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Trafficking in persons – UNODC data

As the guardian to the UN Protocol on Trafficking in Persons, UNODC’s data collection is framed within the structure of this international instrument. The definition contained in article 3 of the Protocol has provided consistency and consensus around the world on the phenomenon of trafficking in persons, including prevention, protection and prosecution of the crime. More than 90 per cent of countries around the world now have trafficking in persons legislation that in whole or in part, is based on the definition of trafficking found in the Protocol, which makes data collected on trafficking in persons more consistent and comparable than for many other crimes.

Statistical information on trafficking in persons is collected by UNODC through a short, dedicated questionnaire distributed to Governments and by the collection of official information available in the public domain. For 2012-2014, information on more than 63,000 detected victims, and more than 81,000 suspected, prosecuted or convicted trafficking offenders is included in the UNODC database. The data collection covers the following areas:

  • Relevant legislation on trafficking in persons
  • registered cases of trafficking in persons by year
  • number of investigations, prosecutions and convictions
  • citizenships of persons convicted
  • value of assets confiscated
  • victims of trafficking, by age, sex, form of exploitation and citizenship

UNODC’s data collection on trafficking in persons is used as the basis for the Global Report on Trafficking in Persons. This biennial report provides an overview of patterns, flows and trends of trafficking in persons at global, regional and national levels and gives invaluable insight to practitioners and policy makers in order to more effectively prevent and combat trafficking in persons.

Monitoring trafficking in persons is particularly challenging because of its hidden nature and the complexity of identifying affected victims. Reflecting that complexity, the indicator proposed for monitoring trafficking in persons within the Sustainable Development Goals framework is composed of two distinct parts, referring respectively to the detected and undetected victims of this crime. From the available data, it emerges that the levels of detected victims (calculated per 100,000 population of the country where victims are detected) have been relatively stable over the last few years, although significant differences between regions emerge (see figure 17). In interpreting these data, it should be taken into account that higher levels in Europe can also be explained by the better identification and recording capacities in that region.

Analysis of data on the victims of trafficking in persons detected by national authorities around the world also shows that child trafficking has been increasingly detected. According to the Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2016, the share of children among total detected victims increased 20 per cent between 2004 and 2011, from 13 per cent recorded in 2004 to 33 per cent in 2011. The most recent figures referring to the year 2014 show a stabilization of the share of detected children among the total number of victims detected.

Similarly, trafficking in males (boys and adult men) has been increasingly registered on a global scale during the last 10 years. Underage boys accounted for about 8 per cent of the total victims detected in 2014, while the share had been 3 per cent in 2004. The share of adult men went from 13 per cent in 2004 to 21 per cent in 2014.

Trafficking for the purpose of forced labour has been increasingly detected over the years, making up 32 per cent of the total in 2007 and rising to 40 per cent in 2011. More recent data shows a stabilization of the number of such cases in 2014. In addition, the variety of detected forms of exploitation other than forced labour and sexual exploitation have increased over the years, both in prevalence — passing from 3 per cent in 2006 to 8 per cent in in 2014 — as well as in terms of the number of typologies of exploitation. More than 10 different types of exploitation have been reported, including pornography, benefit fraud, sham marriages and trafficking for the commission of crime.