Concern About Preventing Human Trafficking: Problems In Building A Holistic Approach

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This article considers the reasons that, despite efforts, human trafficking persists around the world. The factors that enable human trafficking to occur vary and are interdependent and interconnected (Stop Violence Against Women (SVAW), 2008:1; Truong, 2001:34-35; Van Impe, 2000:p117-118). Human trafficking is a fastest growing forms of widespread transnational business (Shelley 2010, Rosy,2013) and a complex, multifactorial, and inconstant phenomenon (Acharya, 2008, Couto & Fernandes, 2014). Human trafficking is the third most lucrative illegal criminal activity (U.S. Department of State 2004, p14, ILO, 2014), estimating that globally it generates $150 billion in illegal profits a year, $99 billion from sex trafficking and $51 billion from labour trafficking, surpassed only by guns and drug trafficking (ILO, 2014). So, combatting human trafficking cannot be fully conceived without understanding how the problem of trafficking is conceptualised by different actors and by the diverse perspectives (Firman, 2007). Another report of ILO in 2017 shows that, 40.3 million people subjected to modern slavery, where including 24.9 million engaged in forced labour and 15.4 million in forced marriages (ILO, 2017). For the reason that, human trafficking is a threat to human security on many levels, and considered a global concern (Clark, 2003).

Globally, since the mid-1990s, the increase in attention to human trafficking corresponded with growing attention to this crime in mainstream news outlets in the United States, Canada, and other Western countries (Bruckert & Parent, 2002; Jahic & Finckenauer, 2005; Johnston, Friedman, & Shafer, 2012). By the 1990s, women from Eastern and Central Europe had become the new focus, and trafficking in women for work in the sex industry loomed as an issue of increasing concern as it gained attention and media coverage (Goodman,2015).At the United Nations Conference on Human Rights in 1993, the Global Campaign for Women’s Human Rights, made up of more than 950 women’s organizations emerged as the strongest and most effective lobby for trafficking issues (Alan Riding, 1993). Besides, well-known international anti-trafficking organizations in the non-profit and nongovernmental sector were founded between 1994–2007 (e.g., The Global Alliance Against Trafficking in Women in 1994; La Strada International in 1996; Free the Slaves in 2000; Polaris Project in 2002; and Not For Sale in 2007). Earlier these initiatives, Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948 adopted by United Nations Organization (UNO), none was against this historic document, clearly stated that, “No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms” (UDHR, 1948, article-4, p-10). Later in 2000, UNO adopted a protocol to prevent, suppress and punish human trafficking, was also globally accepted, that emphasised essentially a comprehensive international approach to promote cooperation and combat against human trafficking. The UN Protocol-2000 provides the first international definition and obligatory criminalization of human trafficking (UN Protocol-2000, Bruch, 2004) but international cooperation is only an optional measure (Ikeora,2018).

In the last decade, Combatting human trafficking has gained significant momentum as the top of the global agenda in leading towards finding real solutions to the growing modern slavery today (Ikeora,2018). It is a crime of such magnitude and atrocity that cannot be dealt with successfully by any government or agency alone so, this global problem requires an integrated global and multi-stakeholder strategy. An integrated or holistic global strategy means ‘a human rights-based approach’ that supported by many scholars as an effective instrument for tackling human trafficking (Inglis,2001, Rijken,2009). Victims of human trafficking have a right to be treated with humanity and respect for their dignity and human rights (UNHR, 2014). Agustin (2003) and Anderson (2011) supported this issue on the extension of human rights, especially in relation to migrants and Van de Anker (2013) recommends a ‘cosmopolitan approach’ as part of extending the human rights-based approach, she asserts that the boundaries of nation-states are not boundaries of morality, and duties of justice are owed to all human beings. The approach has highlighted the human rights of trafficked persons e.g. calls for victim support, including housing, legal aid, reflection period, counselling and education and emphasis on not a person’s legal status but their experiences of human rights violations (van den Anker, 2013). This approach insists to move beyond statism and build in international duties of support to countries of origin. This imply that, when victims of trafficking are identified accurately, then destination states have the immediate responsibility to take practical measures to protect victims from harm, along with additional support required.

This article addresses that absence of a holistic approach and global cooperation with respect to human trafficking and further suggests that working from within a human rights framework would require this cooperation. Also, this paper coalesces problems of a holistic or integrated approach from various aspects and further emphasis on the process of cooperation with merging of concepts from diverse disciplines (Lutya & Lanier, 2012). Before turning to explanation of problems of a holistic approach, we will briefly review literature based on the secondary analysis focusing to the key factors of human trafficking, why global concern is essential and what are problems of government and cooperation in international level.

