Identification of Trafficking Victims


Victim protection – the identification, referral, assistance, and reintegration of trafficking victims – is a core component of a comprehensive response to trafficking in persons. Protection offers critical interventions to end trafficking exploitation as well as to support and assist victims to recover after their experiences, and to reintegrate into their families, communities, and wider society. While international obligations to protect victims of human trafficking are the same for all countries, the way these obligations are pursued and fulfilled differs widely. Most countries outline their protection frameworks in a series of laws and policy documents, supplemented by standard operating procedures (SOPs) and other mechanisms to give them effect. Locating the various components of protection frameworks, and understanding how they fit together, can be a daunting and time-consuming task. This publication provides an overview of the legal and policy framework in place for the protection of trafficking victims in five countries in Southeast Asia (Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Thailand, and Viet Nam). This resource is for anti-trafficking practitioners who are working to understand, implement, or improve instruments and procedures for identification, referral, and assistance of trafficking victims. It may serve as a road map of what protection opportunities are provided for in law, policy, and procedures, as well as materials that support their implementation.


Identifying Trafficking Victims: An Analysis of Victim Identification Tools and Resources in Asia (2020)

Victim identification is the process by which an individual is identified as a victim of trafficking in persons, which in turn, entitles them to rights and protections. Formal identification should lead to and facilitate the opportunity for a victim to be referred for consultation or further action, including voluntary access to assistance and reintegration services and/or access to justice. This review is a first step in understanding the victim identification tools and resources that currently exist and are publicly available to support the identification and referral of trafficking victims, with a focus on the countries of Asia. This review provides an initial exploration of what victim identification may look like in different situations and scenarios (including formal identification, informal identification, self-identification and non-identification) and describes the current state of publicly available victim identification tools and resources globally. The review then narrows its focus to examine victim identification tools and resources available in different regions of Asia, exploring the purpose of the different tools and resources; intended users; the target audience (what forms of trafficking and profiles of victims are being identified); at what stage of the trafficking cycle identification is taking place; and how the tools and resources were developed. The review concludes with a set of actionable recommendations for additional tools and resources to fill existing gaps and enhance victim identification efforts in Asia.


Identifying Trafficked Migrants and Refugees Along the Balkan Route. Exploring the Boundaries of Exploitation, Vulnerability and Risk (2019)

This article explores what we can learn about the identification of and assistance to trafficked persons from practitioners in Serbia on the front line of Europe’s “refugee crisis”. Questions arise as to whether and to what extent the anti-trafficking framework is effective in offering protection to trafficked migrants/refugees in a mass migration setting, but also what is lost if the specific perspective of the anti-trafficking framework is set aside or given lower priority. It is important to discuss who is included and who is excluded; whether protection and assistance meet people’s needs; and whether or how the existing framework can be used to greater effect. While it was challenging to operationalize the anti-trafficking framework, both conceptually and practically, during the “refugee crisis” in the Balkans, it remains an important approach that should have been mobilized to a greater extent, both to secure individual protections and rights and to gather information about human trafficking in conflict and crisis, which, in turn, increases the ability to respond effectively.


Identification of Trafficking Victims in Europe and the Former Soviet Union. In The SAGE Handbook of Human Trafficking and Modern Day Slavery (2019)

The identification of trafficking victims continues to be a challenge in anti-trafficking work. There are many ways that victims exit trafficking and encounter anti-trafficking practitioners. Victim identification may take place in different settings, under different conditions and at different stages of a victim’s trafficking and post-trafficking life. Nevertheless, many victims go unidentified and are consequently subject to continued exploitation, sometimes for extended periods of time. Based on the experiences of victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation, forced labor and begging or delinquency, this chapter discusses how victim identification does and does not take place in various settings and the reasons why victims may go unidentified. Barriers to victim identification include both personal barriers, linked to decisions of trafficking victims themselves, as well as structural barriers linked to the institutional anti-trafficking response of a specific country. The chapter is based on research with trafficking victims, service providers and criminal justice actors in several countries in Europe (Albania, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Italy, Norway, Romania, Serbia) and the former Soviet Union (Moldova and Ukraine).


