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How people migrate

Traffickers

Trafficking is in principle different from smuggling. However there is often some overlap between the two activities, and the perpetrators may be the same people, so they are probably best thought of as opposite ends of a continuum.

People being smuggled are traveling voluntarily. People being trafficked on the other hand have in some way been coerced, taken by force, perhaps, or deceived. According to the US State Department annually at least 800,000, and possibly as many as four million people, worldwide were bought, sold, transported and held against their will in slave-like conditions.

Coercion at its most serious involves kidnapping, though this is rare nowadays, primarily because it is not necessary. Probably the commonest form of trafficking involves deception. Traffickers pose as brokers offering to find legitimate work abroad for young women and girls. But when the migrants arrive they discover that they are expected to offer sex. This happens all over the world but is particularly prevalent in Southeast Asia in the Mekong Delta.
Similar forms of deception take place in the Philippines

Not everyone who migrates for sex work, however, has been trafficked. Many are well aware of what they are getting into, so have only been smuggled. It is important to maintain the distinction between smuggling and trafficking in order to protect the victims and to prosecute the real criminals.

A commonly quoted estimate, made in 1994, suggested that trafficking globally was a $6- to $7-billion business, though this total also included smuggling.

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Anti-trafficking poster

Anti-trafficking poster in Zambia.
Photo: Matt Cork