Human trafficking is a human rights violation. Victims of human trafficking are forced, tricked or coerced into a situation for the purpose of sexual exploitation, forced labor or other forms of exploitation.

You can use this article to learn more about:

  • Forms of exploitation
  • Who can be a victim
  • Who are traffickers
  • Recruitment methods

The risk of human trafficking grows in situations of conflicts, and it is now growing in Eastern Europe due to the war in Ukraine, especially for women and children. Please watch out when accepting transportation and accommodation from people you don’t know, especially when arranged via Telegram or other social media. Make sure you have enough information about who you’re going with and where, and share this information with people that you trust; keep in touch with your friends and family throughout your journey. If you have any doubts, call the Ukrainian Counter-Trafficking and Migrant Advice Hotline at 527 (available from within Ukraine everyday from 8am to 8pm). For hotlines available in other countries, check here.

Types of exploitation

A person is trafficked if she or he is forced or tricked into a situation in which he or she is exploited.

The exploitation can take different forms, such as:

  • Exploitation of prostitution, or other forms of sexual exploitation
  • Forced labor or services, including begging and work in the agricultural sector
  • Slavery or similar practices
  • Servitude
  • Exploitation in illegal activities
  • Removal of organs.

Read Susan’s story here, a survivor of human trafficking who found the courage to seek help and succeeded in suing her perpetrators.

In spring 2015, Susan was persuaded to make the journey to Italy from Nigeria by a woman called Ivie. The woman offered to pay for Susan’s journey and promised she would get decent and paid work. Susan underwent a traditional juju oath-taking ceremony, in which she swore her loyalty to the woman and to pay her back. During the journey, Ivie coordinated via phone the transfer of Susan with different middle men and checked on her. Once in Italy, she was taken to the administrative detention center Ponte Galeria in Rome, where a volunteer helped her to apply for asylum, and she was later transferred to a migrant reception center. Soon after, Ivie picked her up and brought her to an apartment in Prato. But things were not as she expected: instead of working as a babysitter, Susan was forced into prostitution. When she protested, Ivie reminded her that she owed her the money for her journey, and if she didn’t pay, her family back home would be in danger. Furious about the lies, Susan decided to document her new life to have evidence of what she was being forced to. Once she moved to the north of Italy, the new madam's control wasn’t as tight and she decided to leave for Rome. Susan had managed to keep the contacts of the immigration lawyer she had seen at Ponte Galeria, she reached him at his office and the anti-trafficking organization Be Free helped to get her into a shelter. About a month after Susan fled to Rome, Ivie sent men to her mother’s house in Nigeria. They beat her, but the threat had the opposite effect. Susan saw the criminal complaint against Ivie as the only means to fight back and protect her family. Susan’s evidence finally led to the arrest of four madams, who were sentenced to a total of 45 years for trafficking 10 girls to Italy and forcing them into slavery.

Who can be a victim of human trafficking?

Any person can become a victim of human trafficking, regardless of their nationality, age, gender or socio-economic status.

Some more vulnerable populations, such as migrant workers, young people, women and girls, members of the LGBTQIA community may be more easily targeted by traffickers and find themselves in exploitative situations.

Who are traffickers?

Traffickers do not have a specific profile. They can be members of gangs and other networks involved in illicit activities. They can also be women and young people, as well as family members, friends and those respected by the community.

How could you be recruited by traffickers?

Traffickers use different methods of recruitment, such as deceptive job offers, romantic interest or offers to ease your travel to another country. Recruitment can happen both offline (including acquaintances or other people that might be close to you) and online (Facebook, Telegram and other social media platforms).

Deceptive job offers

You could be recruited through deceptive job offers, both for labor trafficking or other types of exploitation.

Here below you can find some elements to be aware of and that should raise your concerns while scouting for new job vacancies:

  • The job is in one of the following sectors: home help, child care, waitressing, tourism, hostessing, modeling, agriculture, farming, constructions, and entertainment (actress, filmmaker, promoter and even entrepreneur, but also consensual escorting).
  • If the salary offered is extremely high and it exceeds your expectations it may be a fraud.
  • The job is in another city/country, or it is an itinerant-like job. This is often the case of vacancies advertised in the tourism sector, which are associated with long periods of mobility within the European Union.
  • If someone contacts you pretending to be a trusted employer interested in hiring new personnel, it may be a scam. Normally, after the initial contact, traffickers require the payment of a fee from you to secure the job and to help arrange the travel and the accommodation to the final destination. The offer can be based on real announcements posted by job seekers, but it is a false offer.
  • Beware of job offers if you have been offered travel with ease of payment for tickets and accommodation, immediate visa and passport procedures, even deducting the costs from your first salary.

If the job offer you selected does match with one or more of the points above, please be careful! Before accepting the offer, take the time to do some research and look up the name of the individual, company and number of who is offering you the job.

Romantic interest: the lover-boy method

The ‘lover-boy method’ is a traditional technique used by traffickers to recruit potential victims. Usually, a man (the trafficker or a person from within the network) pretends to fall in love with a woman or girl (potential victim) and seduces her with promises of a better future, marriage or a long-term emotional relationship. The composition of the relationship may vary and the trafficker could also be someone of your same sex.

If the person you are in contact with has the same tastes as you, shares the same interests, seems very nice, lavishes you with money, gifts and promises of a better life, remember that he or she may also be pretending. They may even let you think that they are involved in a special relationship with you. But, often, this is all part of the deception. All these elements should be a red flag and raise concerns.

Facilitation of transportation

Traffickers could also recruit you by offering to ease your travel to other countries. In particular, elements below should be red-flags to you, as a trafficker could be:

  • Someone accompanying you along the route or constantly checking and controlling your movements
  • Someone offering to purchase your travel tickets
  • Someone offering to give you fake documents for traveling to and within the EU

Either case, please be careful and distrust such deceptive offers and promises – although intriguing.

If you are going to travel to another country, please make sure to do it safely and take these measures to protect yourself:

  • Inform a relative or a person close to you of your travel destination and the telephone numbers where you can be reached (it would be better if you have a phone to reach them out); alert your family/network of the risks of your trip.
  • Take photocopies of all your papers and don't give originals to someone else. Indeed, it is frequent that traffickers withhold your documents.

How can help

If you in Italy and you are a victim or potential victim of human trafficking, including labor exploitation, you can call the national Anti-trafficking helpline: 800290290 or +393427754946 (from LycaMobile only).

The helpline is free of charge and active 24 hours a day, every day of the year. The helpline is available in the following languages: English, Spanish, Albanian, Romanian, Russian, Moldovan, Ukrainian, Nigerian, Chinese, Polish, Portuguese and Arabic. A specialized operator will give you information on services assisting trafficked persons and, upon request, refer you to local services available in your area.

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