What is Human Trafficking?


United Nations Definition of Human Trafficking

  • 1. Method: Recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt of persons
  • 2. Means: By threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person
  • 3. Purpose: For exploitation.

What is the difference between ‘smuggling’ and ‘trafficking’ (of persons)?

  • Smuggling is when a person crosses a border or is crossed over a border illegally, but then once on the other side the person is free to separate him/herself from the person who helped to get them across the border.
  • Trafficking, in relation to smuggling, is when a person is transported (over a border) against their will and/or, once over the border, are still subject to another persons (usually someone who has helped with the border crossing) commands and are no longer free.
  • Smuggling = cross border illegally, but individual free to leave once on the other side
  • Trafficking = however they cross the border, they are not free to leave once on the other side.

An (entirely fictional and simple) example to illustrate the difference:

Frank lives in Texas in a border town and works for a company driving products between their Mexican and American plants. He becomes friends with a family living just over the border in Mexico. He learns that they are desperate to come to the United States in order to have a better life, but have been unable to acquire the necessary paperwork. Frank offers to help his friends get into the United States by hiding them in his truck on one of his many trips across the border. Once over the border, Frank helps the family get to the home of their cousin, who has been living in the USA for several years now. This is smuggling. Frank helped the family get into the USA and then they were free to establish a new life however they so chose.

Now, Frank’s co-worker Fred heard about what Frank had done, and since he had the same job, decided to do the same thing. Fred got to know another family looking to cross into the United States and planned out how he would bring them over in his truck. However, once Fred got his family across the border he told them that they owed him for helping them since he could get in a lot of trouble for smuggling them over the border. Fred also told the family that they’d get send back to Mexico and never allowed into the USA legally if anyone was found out. Fred didn’t let the family leave his control and made them work to pay him back. This is an example of trafficking.

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