Human trafficking and exploitation: guidance for health workers

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

Who is at risk?

People are trafficked across the world. Importantly, they are not always illegal migrants. Legal migrants, particularly from the newer EU member states, are also vulnerable to various forms of exploitation, since they can work legally without a visa and don't require fake documents. Victims from the UK have also been identified.

Many trafficked persons have sought to escape poverty, unemployment, war, or natural disasters within their own countries. Although many have poor educational attainment, a significant proportion have higher levels of education and have been seeking to improve their lives through migration.

The 2018 UNODC Global Report on Trafficking in Persons noted that 49% of detected trafficking victims were women, 21% were men and 30% children[9]. These figures, however, mask significant regional differences. Additionally they are affected by the greater detection capacity of Europe and the Americas where higher numbers have been identified.

The victim profiles also change according to the form of trafficking considered: 82% of male victims are trafficked for forced labour in areas such as construction, manufacturing and agriculture/fishing, while 83% of women are trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation.

In most countries in Europe, women account for the majority of identified victims with the exception of Belgium and the UK, including Scotland, where more men were identified[9].

Patterns of exploitation in Scotland by gender mirror those internationally; 71% of females were trafficked for sexual exploitation and 12% for labour, while 88% of males were trafficked for labour exploitation and 6% for sexual exploitation.

‘Abuse, deprivation and stress-filled or terrifying circumstances are all hallmarks of human trafficking’ [10]



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