Definition and criteria for human trafficking

The UN-Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons (A/RES/55/25) (also known as the “Palermo Protocol”) defines human trafficking on the basis of three fundamental and interrelated criteria. This definition was also the basis for the EU Directive on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings and protecting its victims (2011/36/EU).

1. Act – What is the act?

Recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons

2. Means – How did it occur?

Through the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability, or the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person

3. Purpose – To what end was the victim trafficked?

Exploitation of the victim which includes, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs

Human trafficking, therefore, describes a process constituting certain acts over a period of time and not only a single act at certain time. The initial consent of a victim is hereby irrelevant, if one of the afore mentioned means has been used.

There is a distinction between human trafficking and human smuggling, and the two terms should not be conflated.