What is human trafficking?

Human trafficking is a crime against a person; it violates an individual’s human rights. Human trafficking has three elements: act, means and purpose. All three elements must be present for the crime to be human trafficking.

The Act (the what) of human trafficking include one or more of the following: recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of a person (buying someone).

The Means (the how) of trafficking someone include using one or more of the following tactics: threat, use of force, abduction, fraud, deception and/or lying. The trafficker might be in a power position and use that power to take advantage of someone else, or the trafficker might buy or trade a person.

The Purpose (the why) human traffickers do these things is so they can, at a minimum, exploit the person they are trafficking. The exploitation can take one or more of the following forms: sexual exploitation, forced prostitution, forced labor, slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.

There must be one element of act, means and purpose for a case to be human trafficking.

Why it’s important

Human trafficking is a serious crime. Victims of human trafficking are tricked into exploitive situations and are most likely to be victims of organized crime. They may have:

  • serious security concerns
  • information about criminal groups that they are willing to share
  • Human traffickers are often connected to other criminals and crimes
  • urgent physical and psychological health needs requiring urgent specialized treatment and care



Report a Potential Case of Exploitation

Telling someone about a potential case of trafficking can save someone's life - help protect your community, it’s better to report and find out it was not trafficking, than not to report it and find out that it was.

United Nations Definition of Human Trafficking

Human Trafficking is defined as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of threat or 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 of 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 labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal, manipulation or implantation of organs.

“This website was funded by a grant from the United States Department of State. The opinions, findings and conclusions
stated herein are those of the author[s] and do not necessarily reflect those of the United States Department of State”.