Seeing the Unseen: Barriers and Opportunities in the Identification of Trafficking Victims in Indonesia (2018)

Available in Bahasa Indonesian

In many countries in the world, including in Indonesia, identification of trafficking victims remains one of the more challenging and vexing aspects of anti-trafficking efforts. Many trafficking victims are never officially identified or recognized as victims of human trafficking and, as such, essentially “fall through the cracks” of the anti-trafficking response. And yet the identification of trafficked persons is a critical, indeed necessary, step to combat human trafficking. Victims must first be identified before they can be offered assistance and protection. Identification is also essential for the criminal process to be triggered and to ensure trafficking victims’ access to justice. Understanding who is (and is not) identified as trafficked (and why this happens) is critical for improving the identification of Indonesian trafficking victims and, by extension, their access to protection and justice. As such, this paper considers patterns of both successful and unsuccessful identification of Indonesian trafficking victims who have been trafficked for various forms of labor, as well as the different issues that inform whether or not Indonesian trafficking victims are formally identified as trafficking victims. These include: the nature of trafficking, with victims isolated, controlled and “out of sight”; institutional challenges in the identification response; and the decisions and behaviors of trafficking victims themselves.


Identification and Referral of Trafficking Victims in Indonesia. Guidelines for Frontline Responders and Multi-Disciplinary Teams at the Village Level (2018)

Available in Bahasa Indonesian

Large numbers of Indonesian trafficking victims return home to their families and communities without ever being formally identified as victims of human trafficking or referred for assistance or access to justice. Urgent attention is needed to how best to identify and support Indonesian trafficking victims in their recovery and reintegration. This means, among other strategies, working in victims’ home villages to enhance the identification and referral of unidentified and unassisted trafficking victims. The Identification and Referral Guidelines are a practical tool to be used by multi-disciplinary frontline responders to enhance the voluntary and informed identification of previously unidentified victims who are living in their home communities and who do not have access to identification and assistance. The Guidelines provide practical step-by-step guidance to village-based frontline responders on how to conduct preliminary identification of presumed victims and support them to refer trafficking victims to relevant institutions and organizations to access the protections to which they are entitled. While piloted in Indonesia, these guidelines have broader relevance, offering practical models, resources and guidance to improve the identification of trafficking victims in their home communities and their referral for assistance, as well as access to justice.


Directory of Services for Indonesian Trafficking Victims and Victim/Witnesses: West Java and Jakarta. Second Edition (2018)

Available in Bahasa Indonesian

This Directory of Services, updated in 2018, is a vital tool for Indonesia trafficking victims to access the assistance needed to recover and reintegrate after trafficking. Many Indonesian trafficking victims return home without having been identified or assisted. They return to live in their home communities without knowing that they have rights and entitlements as victims of the crime of human trafficking. Too often they are also unaware of the services and support available to them from the Indonesian Government and civil society at the national, district and local levels. This user-friendly, accessible Directory provides practical information to trafficked persons in Indonesia about the services available to them, which can support their recovery and reintegration, and how to receive these services. The Directory covers government and NGO services in Jakarta and seven districts in West Java and provides information about what constitutes human trafficking, the different forms of human trafficking, examples of different trafficking experiences and answers to frequently asked questions on this complex and important issue. It also provides information about assistance and services available to those who wish to serve as victim/witnesses in legal proceedings against traffickers. The information is provided in simple, comprehensible language and a visually accessible format to ensure comprehension of information across age, language capacity and level of education.