Factors of Human Trafficking

Conceptually, many explanation on human trafficking exist (Aronowitz, 2004). Many scholars pointed out two factors ‘push’ and ‘pull’ that facilitate this crime of human trafficking (Bales, 2007; Couto, 2012; Couto & Fernandes, 2014; Europol, 2016; UNODC, 2016). Push factors of human trafficking, in brief, are a combination of reasons that incite or force a person to move voluntarily, in contrast, pull factors attract the individual or group to be vulnerable. Van Liemt (2004) identified the most prominent pull factors of trafficking as language, cultural affinity, labour shortages, and the existence of networks, negative selection and the existence of an underground economy where irregular immigrants readily find work. Van Liemt (2004) also argued that both political and economic factors play vital roles as push factors, and Gunatilleke (1994) addressed the major push factors as inequalities in living standards between the more-developed and less-developed countries, and rising expectations that induce people to migrate in search of opportunities for a better life. Mahmoud and Trebesch (2010) argued about relative deprivation as a major push factor, and that human trafficking will be more prevalent in areas with high rates of emigration trafficker’s benefit from lower recruitment costs and the free-riding opportunities. Shirk and Webber (2009) identified pull factor that traffickers often target people who are desperately searching for ways to find employment and better their lives. These individuals tend to be easier to control (Flamm, 2003).

Many scholars suggested prominent features of the reasons of human trafficking from their empirical studies. Akee, Basu, Chau, and Khamis (2010) examined the determinants of human trafficking with an emphasis on the potential roles of ethnic, religion and language fragmentation, and conflict. Akee, Bedi, Basu, and Chau (2014) mentioned that countries that grant legal amnesty to immigrants have an increased likelihood of experiencing human trafficking. Akee et al. (2011, p.29) discussed the influence of domestic and international trafficking activities reciprocal as domestic legislation can spill over to impact international trafficking. Human trafficking occurs evidently in illegal markets that promote criminal activities (Jones et al., 2007; UNODC, 2016) but also could be happened in restaurants and hotels as a legal form (Payoke, 2014, Jones, et al., 2007).

Concern for Protection and Reintegration

This article emphasizes human trafficking as a very serious problem and the reason of human rights violation. Because, the consequences of human tracking to victim is a melancholy picture of victim life far away of normal expected life as a human being. The circumstance during trafficking to a victim is vicious particularly to women as they are bound to engage in sexual activities to benefit the trafficker (Outshoorn, 2005) that is the worst and most pervasive form of human rights violation (Ruhi 2003). The report of UNODC-2012 shows a large numbers of victim who trafficked for sexual exploitation accounted for 52.5 percent to 61.9 percent of the total number of victims and 98 percent of all persons trafficked for sexual exploitation are women and girls (ILO 2008: 3). The most prominent exploitation conditions of the all victims identified by Kask and Markina (2014,p285-291) these are including “no work in the destination country”, “actual work differs from the promised one”, “no written contract or double contract system”, “sub-standard housing conditions”, “threats”, “physical violence”, “sub-standard wages, delayed wages or no wages”, “long working hours”, and/or “retention of passport”. Moreover, it is common to treat the victim unequally based on the gender issue when they get back to their community for example, women who come back after trafficking are often considered as ‘prostitutes’ and are not welcomed in society and they are treated as a social evil or as a threat to religious or cultural values (Gazi,, 2001). After coming back, stigmatization excludes victim from the mainstream society and survivors come back is not appreciated by the community members and families (Shamim and Kabir, 1997). Rosy (2013) mentioned that trafficked persons, generally go through severe physical and psychological violence that hamper their socio-economic well-being. Patterson (2012) noted it as modern forms of slavery that breaks all the rules of the declaration of the human rights. Therefore, the concern for protection and reintegration is a pressing issue in global platform as a part of humanitarian agenda (Anderson and Andrijasevic, 2008). Trafficked persons are entitled to the full range of human rights even if they are outside their country of residence, they cannot be discriminated against simply because they are non-nationals (Pearson, 2002). In most cases of human trafficking, victims have an immediate need for safety, shelter, and medical care (Clawson, Dutch, Solomon, & Grace, 2009, Hodge, 2014). Consequently, the victims of sex trafficking often have physical ailments, including headaches, fatigue, back pain, memory problems, dental problems, stomach pains, pelvic pain, skin conditions, and sexually transmitted infections (Oram, Stöckl, Busza, Howard, & Zimmerman, 2012). Furthermore, victims of sex trafficking require counselling and social support together with the provision of basics necessities (Reid, 2008). Appropriately, in order to reintegrate the victim of sex trafficking into the community and society, they need to be separated from their former situations ensuring shelters that must be physically safe places where care for victims with providing them emotional and mental safety. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health condition experienced by victims (Ide and Mather).

