first I also want to mention briefly the European legislation around human trafficking, as I’m the only conversation leader from Europe. The two main European instruments are the EU Directive on preventing and combating trafficking in persons and protecting its victims (for EU member states) and the Council of Europe Convention on action against trafficking in human beings (for Council of Europe member states). Both are human rights based and victim-centred and contain important provisions that guarantee the rights of trafficked persons. For example, the right to a ‘reflection period’ – this is a period of at least one month, during which survivors have the time to relax and recover from their experiences and decide whether or not to cooperate with the investigation of the crime committed against them; the right to receive support and services even without cooperating with law enforcement; the right to not be prosecuted for crimes committed during the trafficking situation, such as prostitution, irregular entry or stay in a country, petty theft, etc.; the right to claim compensation for material and non-material damages through civil or criminal proceedings; the right to legal aid and so on.

The tools mentioned below have been produced mainly for the European or national contexts but parts of them (or their reasoning) can be applied to or modified for different contexts.

Compensation for trafficked persons

Between 2010 and 2012 La Strada International implemented the project Comp.Act – European Action for Compensation for Trafficked Persons, together with Anti-Slavery International and partners in 14 European countries. The project partners conducted research on the possibilities and obstacles for claiming compensation in their countries, conducted advocacy around the issue and supported clients in claiming compensation. 50 trafficked persons were supported, with the highest amount granted being € 54 000.

This attached short video explains a bit more about the project. 

We found that while compensation as a right exists on paper in all studied countries, in practice it is very difficult for trafficked persons to claim it and even more so – to actually receive compensation. Many of the obstacles are related to lack of knowledge among service providers, attorneys, prosecutors and judges, but also in the national legal frameworks. Last but not least, criminal proceedings in cases of human trafficking are extremely lengthy and cause additional traumatisation and frustration in trafficked persons. The main findings and results of the project have been collected in this document.

We also produced a Guidance on representing trafficked persons in compensation claims with information on the rights and needs of trafficked persons, the ways of claiming compensation for both material and non-material damages, a detailed overview of the international legislation and a simple 5-Step Model for claiming compensation. The guidance is suitable for lawyers, counselling centres and service providers.

National Referral Mechanism

Human trafficking is a complex crime and trafficked persons have different needs, which cannot be met by a single organisation or institution. The care for trafficked persons often requires a multi-disciplinary, inter-agency approach. To facilitate the cooperation among different institutions and service providers and describe the tasks and responsibilities of each, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe has proposed the development of ‘National Referral Mechanisms’ (NRM). Most European countries have such a mechanism (or a ‘coordination mechanism’) in place and I will present here briefly the Bulgarian National Mechanism for Referral and Support of Trafficked Persons, developed by La Strada Bulgaria, in cooperation with La Strada International.

The Bulgarian NRM provides guidelines for the implementation of measures for protection and support to trafficked persons, such as unconditional support, reflection period, referral, reintegration, data protection, etc. and detailed step-by-step description of the different rights of trafficked persons and the services that should be offered to them. it describes the different actors who may be involved in the care for trafficked persons – law enforcement, NGOs, the judiciary, the national/state social assistance institutions, schools, medical personnel, etc. – and what their roles, tasks and responsibilities are at every step of the care for and reintegration of trafficked persons.

‘Safe Future’ methodology

The Dutch Federation of Shelters, together with La Strada Netherlands and other Dutch partners, as well as La Strada Bulgaria and COSUDOW from Nigeria, has developed the methodology ‘Safe Future’ to assist service providers in the Netherlands in their work with clients who are not certain about whether they can stay in the Netherlands.

The methodology is specific to the possibilities for support in the Netherlands (typically a country of destination) and Bulgaria and Nigeria (typically countries of origin) but its principles can be applied in any countries of destination and origin. It outlines the different options that trafficked persons face after the end of the trafficking situation – to apply for legal residence, to remain as undocumented or to return home – what the advantages and disadvantages of each choice are and how to bring up the discussion with the client from the beginning of the service provision. It also provides and overview of the different services offered to clients in the destination country and how to organise the client’s safe return to the county of origin and what assistance the client should receive there. 

Human Trafficking: An NHRI Perspective

Human trafficking is one of the biggest scourges of the modern society and one that is often normalized by many governments as part of their economic wellbeing. While it remains one of the greatest human rights violations, a proper solution and/or redress to survivors of human trafficking has been a long time coming and even then the solutions often dont meet the problem and is not seen from a person centred approach. In most countries, the victims still face the threat of criminal liability and no opportunities for redress. This is often perpetuated by the lack of proper mechanisms to identify survivors of human trafficking and the absence of a benchmark to identify human trafficking in motion. This I believe is key to finding a proper legal, social as well as a human remedy to this particular issue. And with that state complacency in mind, National Human Rights Institutions or NHRI's are placed in an extremely strategic position to be able to affect change. They are able to impact legislation, draw up reccomendations to the State and actually utilize the NHRI legislations to be able to make the State comply with these reccomendations as well as create a multi-sectoral mechanism to provide redress to victims. Unlike government institutions that are more concerned about the political standpoint, NHRI's can utilize their authority to be an overseer of the work that the government does. 

Maldives has had its fair share of human trafficking issues without the government being serious and without any sincere actions to combat the problem. This is evident in the several Trafficking In Persons Reports by the US State Department. I quote the begining of the 2014 report to highlight the issues facing the small and often insignificant nation of Maldives. 

"Maldives is a destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking, and a source country for women and children subjected to labor and sex trafficking. An unknown number of the approximately 200,000 documented and undocumented foreign workers in Maldives—primarily Bangladeshi and Indian men in the construction and service sectors—experience forced labor, including fraudulent recruitment, confiscation of identity and travel documents, withholding or nonpayment of wages, and debt bondage. Migrant workers pay the equivalent of approximately $1,000 to $4,000 in recruitment fees to migrate to Maldives, contributing to their risk of debt bondage after arrival. In addition to Bangladeshis and Indians, some migrants from Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and Nepal reportedly experience recruitment fraud before arriving in Maldives. Recruitment agents in source countries collude with employers and agents in Maldives to facilitate fraudulent recruitment and forced labor of migrant workers. A small number of women from Sri Lanka, Thailand, India, China, the Philippines, Eastern Europe, and former Soviet countries, as well as some girls from Bangladesh and Maldives, are subjected to sex trafficking in Maldives. Some Maldivian children are transported to the capital, Malé, from other islands for domestic service; some of these children are also reportedly subjected to sexual abuse and may be victims of forced labor. Maldivian women may be subjected to sex trafficking in Sri Lanka." -

During my tenure as the Vice Chair of the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives(HRCM) a benchmark was devised to identify cases of human trafficking from the many cases relating to migrant workers that were submitted to the Commission. The benchmark identified specific markers that can be used to identify cases relating to human trafficking. These will then be categorized seperately and the procedure to address them will also be different. HRCM as an NHRI began a campaign to advocate both the public and the government as well as migrant workers and vulnerable groups about the impacts of trafficking. A campaign was also launched to promote awareness and to discourage and stop victim blaming. As part of the HRCM Strategic Plan 2010-2015, several outreach programs were held to create a community more conducive to the rights of migrant workers and to try and sensitize the public to the scourge of human trafficking. Information booklets were created in the languages of the main countries from where people were trafficked to Maldives to educate them of their rights as well as to make them aware of the resources available should they or any of their friends of countrymen find themselves amongst traffickers. In addition several community theatre sessions were held across the country to educate the public. 

On a policy front HRCM organized meetings with several stakeholders, including the government as well as private organizations to try and engage them in a positive dialogue. This included advocating for an Anti Human Trafficking Legislation (which was passed by the Parliament in 2013) as well as drawing up reccomendations o the existing policy documents relating to migrant workers and employment. There were limited success but namely the government agreed to form an Anti Human Trafficking Taskforce which was a multi sectoral committee that was formed to oversea the policies implemented to combat human trafficking. In addition the Anti Trafficking legislation came into force in 2013 which finally criminalized traffickers and considered survivors as victims and not criminals. (Although the Act is a success, the proper understanding of the concept of trafficking and the respect to ensure the human rights of migrant workers are still a long way away). 

On a public front several radio and TV programs were organized and specific sessions with migrant workers were also organized. 

