At any given time, an estimated 2.4 million people are trapped in modern-day slavery. This is a global enterprise worth in the region of US$ 32 billion, human trafficking affects nearly ever country in the world and has no place in a modern, civilised society.

The forms of human trafficking are many and varied. Women, children and men across the globe find themselves being enslaved in forced labour and domestic servitude, sexually exploited, kidnapped and used to fuel the illegal organ trade. Criminal groups prey on the weakest and most vulnerable in society.

Human trafficking shares a number of linkages with other organised criminal activities, and is often a negative externality that facilitates other forms of organised crime, not only as an end in itself. Human trafficking has a close relationship with environmental crimes, specifically mineral resource crimes. Victims, especially child trafficking victims, are trafficked to mineral rich areas and forced to mine. Children are also trafficked into military and rebel groups, exploited as child soldiers. In this respect, the crimes of child soldier trafficking and small arms trafficking are closely interlinked and have both played major roles in regional conflicts over the years.

Human smuggling has grown in predominance in a period when global migration has never been higher, but the institutional barriers to free labour migration, and the capacity of the international humanitarian system to sustain significant refugee populations, ensure that the smuggling industry has an important role to play. Criminal actors have profited significantly in recent years, with human smuggling into the EU alone estimated to be worth in the region of €6 billion per year in 2015. There is a blurred line between smuggled migration and human trafficking, with the two often overlapping, and the growing number of zones of fragility and protracted refugee situations leave migrants vulnerable to abuses and trafficking.

While there are many excellent organisations active in the fight against human trafficking, the knowledge and responses to human smuggling are significantly less developed.  The Global Initiative endeavours to add value where it can in facilitating debate between diverse stakeholders, providing relevant contributions to the research basis, building linkages to other crimes, and attempting to mobilise political will towards a more effective global response.

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