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Undeniably, human rights is to every human being must have the articulation of the need for equality, mutual respect, and human dignity in all of their activity. Kennedy (2003) emphasized on basic rights of people including certain civil liberties and political rights, the most fundamental of which is the right to life and physical safety to be sustained under any circumstances. This indicates equal rights, protection and access to state facilities not as privileges by the vulnerable people but as the full range of human rights. This merely support the concept of victim protection aspect which means assisting and supporting and, ultimately empowering those who have been trafficked, and enabling them to address the violations they have suffered (Pearson,2002). Weber, Fishwick, and Marmo (2014) argued, in relation to it based on the welfare liberalism or socialist philosophies that, human rights as an agenda of individual entitlements to receive support from the state in relation to health, education and employment, and protection of the classic civil liberties. In 2002 United Nations Guidelines for the Prevention of Crime emphasised on four types of approaches to crime prevention including prevention through social development or social crime prevention, locally based crime prevention, situational crime prevention and reintegration programmes (UN 2002: Annex II, Point 6).

Problems of Forming a Holistic Approach of Victim Support

It is pointed out by Cepeda and Sánchez (2014) that, the world is now a completely unequal and under clearly asymmetric power relationships and system of unequal exchanges among countries to come into being, and has discriminating the pre-existing domination of gender and social class. This situation indicates that human trafficking has been evolved from certain culturally specific prototypes, from certain territories, to a new sophisticated and globalised model. Remarkably, human trafficking is a dynamic concept and its parameters are constantly changing to respond to changing economic, social, and political conditions (Ruhi,2003). A holistic approach is essential at national and international level in order to reintegrate the human trafficking victim because, specialised criminal organisations operate and involve in human trafficking with each other and at each phase of the business for example, the departure, journey, destination and the final exploitation of the victims are organised in detail. The methods used by these criminal organisations vary, depending on the context of arrival or transit (Cepeda and Sánchez, 2014). But, the problems of combating human trafficking is widespread into various aspects. Therefore, in this article conceptualize the difficulties in holistic or integrated strategy into three fold, these are, ambiguity or inconsistency of study as academic concern, limitations of the government initiatives and deficiency in cooperation in international level.

First, from the academic point of view, there is a strong demand for solid empirical research to develop policies on human trafficking, but in spite of a large number of publications, still a long way to go to satisfy the policy demands (Tyldum, 2010). A very few publications contained original data and most treated as “sources” or “evidence” the assertions of government agencies and international organizations, even though these bodies had failed to reveal their sources (Zhang 2009). Research on human trafficking, much of these, produced fails to satisfy to academic standards common in other fields of research (Salt, 2000). In the past, research on human trafficking had mostly been on sexual exploitation (Chuang 2010; UNODC 2006, 2012). Even though, the scholarly domain is presently more nuanced than it has been in the past, there are still new facts to be discussed (Erokhina,2007). The reason for this, anti-trafficking efforts has emerged in recent years within social science, legal, and policy literature, (Emmers, Greener-Barcham, & Thomas, 2006; Friesendorf, 2006, 2006; Schuckman,2006). Research on human trafficking usually focuses on some aspects of trafficking as a social phenomenon and viewed either as a matter for the social sciences or as the subject of a legal inquiry pertaining to the more narrowly defined crime of trafficking (Gallagher,2001). It is common, while doing research on human trafficking, to know the size or boundaries of the group of victim, traffickers or offender, or the study population that is why, Tyldum and Brunovskis (2005) refers it as “hidden populations” and

(Weitzer, 2014) indicates as “the clandestine nature of trafficking”. The Institute for the Study of International Migration (ISIM)[footnoteRef:1] identified several points in the research on human trafficking such as, limited understanding of the characteristics of victims and their trafficking trajectories and, poor understanding of the operations of traffickers, their networks, also lack of evaluative research on the effectiveness of governmental anti-trafficking policies and the efficiency of rescue programs (Elzbieta,2008). The difficulty plagues in the measurement of victims in research, due to the absence of clear and accurate information about this phenomenon. Moreover, there is also a substantial lack of knowledge about how to develop policies targeting all types of trafficking exploitation or addressing gender issue like, a male victim exploited in forced labour or for sexual purposes (Arsovska and Janssens 2009; Sidoti 2010). [1: It was founded in 1998 in Washington D.C with purpose is to apply the best in social science research and policy expertise to understanding international migration and its consequences.

Second, human trafficking is such a crime that affects several areas of state responsibility including security, migration, health, social security, development, education, labour, gender equality, and human rights (Dominica, 2014). Some scholars pointed out that individual states no longer can handle it because of the nature of globalized and organized trafficking crime (Vogel, 2002). For the reason that, traffickers are capable of quick adaptation to new environments and able to change their strategy. Naturally, and rightly so, criminal laws do not work that way, formulating a law by the government is followed by a systemic process which need drafting, discussion and amending to be taken into consideration. In addition, proper agencies must be consulted, and the consequences of the suggested amendment must be carefully evaluated (Dominica, 2014). Another problem is that, the corruption of government authorities, who play a critical role in anti-trafficking operation, allows trafficking to continue (Surtees, 2008). Government corruption supports trafficking in different ways, through document falsification, illegal border crossings, overlooking prostitution venues in identifying victims, compromising criminal investigations, lack of investigation and judges dismissing cases or imposing minimal sanctions (Council of Europe 2005: 53; Lazaroiu et al. 2004: 34; Schloenhardt 1999: p,212-218; Shelley 2000: 71; Transcrime 2003). Sometimes, government authorities offer only short-term and limited protection services, which are not enough for victims to return to normal lives (Copic and Simeunovic-Patic 2012: p-280) and also, many trafficked persons reject victim status and decline offered assistance (Brunovskis and Surtees, 2007, Tyldum, 2010, Surtees and Babovic, 2007). Besides, many trafficked persons are left out of the support system, reasons for this, government authorities only identify sex trafficking victims and female victims, and many victim return to communities without reporting their cases to service providers (Copic and Simeunovic-Patic 2012; Surtees 2013). Moreover, some problems are common in government initiatives, identified by (Sidoti 2010: 39-40), such as: “many victims of trafficking are not identified and treated”, “many victims decline assistance offered”, “the safety of trafficked persons is not always taken into due consideration”, or “risk assessments are not always conducted”. The anti-trafficking endeavour of the government hampered due to lack of capacity and resources (Laczko and Gramegna 2003), especially in some individual developing countries, struggle with certain political, economic and administrative malfunctions that hamper anti-trafficking efforts.

Third, many scholars focus on international cooperation as a key element in effective victim protection (Adepoju 2005; David et al. 2011; Lee 2005; Rankin and Kinsella 2011; Toktas and Selimoglu 2012; Winterdyk and Reichel 2010). But, there is as of yet no common understanding of the trafficking phenomenon (Ikeora,2018). Scholars such as Gallagher (2001), Dominica (2014) offer several critical analyses on the process involved in articulating the UN convention, known as the Palermo protocol. Contextually, some scholars and activists contend that the way in which the description has been framed is vague and problematic (Gallagher,2001). Jordan (2002) criticises that ‘intentional ambiguity’ as some of the vagueness within the definition of human trafficking given in UN protocol, does not prevent governments from making their own definitions. For instance, it has continually proven difficult to reach an international consensus regarding the interpretation of ‘exploitation’, given that its severity varies, generating a range of experiences across victims of trafficking. It fails to define “abuse of power,” “vulnerability,” and “control” (Weitzer, 2014). It is difficult to apply the Palermo protocol in practice and document cases where the distinction between smuggling and trafficking is blurred as smuggling involves vulnerability and exploitation but not deception or coercion (Skilbrei and Tveit 2008). As it stands, the UN protocol does not break ‘new grounds or grant new rights’ nor significantly guarantee the responsibility of states to protect trafficked victims (Gallagher,2001). This is the reason of poor cooperation between or among the countries or agencies to exchange trafficking information (David 2006; Aronowitz 2009). Furthermore, traffickers are regularly responding and adapting to the social, economic and political arenas in which recruitment and trafficking take place, which makes it imperative that anti-trafficking actors are equipped with detailed and up-to-date information about traffickers and their activities (Surtees, 2008). Undeniably, applying international law to an offender or trafficker who resides in another state is a costly and complex endeavour because the vast resources needed to make the officers able to properly enforce anti-trafficking laws (King, 2008). Also, human trafficking usually violates several laws but building a case against traffickers can take a great deal of time, resources, and energy (King,2008). At some points, language barrier is often making information-gathering problematic between enforcement officers and the victims since victims are usually not in their country of origin.