While human trafficking continues to be a serious and heinous violation of human rights and while countless numbers of people continue to be victimized and even killed as a result of the violence inherent in human trafficking, it is clear that governments arent clearly engaged in the manner that is required of them. In such a situation, NHRI's are vital to be able to create the kind of conducive environment for dialogue as well as to become a force that will eventually make governments act and hold them accountable if they dont. The millions of victims whose voices are never heard cannot wait till the governments are ready and therefore Institutions like NHRI's need to ambplify their voices so that they are heard before it is too late. 

Job Training and Education for Survivors: A Critical Unmet Need

I certainly agree with everything that has been said at this point. Holistic, trauma informed services are key. Each trafficking survivor has different needs, and different categories of survivors (i.e US born, foreign born, domestic or labor) also may have different needs. Therefore, as mentioned previously, a needs assessment is crucial.

One area not yet mentioned, is that in my work with US born survivors of commercial sexual exploitation, I see how important financial independence is. So many of our young survivors have had their finances controlled by their pimps/traffickers and are dependent on them to meet basic life and financial needs. Therefore job training and educational programming for survivors is of paramount importance. I cannot count how many times I have heard young people say that their only resume is now sex work and who is going to hire them for anything else.

There is also a period of time where due to all of the trauma they have experienced, survivors might not yet be ready for gainful employment. That period of time is when a survivor is at his or her most vulnerable point for returning to commercial sexual exploitation. If a survivor has no money to meet their basic needs or even some spending money (i.e to buy their child a toy, or have their cell phone paid for) there is risk that they may go back to the trafficker who they may be traumatically bonded with. That is why the compensation mentioned by the previous poster would be extremely helpful, yet it is not something that I have seen happen in any of the cases that I work with, and I don't believe New York law even allows for it.

Question on services provided to children/adolescents

Thank you for your comments everyone. The question I had was: how do the capacities of different organizations (international/state/local) differ when dealing with children or adolescents as victims of human trafficking rather than adults? 

A multi pronged approach to relate the services to survivors

I think to entirely seperate the services that is afforded to survivors of trafficking wouldnt, in my opinion, be the best approach. While the kind of support and services required for children and adolescent victims will be undeniably different, the process of human trafficking is still torturous for all victims. I believe, the difference in capacity is probably relational to the priorities outlines in State policies, when in relation to governments and the priorities highlighted within the NGO's as far as private resources are concerned. I believe that there needs to be a highly fluid nexus between the services provided to all victims and survivors of trafficking. While the capacity may differ based on age, gender and even the type of trafficking (whether it is labour trafficking, sex trafficking etc) what remains unchanges is that all survivors require redress both in the form of psychosocial support as well as social redress, reintegration and even compensation. These are all complex and highly specialized areas that require to be developed. In some countries, the services offered to survivors maybe quite commendable whereas they might not have a proper means of documenting cases of human trafficking. In other countries, there maybe excellent legal and social mechanisms to identify trafficking victims and perpetrators, but things may end there with little or no provisions for redress of survivors. So to me the focus is more on a horizontal plain to understand the multitude of layers that are involved in ensuring proper resources to service the different areas of support which will be mimicked in differing levels depending on the age, gender and the condtion of the victim. I think one reason why the resources are highly limited is because the attempt has not been quite holistic to understand the different areas of support and then compare it to the demographic of the survivors. If State policy is geared to find an amalgamation between these two, I believe their will be a much more progressive process to assess and build capacity.

Human trafficking in its own right involves a multitude of rights violations and as in many such issues require at least two prongs to address the issue which then find a variety of sub divisions. One the system needs to address perpetrators both through the criminal justice system and from a rehabilitative justice perspective and secondly work to provide the support required for the survivors. And then taking the latter we need to develop a horizontal process to address the different services and then a vertical process to understand the types of victims and their specific situations. This then needs to be incorporated into policy framing to alow for capacity building both within a State level as well as a civil society perspective. 

