A Closing Note: Migrants at Risk

Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons

At the close of 2014, 59.5 million people were forcibly displaced worldwide “as a result of persecution, conflict, violence, or human rights violations,” according to a June 2015 UNHCR report. This number, which includes refugees, asylum seekers, and internally displaced persons, represents the highest annual increase on record—8.3 million people more than in 2013. Indeed, there are now more displaced persons globally than ever before. In 2014, displaced Syrians and Eritreans comprised the two largest groups of migrants seeking passage across the Mediterranean Sea—what IOM reports has become the most dangerous border crossing in the world. Media reports have also extensively covered the abuses Rohingya, other Burmese, and Bangladeshi migrants endure in camps in Thailand and Malaysia as well as on vessels in the surrounding bodies of water.

While movement is not a required element of human trafficking, migrants and internally displaced persons fleeing situations of conflict, abuse, and crisis are particularly vulnerable to human trafficking—whether at home, in transit, or upon reaching their destination.

As people seek safe harbor, stability, and economic opportunity, they may lack legal status, be socially marginalized, and be unaware of local languages or laws. Thus, these individuals are more vulnerable to exploitation by smugglers, unscrupulous recruiters, and corrupt border officials on whom they must rely. Such intermediaries may take advantage of stark conditions by exploiting migrants and corrupting the migration and recruitment process or even directly subject these vulnerable populations to forced labor or sex trafficking.

Key to detecting, preventing, and punishing such exploitation are collaborative efforts on the part of governments. Improving conditions in countries of origin and addressing push factors leading to migration will serve to stem the tide of those risking their lives in pursuit of safe harbor, stability, and opportunity. If they become trafficking victims, these individuals require appropriate assistance and access to justice. It is paramount governments work together and with international organizations to screen new arrivals for indicators of human trafficking, provide protection and appropriate services, and dismantle migrant smuggling networks and trafficking rings that entice and abuse vulnerable populations. All people on the move—whether refugees and asylees seeking safety, or economic migrants seeking improved livelihoods—have a right to freedom from exploitation and abuse of all kinds, including human trafficking.

We will further increase our efforts to monitor global conflicts and crises to assess the vulnerabilities of displaced persons. We will continue to encourage international efforts to prevent human trafficking among affected populations, screen for trafficking victims, and provide access to appropriate care and assistance. We will also continue to support the expansion of governmental capacity to address trafficking in persons crimes and hold perpetrators criminally responsible.


Feleke Assefa
Andrea Balint
Shonnie R. Ball
Kyle M. Ballard
David Berger
Emylee Kennaw-Bogart
Carla M. Bury
Patricia A. Butenis
Patrice W. Davis
Sonia Helmy-Dentzel
Jennifer Donnelly
Dana Dyson
Mary C. Ellison
Theresa Eugene
Mark Forstrom
Carl B. Fox
Kiira Fox
Alison Kiehl Friedman
Sara E. Gilmer
Adam C. Guarneri
Amy Rustan Haslett
Rebecca Henenlotter
Gregory A. Hermsmeyer
Julie Hicks
Torrie Higgins
Tracie Hill
Megan Hjelle-Lantsman
Jennifer Koun Hong
Renee Huffman
Stephanie R. Hurter
Veronica Jablonski
Hilary R. Johnson
Maurice W. Johnson
Kari A. Johnstone
Erin M. King
Kendra Leigh Kreider
Genevieve Libonati
Chelsea Lord
Christina Manriquez
Kerry McBride
Maura K. McManus
Ericka Moten
Ryan Mulvenna
Victoria Orero
Steven Lynn Ovard
April Parker
Anna Patrick
Rachel Yousey Raba
Amy O’Neill Richard
Nicolle Richards
Amy Rofman
Laura Svat Rundlet
Chad C. Salitan
Sarah A. Scott
Joseph Scovitch
Mai Shiozaki-Lynch
Justin Showalter
Jane Nady Sigmon
Soumya Silver
Ann Karl Slusarz
Cindy J. Smith
Desirée M. Suo
Cheri Washington
Rebecca Webb
Kristin Wells
Aubrey Whitehead
Heather Wild
Andrea E. Wilson
Haley Sands Wright
Janet Zinn
Elizabeth Norris Zoeller

Special thanks to Lamya Shawki El-Shacke and the graphic services team at Global Publishing Solutions.