The Difference Between Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants

GENEVA, Sep 3 2017 - Trafficking in persons (TiP) and smuggling of migrants (SoM) directly affect ACP (African, Caribbean and the Pacific Group of States) countries and their European Union counterparts.

Both constitute lucrative and difficult to trace multi-billion dollar businesses whose scale is difficult to quantify and compare reliably. Both involve human beings and criminal networks and are very hard to trace by the authorities.

While numbers of estimated victims of trafficking worldwide vary, they are reported as being in the millions and most importantly, they are constantly on the rise. Additionally, both crimes pose challenges to the protection to migrants.

According to United Nations protocols, both trafficking and smuggling are considered crimes. Though they share some similarities, the two topics refer to different criminal acts — TiP being a crime against an individual while SoM is a crime against the State.

The table below clearly summarises key elements of each act. It must be understood, that in spite of this difference, States tend to have the same cadre of officials dealing with both issues and the crimes are usually interlinked. This is one of many complicating factors that arise when states attempt to tackle TiP and SoM.

Table by Tim Howe, IOM Regional Thematic Specialist for East & Horn of Africa.

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