IOM Launches Survey: Human Trafficking and Exploitation Prevalence on Eastern Mediterranean Migrant Routes

Switzerland - IOM has found that nearly 1 in 10 migrant and refugee respondents have answered positively to an indicator of the presence of human trafficking and other exploitative practices along the eastern Mediterranean migration route.

The results are the first from new operations in six countries along the route to estimate the prevalence of behavior indicating the presence of human trafficking and other exploitative practices, which pose a grave threat to migrants and refugees on their journey. While there have been many anecdotal reports and qualitative studies, this is the first attempt of its kind to try to quantify the problem.

The Human Trafficking and Other Exploitative Practices Prevalence Indication Survey has been conducted as part of IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) flow monitoring operations, starting in December 2015, with nearly 2,400 migrants and refugees in Croatia, Greece, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Hungary, Serbia, and Slovenia. Its 21 questions have been translated into Arabic, Dari, Pashtu, Urdu, French, and Farsi. Data collection is ongoing and IOM aims to regularly share quality information on trafficking in persons with all relevant counter-trafficking response actors.

7.2 percent of respondents answered ‘yes’ to at least one of the trafficking and other exploitative practices indicators based on their own direct experience – including having worked or performed activities during the journey without getting payment they expected; being forced to perform work or other activities against their will during their journey; being approached during their journey by someone offering employment; being approached by someone offering to arrange a marriage; being held at a location against their will during their journey by parties other than any relevant governmental authorities.

An additional 1.4 percent of respondents had said that while they had not directly experienced situations captured by one of the trafficking and exploitation indicators, a member of their family travelling with them had. 0.9 percent of respondents reported that they knew of instances where people on the journey had been approached by someone offering cash in exchange for giving blood, organs or a body part.

Further results of the study can be found here.

“These are very worrying figures, particularly with annual arrivals approaching one million people on this route,” said Mathieu Luciano, Head, Assistance to Vulnerable Migrants Unit, IOM Geneva.  “Since human trafficking and other forms of exploitative practices are clandestine by nature, these experiences are likely to be just the tip of the iceberg.”

Respondents who answered positively to one of the indicators were more than two years younger, on average, than those answering negatively. Those who were travelling alone were more likely to answer positively than those in a group. Moreover, rates were higher among men than women. Afghans, Syrians, and Pakistanis reported higher rates than other nationalities.

IOM calls for national and international law enforcement agencies and humanitarian actors to act upon this information and increase their efforts to detect crimes of human trafficking and other exploitative practices, identify victims, and prevent vulnerable populations from being preyed upon. Migrants and refugees must be better informed about – and able to avail themselves of – their basic human rights under national and international law.

As well as providing direct assistance to victims of trafficking, IOM aims to build the capacity of front-line actors to help ensure that victims of trafficking are increasingly identified and referred to appropriate services, through the development of tailored curricula and training.

IOM continues to advocate for the presence of counter-trafficking specialists at key transit points, reception centres and registration sites. IOM also aims to increase awareness among vulnerable populations of trafficking-in-persons’ risk factors, including through mobile applications.

Finally, IOM and Interpol have a longstanding working relationship and the two organizations are working together to ensure that issues of concern raised in the field are appropriately referred.

The survey has been conducted with the support of IOM’s Migrant Assistance Department. IOM's DTM migration flow monitoring operations in Europe have been funded by ECHO (European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department), SDC (Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation) and DFID (United Kingdom Department for International Development). Further data from IOM’s migration flow monitoring operations can be found here

For further information, please contact Harry Cook, IOM Geneva,  Tel: +41 227 179 502, Email: