Human trafficking and exploitation: guidance for health workers

Advice how to recognise and help victims of human trafficking and exploitation.

Supporting Disclosure

In all interactions with trafficked persons, it is crucial to recognise and respect the potential cultural and language barriers.

There may be very different perceptions of health and healthcare depending on the background of the trafficked person. They may be experiencing deep levels of shame about their experience, or be afraid about how they will be treated.

Although you cannot be an expert on all cultures, adopting a respectful approach, checking out the meaning of their health problems and their experiences with them, and providing information in a way they can understand will contribute to making the health encounter positive and affirming. You can:

  • Provide a private and confidential environment where they can speak without fear of being overheard
  • Prioritise their safety and listen to their assessment of their situation and risk
  • See them alone, even if they are accompanied. The only exception should be a professional interpreter, even when someone accompanying them offers to interpret. Do not enquire about trafficking-related circumstances in front of others, including your patient's companion. To gain privacy with the patient, you could, for example, suggest that a private examination is required
  • Treat them with respect and dignity. Understand the grave risks they may face in talking about trafficking
  • Where possible, offer the option of a female or male worker or interpreter, particularly in cases of suspected sexual violence



Back to top