IOM Launches Research on Human Trafficking and Exploitation of Mobile Populations in Crises

Switzerland --New research just launched by IOM confirms that trafficking in persons and other forms of exploitation occur in times of crisis yet remain largely overlooked in the context of humanitarian response.

Undertaken in a time of unprecedented, diverse and simultaneously ongoing crises, with more and more people on the move or displaced, the research confirms that crisis situations can exacerbate existing vulnerabilities to and manifestations of trafficking in persons. In certain contexts, crisis-induced forms of trafficking emerge.  

Based on fieldwork to assess ongoing crises in Iraq and Libya as well as case studies of man-made and environmental crises in Indonesia, the Philippines, the Mediterranean and more, the research draws on over 120 expert interviews and provides a 20-year reflective analysis of various crises dating back to the 1990s. The global assessment further reaffirms that regardless of the type of crisis – armed conflict, natural disasters, complex crises – vulnerabilities to human trafficking can be found.

Careful not to overstate the problem and consequences of human trafficking in crisis situations, the report provides contemporary, evidence-based findings to reveal that trafficking in persons is not a side effect of crises but is often directly interrelated.

The research offers a number of recommendations to ensure that counter-trafficking and protection of vulnerable migrants no longer remain at the margins of humanitarian response efforts.

“IOM’s response to crises aims to be integrated and holistic; prevention and response to trafficking in persons, especially when vulnerable mobile groups are concerned, should be gradually integrated into the global humanitarian response,” said Mohammed Abdiker, Head of the Department of Operations and Emergencies.

The research concludes that the response to human trafficking and related abuses against vulnerable populations should be considered as a life-saving protection activity. And with this, fully operationalized and integrated before, during and after a crisis.

“This research represents a very important step for our organization. IOM has been working on countering trafficking in human beings since 1994 and has thus acquired strong capacity to respond to the needs of vulnerable migrants, especially victims of trafficking. This research’s findings will now help us and other partners extend our support to mobile populations caught in crisis, be they natural disasters, armed conflict or other. We are currently testing a strategy to ensure that this becomes a reality and that we start responding from the very beginning,” said Bernd Hemingway, Head of the Department of Migration Management.

The findings were also discussed during an interactive webinar "Trafficking in persons in times of crisis" hosted by PHAP and in collaboration with IOM and Caritas Internationalis in support of the World Humanitarian Summit. The full discussion can be found at:

To read the full briefing document, please click here 

For further information please contact Michela Macchiavello, IOM Geneva, Tel: +41 22 717 94 25, Email: