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Transnational Organized Crime and Security 101: Human Trafficking and Smuggling in Africa and Europe


Transnational Organized Crime (TOC) continues to be an issue near the top of the international agenda. While crime has always been an issue, criminal organizations have developed increasingly sophisticated methods. Such international crime can be a threat to the peace and stability of even the most developed countries. The newest technologies have many such crimes even less restricted by borders. The Transnational Organized Crime and Security 101 series aims to analyze the different forms of organized crime and the mode of operation of different organized groups. This series will further explore the similarities and differences between Transnational Organized Criminal groups.

The Transnational Organized Crime and Security 101 series is divided into the following six chapters:

4. Transnational Organized Crime and Security 101: Organized Crime at Sea

5. Transnational Organized Crime and Security 101: Human Trafficking and Smuggling in Africa and Europe

6. Transnational Organized Crime and Security 101: Organized Crime in Eastern Europe and Balkans

Transnational Organized Crime and Security 101: Human Trafficking and Smuggling in Africa and Europe

The recruiting, transportation and delivery of migrants from a sending zone to a destination are all part of the increasingly expanding transnational criminal operations known as human smuggling and trafficking. Smuggled migrants enjoy an amicable connection with their traffickers and are free at the end of their voyage, whereas trafficked individuals are enslaved and exploited by their traffickers (Shelley, 2014). A rising number of women and children are being trafficked out of the country where they were born for the purpose of forced labor and sexual exploitation (Stoecker, 2006). One million women and children are reportedly sold into slavery worldwide every year, according to some estimates, after being abducted from their homes.

Some of the factors that promote the growth of human trafficking and human smuggling include globalization of the economy, a persistent rise in female unemployment, and demand for personal services in developed countries (Stoecker, 2006). The Western European prostitution market has grown globally during the past fifteen years (Carling, 2005). Human trafficking victims may experience mistreatment from law enforcement or be deported without the necessary help because they were mistaken for illegal immigrants since it can be difficult to distinguish between trafficking and smuggling. As a result, more people become victims and traffickers escape punishment (Batsyukova, 2013). Search and rescue efforts for victims that are poorly planned and informed may result in the deportation of victims as smuggled migrants. If these procedures are followed, resources such as staff and time will be squandered, human trafficking cases will be less likely to result in convictions, and there will be an increase in the number of unidentified victims (Batsyukova, 2013).

Figure 1: Some Children are Forced to Beg, and Others are Sold to Criminal Gangs

Human Smuggling and Trafficking in Africa

In Africa, human trafficking is a major issue. Victims who are trafficked into other parts of the world, such as Western Europe and the Middle East, often originate from this region (Obokata, 2019). Women and children make up a substantial portion of the victims in Sub-Saharan Africa, and they are afterward used for labor in a range of industries, including agriculture and domestic work, prostitution, and even the military as child soldiers (Obokata, 2019).

According to estimates, there are currently 3.7 million slaves and forced laborers in Africa, earning $13.1 billion in annual revenues from these practices. The victims are aware of numerous traffickers, including their close relatives, friends, and family members (Obokata, 2019). Contrary to popular belief, there are 50% of female traffickers in Africa, shattering the stereotype that they predominantly target men. The operation of trafficking is increasingly sophisticated and deadly as a result of the presence of sophisticated organized criminal groups (Obokata, 2019).

Figure 2: Authorities in Sudan Rescued 253 Victims of Human Trafficking, Arresting 32 Suspects

In Africa, intra-continental migration makes up the great bulk of movement, and the south-south region in Africa is a large and expanding course, with South Africa as its most popular destination country (Bird, 2020). According to reports, South Africa has urged transit nations along the south-south corridor to improve measures to thwart unauthorized immigration in multilateral talks. However, it doesn't appear that the nation has officially endeavored to have a considerable impact on the formulation of human smuggling policies in the transit and origin nations along the south-south route (Bird, 2020).