Children and adolescents

Refer to some of my comments below (comment 15). Our experience at CAST Los Angeles is that especially domestic minors (< 18) and transition-aged youth (18-24) often have formed addictive relationships with their trafficker/pimps and with some of the lifestyle with which they hope to identify (as sung about in rap music or glamorized in film, etc.).  Because entry into trafficking for these survivors is often quite young (ages 12-13), and they may have little in the way of healthy support systems (family, etc.), a kind of addictive Stockholm Syndrome can manifest.  Such victims may resist services, or even protect their traffickers.  This does require specialized and differentiated services and approaches.  Also, basic education for minors is mandatory; whereas it is more of a benefit/goal for adults.  Outside of the need for different services and approaches, the jurisdiction for minors is quite specific, and typically governed by the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), which serves as primary case manager.  Those children who might enter services who not are already system-involved, typically will become system-involved due to mandatory reporting requirements (that apply to social workers and others, but not attorneys). These mandatory reporting rules require reporting to DCFS any neglect or abuse of a child by a guardian/parent.

Foreign nationals often have unique needs around language and access, immigration relief, etc.These needs also vary based on age - for example, when children are required to go to school but have trouble with language or cultural adaptation.

That said, there are many similarities that stem from abuse, whether through labor or sex trafficking, or for domestic (U.S.) clients or foriegn nationals trafficked into the U.S. And though issues around stigma often apply differently to sex trafficking and especailly to LGBTQ survivors, there is also stigma associated with labor trafficking.  Virtually all survivors have experienced trauma - perhaps of differing degrees and with differing responses, based on individual circumstances and not necessarily correlating to sex versus labor trafficking. Many survivors suffer from various forms of PTSD, or low self-esteem, or fear for safety, etc.  And most are in critical need of basic necessities - often homeless after escaping their trafficking situation. 

Individualized assessment and service portfolios are essential, no matter the age, type of trafficking, or other factors.

Human Trafficking and Child Recruitment in AQAP

 Yemen is a country of origin for children, mostly boys, trafficked for forced begging, forced unskilled labor, or forced street vending. Yemeni children are trafficked across the northern border into Saudi Arabia or to the Yemeni cities of Aden and Sana’a for forced work, primarily as beggars. Unconfirmed estimates suggest that 10 Yemeni children are trafficked into Saudi Arabia per day, according to the Ministery of Soical Affais and Labor. Some of these children may be sexually exploited in transit or once they arrive in Saudi Arabia.

Yemen is also a source country for women and girls trafficked internally, possibly to Saudi Arabia for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation, as well as a possible destination country for women from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia and the Philippines. Yemeni girls are trafficked within the country for commercial sexual exploitation; The Govermnet of Yemen does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so.

The Government of Yemen did not improve its efforts to punish trafficking crimes, Yemen made limited progress in protecting victims of trafficking over the years .

the government continues to lack protection services for victims of sex trafficking. The government did not employ procedures for proactively identifying victims of sex trafficking among high-risk groups; as a result, victims, including minors, were arrested and jailed for crimes committed as a result of being trafficked, such as prostitution.

On the other hand, loads of Yemeni children are recruited as combatants by armed groups, including Houthi militias and tribal forces. A 2011 Saudi study reported that most beggars in Saudi Arabia were Yemenis between the ages of 16 and 25. From June to December 2013. Many of those who were deported remain displaced in Yemen without access to food, shelter, and medical services. These individuals are highly vulnerable to exploitation, including human trafficking, in Yemen. Some Saudi men used legally-contracted “temporary marriages” for the purpose of sexually exploiting Yemeni girls some reportedly as young as 10 years old; some are subjected to sex trafficking or abandoned on the streets of Saudi Arabia. as a result of the dire economic situation in Yemen, particularly in the north.

Aslo Yemen is also a transit and destination country for women and children primarily from the Horn of Africa for sex trafficking and forced labor. Ethiopian and Somali women and children travel voluntarily to Yemen with the hope of working in other Gulf countries, but some are subjected to sex trafficking or domestic servitude in Yemen. Others migrate based on fraudulent offers of employment as domestic servants in Yemen, but upon arrival are subjected to sex trafficking or forced labor. Some female Somali refugees are forced into prostitution in Aden and Lahj governorates, and Yemeni and Saudi gangs traffic African children to Saudi Arabia


Community sensitization and mobilization .

      Given the seriousness of this crime and being a global scourge affecting the majority of communities, it is essential to address this problem globally by fighting against the perpetrators, bringing them to justice and  finding a protection system to help its victims.

