Profit and Loss

One of the most heinous forms of illicit trade is the trafficking of human beings for profit, involving forced labor and sexual exploitation – sadly, it is also one of the most profitable ones. As such, it illustrates the problem of transnational flows on an immediate individual level, with additional overarching implications for countries and regions. Broader security implications arise from the financial proceedings of trafficking networks and (armed) groups, and their knock-on destabilizing effects in conflict situations.

"Human traffickers profit from peoples' hopes and despair. They prey on the vulnerable and rob them of their fundamental rights."

António GuterresSecretary-General, United Nations

Both human smuggling and trafficking – the latter of which this report focuses on – thrive in fragile contexts and in turn perpetuate instability as a source of income and power for criminal organizations and armed groups. While data availability is limited, due to the high number of unknown cases, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) alone has assisted almost 100,000 victims of human trafficking over the past two decades. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has tried to find reliable information on the about 225,000 oftentimes "nameless" victims of trafficking since 2003. In an age of increasing displacement caused by conflict and climate change, with displaced persons more vulnerable to trafficking, the issue is unlikely to become less relevant any time soon.

For more data and analysis from our chapter on human trafficking, download the full Transnational Security Report below:

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