Human Smuggling and Trafficking in Europe

The nature of many domestic smuggling offenses – particularly in the extensive criminalization of emigration – plainly reflects the EU's aim on halting continental migration to Europe (Bird, 2020). Europe's many areas receive victims from various origin nations. Europol identified five significant centers of organized crime in its 2012 report (Bird, 2020). Each has ties to specific source nations and focuses on particular forms of labor placement (Salt, 2000). The Netherlands and Belgium are one of the five hubs, while the Baltic states and Kaliningrad are located in the northeast; Bulgaria, Romania, and Greece are located in the southeast; southern Italy is located in the south; and Spain and Portugal are located in the southwest. The only external force driving the criminalization of smuggling across Africa has been Europe. Some of the poorest countries in Europe are among those the EU is focusing on halting (Salt, 2000).

Figure 3: Boat Filled with Migrants Sinking

According to market demand, the southwest hub – Spain and Portugal – collects victims from the Iberian Peninsula and distributes them around Europe (Salt, 2000). While Roma youngsters are made to beg and steal, Chinese victims frequently work in textile sweatshops, Eastern Europeans in agriculture, and South Americans in the sex business. People who travel from North and West Africa, Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and China use southern Italy as a transit and final destination. They work in the construction business, elder and child care, entertainment, and the textile industry (Shelley, 2014)

Meanwhile, Europol failed to include several sources that were formerly colonial possessions of Europe. These include Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Colombia in Latin America, Morocco, and Algeria in North Africa. More and more people from these former colonies are being identified as victims of trafficking, especially in Mediterranean countries (Shelley,2014). There are numerous ways to enter Europe from various parts of the world, including North Africa, Latin America, Eastern Europe, and Asia. As traffickers and smugglers adjust to enforcement and efficient border patrols, these routes alter over time (IOM, 2005). Routes through these countries were less frequently used after the Czech Republic and Poland joined the European Union in 2004 because border controls were tightened as a result of training and support provided by the EU (IOM, 2005). Contrarily, the 2007 EU membership of Romania and Bulgaria has not been as effective in disrupting Balkan smuggling networks (IOM, 2005). These nations continue to have significant levels of corruption in the legal system and at the borders. Many of the routes taken by travelers are also taken by traders of products (IOM, 2005).

Figure 4: Woman and Her Kids Rescued From Trafficking

The rising transnational criminal enterprises known as human smuggling and trafficking include the recruitment, transit, and delivery of migrants from a sending zone to a destination. The predominance of human trafficking and smuggling in Western Europe and Africa presents a central problem because it promotes the illegal migration of people from one country to another. Trickery and deception is used to spread sentiment that their lives will be better in regions such as Western Europe. This false perception underlines its rampant and pervasive nature even in the modern world. More investigations must be made by the governments of both regions to prevent the cruel trafficking and the smuggling of humans.

Bibliographic References

Batsyukova, S. (2013). Human Trafficking and Human Smuggling: Similar Nature, Different Concepts.

Bird, L. (2020). HUMAN SMUGGLING IN AFRICA The creation of a new criminalised economy?

Carling, J. (2005). Trafficking in Women from Nigeria to Europe.

IOM, I. O. for M. (2005). Data and research on human trafficking: A global survey.

Obokata, T. (2019). The African Court of Justice and Human and Peoples’ Rights in Context Development and Challenges.

Salt, J. (2000). Trafficking and Human Smuggling: A European Perspective.

Shelley, L. (2014). HUMAN SMUGGLING AND TRAFFICKING INTO EUROPE A Comparative Perspective.

STOECKER, S. (2006). The Rise in Human Trafficking and the Role of Organized Crime.

Visual Sources

Cover Photo: Nielsen, N. (2016b, May 19). Child trafficking in EU on the rise. EUobserver. [Photograph].

Figure 1: Nielsen, N. (2016, May 19). Child trafficking in EU on the rise. EUobserver. [Photograph].

Figure 2: 286 arrested in global human trafficking and migrant smuggling operation. (n.d.). [Photograph].

Figure 3: Sun, D. (2017, January 15). Nearly 100 refugees missing after boat sinks off Libya | Daily Sun |. Daily Sun. [Photograph].

Figure 4: Reporter, G. S. (2022, October 19). “I was bought for 50,000 rupees”: India’s trafficked brides – in pictures. The Guardian.[Photograph]


Author Photo

Edikan Victoria Inemeh-Etete

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