       According to Hodge (2014), the protocol of preventing, suppressing and punishing human trafficking, also known as Palermo Protocol is an essential step. The protocol defines human trafficking as follows:

      The act of recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of  the threat or the use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organ. (p.112)

       After quoting the international definition of this crime, it would be efficient to analyze the difficulties faced upon combatting it .Who is responsible for eliminating this savage phenomenon? Are only law enforcement agencies and governments concerned about it? And what about the community and social workers? 

      Many studies have proven that police agencies, communities, and governments are facing difficulties in differentiating prostitution from sex trafficking, labor exploitation from labor trafficking and trafficking from smuggling. That’s why knowing human trafficking’s indicators can solve avoid confusing human trafficking cases with other crime’s cases. The indicators can be classified into three categories: situational, story, and demeanor. Some of the indicators give us a relating clear classification to differentiate this type of crime from other similar crimes and to categorize the case as a human trafficking case. Those indicators include: human trafficking breaches; threats or actual harm to family members, food, water, and sleep deprivation; the withholding of medical care; forced sexual performance; having wages partly or totally withheld; debt-bondage; working for excessive hour; not having access to identity documents such as passport, being threatened with denunciation of the illegal immigrant status, or having restricted freedom of movement. It is important not to judge or stereotype victims of human trafficking, as their circumstances are often unique and difficult to understand for the outsider.

      When the victims are children, other indicators of trafficking might be present, such as possession of goods and money not accounted for, exhibiting self-confidence and maturity beyond their age, being unable to give details of a contact person or an address, holding expensive properties without money such as modern mobile phones, going missing from local authority care, living with guardians other than parents, having a difficult relationship with their parents, not going to regular medical checkups, not being enrolled in school, having to pay debts, or being extremely afraid of deportation.

        Those indicators ought to be dispatched in the community, either by doing awareness campaigns or by conveying it through mass media. Community aid is a major tool for fighting this crime. Furthermore, those indicators are not only essential for communities, but they are also of some importance for police agencies and related departments. Farrell and Pfeffer (2014) claim “if people from the community don’t think trafficking is a problem, then the police are not going to make it a priority” (p.4). The community has to be sensitized to this kind of crime, and people should have an easy access to report any incident or indicator related to human trafficking .


These are very good points! 

These are very good points! 

As I mentioned in another post, in many European countries there are 'national referral mechanisms' or other coordination mechanisms, which describe the roles of different stakeholders - police, NGOs, social services, labour inspectorates, etc. in identifying, referring and assisting victims of trafficking. However, different countries have different legislation about who does the 'official' identification - sometimes it's only the police or the judiciary. Nevertheless, even suspected victims should be referred to support services. As for indicators there are different sets developed by different organisations, e.g. UNODC (, ILO (, etc. and of course, national ones developed for the national context for different authorities. 

As for the community, one particular effort that I think is useful but under-used, are campaigns to report cases of forced prostitution. In the Netherlands, where prostitution is legal and regulated, there are often campaigns aimed at sex workers and clients of sex workers, to report suspicions of forced or illegal prostitution. For example, the Dutch organisation 'Report crime anonymously' (a 24-hour hotline) regularly runs such campaigns, financed by the Dutch government. The last one (see in English received 300 anonymous tips, two-thirds of which led to investigations and the apprehension of 22 suspects. The campaign was also promoted on escort websites and online forums. Similarly, a study of the Amsterdam public health service last year among clients of sex workers found that the majority of clients are concerned about abuses in prostitution and are willing to report suspicions of abuse, but are unable to recognise the signs. The study concludes that clients have an 'untapped potential' and that local authorities should think about how they can inform clients better and stimulate them to report suspicions of abuse (the the study with a summary in English here 

Another interesting campaign in the Netherlands was organised by the NGO FairWork and is a website called "cheap labour force" ( - in Dutch). The website appears to offer painters for 4 Euro/hour, domestic help for 2.50 Euro/hour, nannies for 3 Euro/hour, etc. When you click on one of the 'offers' the site informs you that the minimum wage in the Netherlands is 8 Euro/hour and if you find offers for such low prices, they may be from people subjected to exploitation. 

Love it!