However, at international level, it is important to be agreed on the issue of what human trafficking constitutes, so that all states operate and cooperate on the same basis (Ikeora,2018). Anti-trafficking efforts do not only require state responsibilities within its territory, but also require shared efforts in addressing the problem across their borders. Supporting this view, Duong (2014) illustrated three dimensions of collaboration, namely multi-level partnership, public-private partnership, and international partnership. International cooperation is essential to establishing effective immigration policies in destination countries (Adepoju 2005; Lee 2005). There are several ways to classify partnerships at various levels, for example, project partnership, problem-oriented partnership, ideological partnership, and ethical partnership are four types of partnerships defined by Carnwell and Carson (2005). Project and problem-oriented partnership have immediate benefit to the country of origin and destination to tackle the problem of human trafficking. Usually, the project partnership on human trafficking may be on two phases, a research phase and a programming phase which will consist of a series of program activities to address the need and demand identified by the research. However, the problem-oriented partnership is a close working partnership of between or among the countries or agencies, with local community people focusing on the root causes of a problem of human trafficking to come up with an effective solution. Successful human trafficking partnership enhances the impact and effectiveness of action through combined and more efficient use of resources and builds a strong commitment between or among the countries. Therefore, a good partnerships must explicitly define “respective roles and cooperative mechanisms”, need “good communication between partners involved”, need to be “monitored routinely and evaluated regularly”, need the “understanding and sharing difficulties between partners” and must “place staff development and training at the core of activities”. Also, all activities “must be well-coordinated and be consistent with partnership goals” (Duong 2014:p,171). International and inter-agency cooperation is therefore required professional trafficking prevention, prosecution, and victim protection (Adepoju 2005; Aronowitz 2009; David et al. 2011; Lee 2005). Alvarez and Alessi, (2012) give first priority on victim treatment such as cognitive therapy, trauma counselling, and social support in the case of anxiety and disorders. They also emphasized on awareness campaigns of as a tool of anti-human trafficking. Aronowitz (2009), and Gallagher and Holmes (2008) recommends that governments should establish and implement a ‘National Action Plan on Human Trafficking’ or similar instruments and make convenient way for joint response by all stakeholders, including police, prosecutors, NGOs, civil society and media. In that case, the organizations which providing services to victim need to have a clear understanding of the factors that contribute to creating a successful programs (Ide and Mather).


This article emphasized a holistic strategy at the national and international level followed by human rights-based strategies and also explained why this is not yet seen globally. The problem of human trafficking has exponentially increased due to globalization, poverty, organized crime, government corruption, and the growth of the global commercial sex industry (Kathryn Cullen-DuPont 2009: 3-9.). The problem of human trafficking cannot be solved simply by changing the behaviour of victims (Surtees,2008), rather both global and regional responses are required to stem the growth of human trafficking problem (Shelley 2010). Also, it is necessary to raise awareness levels and provide official training for governmental staff, establishing clearer cooperation procedures, improving communication between countries or agencies (Aronowitz 2009; David 2006; Sun-Suon 2014). Bosco, Di Cortemiglia, and Serojitdinov (2009) suggest that appropriate national structures and inter-governmental cooperation should provide effective psychological, social, and legal supports to the victim of human trafficking. In addition, inter-government or agency cooperation is needed with particular attention to its effect on improving policy and legal frameworks, strengthening specialist trafficking response and information exchange, providing effective support services to victim and official training, and developing the capacity of law enforcement institutions in investigating and prosecuting human trafficking (David 2007; Kneebone and Debeljak 2012;Rankin and Kinsella 2011; Sidoti 2010; Surtees 2013).An integrated framework helps enhance the prevention and control strategies utilized to reduce human trafficking (Lutya & Lanier, 2012). When governmental institutions collaborate to establish good referrals within a country, victims can access comprehensive services during their integration process. Having basic needs met and gaining skills and resources for the future, victims also need social support to assist with emotional and relational trauma associated with trafficking. Although this is a more time-consuming approach, in the longer term it is arguably more effective for an anti-trafficking measure.


  1. Lutya, T. M., & Lanier, M. (2012). An integrated theoretical framework to describe human trafficking of young women and girls for involuntary prostitution. In Public health-Social and behavioral health: InTech.
  2. van den Anker, C. (2013). Cosmopolitanism and trafficking of human beings for forced labour. In Sex as Crime? (pp. 159-177): Willan.
  3. Weitzer, R. (2014). New Directions in Research on Human Trafficking. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 653(1), 6-24. doi:10.1177/0002716214521562
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