Moving On. Family and Community Reintegration Among Indonesian Trafficking Victims (2017)

Available as a compressed pdf for mobile or slower Internet connection

Available in Bahasa Indonesian

Summary Report (available in Bahasa Indonesian)

For many trafficking victims, exit or escape from trafficking is only the beginning of another set of challenges that they face as they seek to recover and reintegrate after a trafficking experience. Not only do they need to come to terms with their exploitation, but they must also navigate the often-complex relationships with family and community after trafficking. Indeed, reintegration takes place within a wide social field – involving different family members and varying community environments. Men and women also experience reintegration differently, as do victims of different forms of exploitation, including those trafficked for sexual exploitation, domestic work, fishing, construction, factory work and plantation work. It is, therefore, important to disentangle the actions and reactions of different family and community members, each of whom may play a different role in either supporting or undermining a victim’s reintegration. This paper explores the challenges faced by trafficked persons as they seek to reintegrate into their families and communities. The paper equally considers settings in which reintegration success is supported and galvanized by family and community members, to identify what can be done to enhance the reintegration outcomes of all Indonesian trafficking victims.


Our Lives. Vulnerability and Resilience Among Indonesian Trafficking Victims (2017)

Available as a compressed pdf for mobile or slower Internet connection

Available in Bahasa Indonesian

Summary Report (available in Bahasa Indonesian)

When trafficked persons escape their exploitation, it is often only the beginning of a complex and taxing process of recovery and reintegration. Trafficked persons must recover from the very serious and debilitating effects of trafficking exploitation. They often have a range of short- and long-term assistance needs, which are directly related to and often caused by their trafficking experiences, including issues related to housing and accommodation, physical and mental health, their economic situations, education and training, safety and security, legal status, legal issues and needs within the family. In addition, human trafficking is often a function of broader, structural inequality and individual vulnerability. This means that trafficked persons must also navigate and tackle underlying and pre-existing vulnerabilities that contributed to being trafficked and which also have the potential to undermine reintegration. This paper discusses what Indonesian trafficked persons have identified as their issues, vulnerabilities and resiliencies at different stages of their lives – before trafficking, as a consequence of trafficking exploitation and over the course of their recovery and reintegration. The paper also explores how vulnerability and resilience are influenced by external factors like the family and community setting into which trafficked persons seek to reintegrate and how vulnerability and resilience may fluctuate and change over time.


Vulnerability and exploitation along the Balkan route: Identifying victims of human trafficking in Serbia (2017)

In recent years, the flow of migrants and refugees through the Balkans has significantly increased. To date, there has been limited empirical evidence of when, why and how vulnerability to human trafficking arises in mass movements of migrants and refugees. New patterns of vulnerability and exploitation challenge established procedures for identification of and assistance to trafficking victims. This paper presents different experiences of trafficked migrants and refugees who have moved to and through Serbia over the past two years, and explores challenges and barriers to their formal identification and assistance as victims of human trafficking. The paper concludes with specific recommendations on how government and civil society stakeholders may begin to work more effectively on this issue to and to better identify and assist trafficked migrants/refugees.


Going home. Challenges in the reintegration of trafficking victims in Indonesia (2016)

Available as a compressed pdf for mobile or slower Internet connection

Available in Bahasa Indonesian

Summary Report

Executive Summary (available in Bahasa Indonesian)


Overall, there exists a range of laws, policies and programs currently in place in Indonesia aimed at supporting the reintegration of trafficked persons. These include efforts and initiatives by various government ministries and departments (at the national, provincial and district levels), NGOs and IOs. These initiatives and interventions afford often-critical support and services to many trafficked persons toward their recovery and reintegration after trafficking exploitation. Nonetheless, within Indonesia, many trafficking victims do not receive the assistance and support that they need to recover from their trafficking experiences and reintegrate into their families and communities. And those that do receive assistance do not always receive assistance that is suited to their needs or adequately supports their efforts to reintegrate. This is because there are some critical challenges in the current response in Indonesia, including that many trafficked persons are unidentified; reintegration is not clearly defined or understood; most assistance is “one-off” support; assistance programs are only short-term; victims face barriers in accessing available services; lack of information about reintegration assistance; lack of reintegration assistance to trafficked men; lack of case management and tailored reintegration support; and an uneven provision of assistance due to decentralization and the geographic distribution of services. This paper is intended as a starting point in better understanding how reintegration of trafficked persons currently takes place in Indonesia, including what is working well and what constitute constraints and obstacles for trafficked persons to the reintegration process.


Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 11.35.56 AMDirectory of Services for Indonesian Trafficking Victims and Exploited Migrant Workers (2016)

Available in Bahasa Indonesian

This Directory provides concrete information to trafficked persons and exploited migrant workers about the services available to them, which can support their recovery and reintegration. It is intended as a tool to improve trafficking victims’ access to information about services and how to receive these services. The Directory covers government and NGO services in Jakarta and seven districts in West Java. The information is provided in simple, comprehensible language and a visually accessible format to ensure comprehension of information across age, language capacity and level of education.


Screen Shot 2015-02-15 at 2.11.13 PMIn African waters. The trafficking of Cambodian fishers in South Africa (2014)


Executive Summary (available in Khmer)

This study discusses the trafficking of men in the fishing industry. It focuses on Cambodian men severely exploited in South African waters. Through extensive interviews, NEXUS reveals the stories of how the men were recruited and transported as well as their trafficking experiences at sea. The study also discusses how these trafficked fishers were (or, more commonly, were not) identified as trafficking victims and what assistance they did (or did not) receive when they escaped and returned home to Cambodia and sought to reintegrate into their families and communities.


Human Trafficking in AsiaAnother side of the story. Challenges in research with unidentified and unassisted trafficking victims. In Human Trafficking in Asia (2014)

Research about human trafficking is most often based nearly exclusively on data from victims of trafficking who have been identified and assisted by anti-trafficking organizations . While this approach to research has many strengths and benefits, it also presents an incomplete picture of human trafficking. And, as a result, our understanding of trafficking is necessarily constrained and this has implications for the identification and implementation of solutions to address it. In Another side of the story. Challenges in research with unidentified and unassisted victims, we discuss some of the issues associated with the heavy reliance on assisted victims in trafficking research, as well as possible avenues for sampling unidentified and/or unassisted trafficking victims. We explore how to expand understanding by including trafficked persons who are not identified and/or assisted. In doing so, we address the methodological and ethical issues this involves. Expanding research as recommended here will better serve to respond to the needs of both visible and less visible trafficking victims.


Screen Shot 2015-02-15 at 4.27.59 PMTrapped at Sea. Using the Legal and Regulatory Framework to Prevent and Combat the Trafficking of Seafarers and Fishers (2013)

In this article, NEXUS frames what constitutes trafficking at sea, both in the commercial fishing sector and in the merchant fleet and presents the legal and regulatory framework to combat trafficking at sea – namely, international anti-trafficking law, international maritime law and the international law of the sea. The article considers the “three P paradigm” of anti-trafficking (that is, prevention, protection and prosecution) and how improved policies, regulation, legislation and enforcement have the potential to contribute to an improved situation for seafarers and fishers—to both prevent and combat trafficking in commercial fishing and the merchant fleet.


After TraffickingAfter trafficking. Experiences and challenges in the (re)integration of trafficked persons in the Greater Mekong Sub-Region (2013)

Summary Report (available in Burmese, Chinese, Khmer,Laotian, Vietnamese and Thai)

Reintegration is a process that involves many steps after the individual’s exit from trafficking. Trafficked persons should be afforded the full range of rights and protections they are entitled to and which are guaranteed under law. While many trafficked persons interviewed for this study were assisted and supported in these ways; many others went unidentified and unassisted as trafficking victims, which meant not receiving support to aid in their recovery and sustainable reintegration. Still others received some forms of assistance but not the full range of services that they required (and were entitled to) to move on from trafficking experience and successfully reintegrate. Some trafficked persons choose to decline some or all of the support offered to them. This research aims to understand the individual and diverse reintegration experiences of trafficked persons – what was positive, what was less successful and what might be done in the future to either replicate good practices or avoid problematic ones.


Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 6.19.47 PMLeaving the Past Behind. When Trafficking Victims Decline Assistance. Summary Report for Practitioners and Policymakers (2012)

Available in AlbanianRomanianRussian and Serbian

This abridged report summarizes the main findings and conclusions of the 2007 report Leaving the Past Behind? When Victims of Trafficking Decline Assistance. It explores why some trafficking victims decline assistance and under which circumstances. While many victims are never offered assistance, some trafficked persons who are offered assistance choose to forego the help available to them. Based on this, the main questions for our research were the following: (1) What are the reasons behind these decisions to decline assistance? (2) What happens for victims as a result of declining assistance? (3) Are there reasons for declining that can be addressed so that more victims will also benefit from assistance? The aim of the report is to describe the challenges both service providers and trafficked victims face in their post-trafficking lives, including the interplay between them. It is intended to contribute to a discussion of how assistance for trafficking victims is organized and provide some ideas for what could be done to better meet the needs of the diverse population who fall within the category of trafficking victim.


UntitledTrafficked at sea. The exploitation of Ukrainian seafarers and fishers (2012)


Trafficking for forced labor, including trafficking for labor in the merchant shipping and fishing industries, has been increasingly recognized as a major form of human trafficking. Reported cases signal that there are aspects of the commercial fishing and seafaring sectors which may lend themselves particularly to trafficking abuses. This paper explores and discusses the experiences of trafficked Ukrainian seafarers and fishers in order that anti-trafficking policies and programs can take into account their experiences and needs. While the stories of these trafficked Ukrainian seafarers and fishers highlight some unique experiences, many of the issues raised in this report have wider application to incidences of trafficking at sea around the world.


Out of sightOut of sight? Factors and challenges in identifying trafficked persons (2012)

Identification of trafficking victims continues to be one of the greatest challenges in anti-trafficking work. There are many different ways that victims exit trafficking, are identified and come into contact with the anti-trafficking framework and their various assistance options. Nevertheless, many victims go unidentified and are consequently subject to continued exploitation or unable to access the rights afforded them under international conventions. The main goal in this study is to disentangle how the identification of trafficked persons takes place in South Eastern Europe as well as situations in which it does not occur and the reasons for this. The study discusses missed opportunities for identification of trafficking victims, including the very real and personal implications for these trafficked individuals, based on interviews with 43 victims of trafficking and 99 key informants in the anti-trafficking sector. This paper is based on fieldwork research conducted in Albania, Serbia and Moldova between 2006 and 2008 and is one of three research papers, which address a range of issues and challenges in the assistance framework in the Balkan and FSU region.


Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 8.29.42 PMBest Practices in Trafficking Prevention in Europe and Eurasia (2009)

This report examine best practices in activities designed to prevent trafficking in persons (TIP). The purpose of this report is to help improve anti-trafficking in persons programs in terms of effectiveness and impact, thereby reducing the incidence of TIP. This report was commissioned by USAID’s Europe & Eurasia (E&E) Bureau and covers the following countries: Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, the Republic of Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.


Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 9.33.18 PMTrafficking in Men, a Trend Less Considered: The Case of Belarus and Ukraine (2008)

Men are often overlooked in discussions of human trafficking and those who are targeted by trafficking enterprises. Reflecting this bias, trafficking in males has been under-considered in research. This despite noteworthy signals that many males, adult and minors, are subjected to trafficking exploitation. Often these severely exploited male victims, especially in the context of migration, are overlooked, with women and girls identified more commonly as victims of trafficking. This deficiency in identifying and assisting males who have been victims of trafficking exploitation needs to be addressed. “Trafficking in persons” must be understood and addressed as affecting all victims: women and men, adults and minors. In Belarus and Ukraine, male victims accounted for 28.3 per cent and 17.6 per cent of the IOM-assisted caseload respectively between 2004 and 2006. Through the lens of trafficking in males (primarily adult men) from Belarus and Ukraine, this study considers male victims’ pre-trafficking life (namely their personal, family and socio-economic background), trafficking experience (from recruitment, through transportation and during exploitation) and post trafficking experience and needs. The report examines, on the one hand, what is known about this less-considered profile of trafficked persons and, on the other hand, what can be done to meet their needs, both as a means of assistance and protection. The study draws on primary data collected about 685 trafficked males assisted by IOM and its partners, through IOM’s Counter-Trafficking Module Database in Geneva as well as qualitative information from interviews with and case files of assisted men. The research findings should not be read as representative of the full scope of trafficking in either country; they are instead representative of trafficked males who have been identified and received assistance and not male trafficking victims generally.


Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 9.34.11 PMTrafficked Men as Unwilling Victims (2008)

Many victims of human trafficking are reluctant to self-identify. This research discusses how this can be especially true for men who have been victims of trafficking. And the failure to self-identify exacerbates the shortcomings in current institutionalized responses that are more likely to discover and identify trafficking cases involving females than males. Trafficking in human beings is most commonly associated with trafficking of women or children, especially, for sexual exploitation. Most studies and projects, following this bias, also focus primarily, if not exclusively, on trafficking in women and children. Far less common is a consideration of trafficking in males, particularly adult men. Studies on trafficking of men and targeted anti-trafficking interventions are few and far between. Nevertheless, there are signals in many countries and regions that male migrants are also exploited and violated in ways that constitute human trafficking. This reality raises serious questions about the reason for a focus on women (and children) as well as the implications for practitioners, policymakers and, most importantly, trafficked men.


Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 10.01.30 PMListening to victims: Experiences of Identification, Return and Assistance in SEE (2007)

The voices of victims of trafficking and their stories are powerful. While a number of studies and documents have examined the identification, return and assistance process for trafficked persons, the focus has been primarily on the legal and administrative frameworks in which identification, return and assistance take place. The structure of these standard reports include principles and guidelines in the identification and assistance process, the legislative framework and studies of the assistance framework, including good practices. Far less common have been studies of how victims themselves have perceived and experienced their post-trafficking life and how they value and evaluate this intervention and assistance. This report maps — from the victim’s perspective — the full trajectory of intervention by anti-trafficking actors — from identification, through return and referral and during various phases of assistance and protection. While anti-trafficking interventions are clearly vital in the recovery of trafficked persons, victims reported both positive and negative experiences in these various stages of anti-trafficking interventions. This information from the individuals who are the intended beneficiaries of these interventions is vital for on-going efforts in transnational referral and assistance systems for trafficked persons. The study is based on interviews with 80 trafficked women and men, children and adults from Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Moldova, Romania and Serbia.


Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 10.00.11 PMLeaving the Past Behind? When Victims of Trafficking Decline Assistance (2007)

A number victims of trafficking are offered assistance and they decline. With no systematized knowledge on the subject, it has been difficult to understand the reasons behind these decisions to decline assistance, what happened to these women after and as a result of declining assistance, and what paths their lives took after dropping out of contact with the assistance system. Understanding the reasons, experiences and perceptions of person who do not participate in assistance program can play an important role in developing and tailoring anti-trafficking services to meet the needs and desires of as many trafficking victims as possible. This original research determined that reasons for declining assistance center around three main categories: 1) an individual’s personal circumstances at the time of decision-making, 2) factors associated with the specifics of the assistance system itself and 3) the social context.



Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 10.39.26 PMChild Trafficking: Different Forms of Trafficking & Alternative Interventions (2006)

Trafficking involving children is not the same as trafficking involving adults. While many aspects are similar, children very often have heightened vulnerabilities to being trafficked and special needs during their reintegration and recovery. And the differentiated needs of children of different ages also must be considered throughout. This article considers all manifestations of trafficking in minors from and within South Eastern Europe, with particular attention to trafficking for labor, begging, delinquency, and adoption. Through a discussion of these forms of trafficking and an exploration of profiles of affected victims, this article identifies trafficking risks and draws a carefully derived picture of factors contributing to trafficking, individual and social sites of vulnerability, and victims’ recruitment and trafficking experiences. In so doing, the article challenges the hegemonic representations of trafficking in the region, which have primarily focused on trafficking of young adult women for sexual exploitation. In addition, this article considers the existing assistance framework in the South East Europe region and how this does (or does not) meet the needs of minors trafficked for these less-considered forms of exploitation. Answers to such queries provide potential windows of policy and programmatic opportunity. The overall objective of this article is to move toward a more accurate understanding of the issue and, perhaps most importantly, more effective policy and programs.