I love the FairWork website! Thanks for sharing this idea. It's so difficult as a consumer to figure out how your individual actions play out, even if you want to do the right thing. One of the labor rights groups in Minnesota, Centro Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha, has done great work identifying the structural forces around cleaning contract bidding that results in workers being paid sub-minimum wages, which has been critical in changing business practices with certain corporate actors, but I've really struggled with how to help individuals understand how their bigging for the lowest price when engaging services like painting, roofing, and the like. This could be a great model.

Victim-Centered, Trauma-Informed Services

Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking (CAST, Los Angeles, California) serves all types of victims of all forms of human trafficking. I believe it is the oldest organization in the United States doing so. We subscribe to victim-centered and trauma-informed service models using a human rights-based approach.

We find that perspectives (and needs) are sometimes different for organizations who serve only one form or one niche, and we also find that there are overlapping and also different typical needs for different service populations. For young (especially domestic) victims of sex trafficking (minors and transition-aged youth 18-24), the attachment to the trafficker if more frequently an issue that blocks engagement in services - and recovery.  Here, the Stages of Change model (you can web search it), originally applied to addiction, is a useful framework for understanding needs at various stages, as well as understanding recitivism and cycles that ideally, if service providers can maintain a longer-term view and engagement, lead to positive outcomes.  Mental health and substance abuse services are critical for many, as well as parenting, tatoo removal (gang branding), and other specialiized services. Many organizations and agencies are also utilizing, with success, a multi-disciplinary team (MDT) approach, wherein each survivor has a team of folks (from child welfare, possibly law enforcement, and survivor service providers) that together coordinate and manage wrap-around services.  Locally, this has been most often used with minors who are system-involved (under child welfare systems, or probation, etc.). The approach for transition-aged youth (18-24) emerging from sex trafficking is very similar - the difference is that they are independent and, as victims, should not be mandated into systems based on arrest, or mental health, substance abuse, etc. CAST is also experimenting with new models that emphasize entry into services through self-declaration or community-based agencies (as opposed to through law enforcement and probation systems). We hypothesis that the incentives for change and recovery are greater and we are aiming to correlate outcomes and success factors based on: 1) each survivor's prior history (family relationship, time in trafficking situation, education, and a myriad of factors); 2)  entry source (law enforcement/arrest versus community-based referral or self-referral); and 3) interventions (services provided) and outcomes (using a Surivor Outcomes Assessment Tool to measure impact).  This experiment is being piloted with 40 survivors of sex trafficking from Los Angeles District 2 (which has a high-prevalence of gang-related sex trafficking of domestic youth).

The approach to services may be very different for foreign national victims of labor trafficking. In our experience, addictive behaviors toward the trafficker are seldom found. The need for housing and basic necessities is still critical, but issues like mmigration relief, T-Visa and Green Card, family reunification, language needs, are also critical.

The broad panorama of needed services includes:

- 24-hour emergency response (in person); 24-hour hotline (phone)

- Safety (victims and agency staff)

- Stabilization and basic necessities

- Housing/ shelter (options, including independent living for adults)

- Physical health (screening and diagnosis, as well as treatment)

- Eye/vision health

- Dental health

- Mental health and emotional health (individual counseling, group counseling, specialized treatments, alternative treatments like acupuncture or yoga)

- Education

- Life skills (this includes a number of topics)

- Vocational training and connection to jobs

- Family reunification

- Other: like parenting classes or specialized needs

The other aspect I would like to emphasize is Survivor Leadership Programs. These coordinate post-graduate survivors (meaning those who have successfully completed service programs and are stable and thriving), providing options to participate in ongoing peer-to-peer support groups and/or participate in community outreach/prevention advocacy or policy advocacy (city, county, state, national, etc.).  CAST's local Survivor Caucus and National Survivor Network, and other programs in the U.S. and globally (for example, the survivor group ANIRBAN in Bangladesh) have been enormously successful in providing input to improve community-based services, conducting outreach to educate communities about trafficking, serving as advocates and speakers at the national level (in the U.S., for example, through meetings with legislators and/or representatives of key national agencies, etc.), and providing input in the formulation of National Action Plans to combat trafficking and serve victims.


Legal aid and legal advocacy services

In the above comment (#15), I missed legal aid and advocacy in the list of needed services.In the U.S. context this typically falls into a few categories:

1) Help with immigration relief for foreign nationals (T-Visa for victims of traffickng, U-Visa for victims of crime - including trafficking, authorization to work, permanent residence and a path to citizenship, and coordinating family reunification through IOM

2) Victim accompaniment and advocacy through the process of testimony against trafficker and general access to justice

3) Advocacy with law enforcement, courts, probation, district attorney, etc. to help survivors deal with active criminal cases against them resulting from their trafficking situation (i.e. clear warrants or criminal records, accompaniment to hearings or court, etc.)

4) Civil law suits to recover unpaid wages or penalties (especailly successful with labor traffickng)


Task forces and law enforcement

Los Angeles County in California is home to about 10 million people and has a complex set of jurisdictions for county agencies and law enforcement. Federal agencies, like FBI and ICE, are also involved in anti-trafficking efforts and victim identification. Human trafficking efforts are coordinated through inter-agency protocols, community-based collaboraton, and task forces that include government service providers, community-based NGO/CBO service providers, law enforcement and justice sector (probation, district attorney's diversion programs, specialized courts, etc.), and federal agencies. And there are several task forces in operation (with uneven results), including Los Angeles Metro, County Sheriff's Department, Long Beach Task Force, Glendale Task Force, and others. Orange County (next door) has an especailly effective (and well-funded) task force.

Principle challenges facing task forces - outside of the obvious gap in resources - include time and distance for convening, and most especially, different views on approaches to victim identification and treatment, typically between law enforcement (especially at the rank and file level) and human-rights based survivor-centered and trauma-informed providers.  This is often especially true when lawyer advocates are involved to protect the rights of survivors (in addition to court appointed attorneys or in the absence of a court case). The need for ongoing dialogue and joint training is critical.  Federal funds are now available to support task forces (based on a competitive grant solicitation) and additional federal funds are being used to conduct joint training for task force members.

Victim advocacy also takes other forms with law enforcement and justice sector actors - including assistance with civil remedies (payment of wages, recoupment of losses, etc.), advocacy and survivor accompaniment during testimony as a part of prosecution of traffickers, as well as during court proceedings when the victim is charged with a crime, or for expungement of prior records.

The principle legislation covering human trafficking in the U.S. is the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 and Reauthorization Act of 2013. Several states have adopted supplementary legislation - for example, in California, to regulate recruiting agencies or mandate posting of a human trafficking hotline.



In Trinidad and Tobago there

In Trinidad and Tobago there is an Act that seeks to give effect to the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children. The Act provides for the establishment of a Counter Trafficking Unit which comprises of members from the various Law Enforcement Agencies in the country. The Unit usually colloborates with the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service on matters of investigations pertaining to reported cases of victims of trafficking. There has been an increase in the numbers of women from the South American Continent in the country. Many of these women who are held by police officers would have illegally entered the country through various means. Unfortunately many of them find themselves involve in prostitution working out of brothels, bars and pubs. Usually because of the stigma attached to these women being labelled as prostitutes their concerns are hardly addressed in any real meaningful manner, in addition to the fact of being illegal immigrants very few persons and/or organisations take up the plight of these women. These women are often times held in raids that are conducted and coordinated by members of both the CTU and the TTPS and are usually arrested and charged for prostitution. The irony of this situation, is that these are women are usually given a fine and they are allowed to go free, often times back to the only life they knew before and so its a kind of a revolving door and the process happens over and over again.

Despite the Laws of Trinidad and Tobago providing some protection for victims of trafficking, there still remain some challenges such with the very law itself which does not provide for full coverage in the definition of who is a victim.In addition, police officers lack the training and the skills necessary to being able to effectively identify as to who is a victim of trafficking and so often leave it to the Courts to decide upon the fate of these women. Another challenge is the lack of a proper coordination amongst the key agencies and the lack of shelters and effective systems in place to readily address the concerns of victims of trafficking. The role of law enforcement is critical if we are to make any headway in seeking to address the plight of victims of trafficking and so training is vital to bringing about change in the mindset of police officers. In addition, the laws must also be reviewed periodically to determined if it's having the desired effect and to therefore have relevance to the approach of providing support services for victims of trafficking and one of ensuring a strategic alignment amongst all the key stakeholders in addressing this matter.