Organ Trafficking and Trafficking in Persons for the Purpose of Organ Removal

Since the life saving medical phenomena of organ transplantation was developed, the value in which people will pay for functioning organs has been recognised by global crime rings. With the new medical capacity comes an increasing demand, and therefore increasing profitability of organs for transplantation. Faced with a major scarcity in organs versus the demand for them, the black market for organ trafficking and trafficking in persons for organ removal rose at the beginning of the 20th century.

Illegal transplantation is a highly dangerous and exploitative practice, leaving the victims often with a lifetime of health consequences. The WHO estimates 10% of global organ transplantations are illegal each year. With a growing market, it is estimated the organ trade generates  $840 million to $1.7 billion annually, according to Global Financial Integrity. These estimates are due to the illicit nature of the crime, it is impossible to account for unreported cases – a dilemma that leaves enforcement fairly low. Relative to the legal demand and supply of organs however, kidney transplantation is significantly most common on the black market. The WHO estimates 10,000 kidneys are traded annually, followed by liver, heart and lung transplantations.

UNODC make clear the need to differentiate between the terms organ trafficking or trafficking in organs and trafficking in persons for organ removal. The definition of trafficking in persons for organ removal is included in the international convention they honour, the Trafficking in Persons Protocol:  

According to Article 3(a) of the Trafficking in Persons Protocol ‘Trafficking in persons’ shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs’.

However the terms trafficking in organs or organ trafficking is not included and therefore treated as a crime to be dealt with independently.

The practice of organ trafficking is distinct from other forms of human trafficking due to the distinct feature of technical medical ability needed to undergo the procedures, particularly if the organ donor is living. This makes it difficult to understand and trace if legal professionals become involved. With ethical and moral implications of this practice at all stages, it must be undergone in strict legal manor. However, standards of patient privacy are likely to prevent medical professionals from reporting patients with an illegal organ. Yet regulations for physicians include transparency with patients, and a framework for reporting colleagues involved in illegal transplantation.

Bound with ethical implications, legislation must safeguard the reporting practice of medical practitioners that come into contact with illegal organs. Furthermore, it is clear that a dedicated international convention is required to further encompass a definition of organ trafficking. This must include guidance on the criminalisation, prevention strategies, victim care recommendations. Targeting the financial sector for a transaction trail is a potential way to regulate this practice.

Competitiveness of Fashion Industry Driving Forced Labour in Supply Chains

As the fashion industry makes increasing mark on modern culture and consumerism, the implications of cheap clothing are becoming further understood. Despite the lure of cheap apparel, there are hidden costs often in terms of a ‘human cost’ within the supply chains and production lines, unseen to the retail environment. The fashion industry has been ranked 2nd in the top 5 global industries that drive modern slavery.

Labour exploitation is endemic and inevitable with such competitively priced end products relative to the cost of production. Like other industries, there are 3 major stakeholder groups that must work together for a comprehensive modern slavery response – 1) government and legal bodies, 2) business owners and 3) consumers.

UK government action against modern slavery is at all time high, with 920+ live investigations underway in September 2018. According to the UK Modern Slavery Act, companies that turnover over £36 million are obliged to produce annual Modern Slavery Statements which detail how each company is regulating and addressing labour abuses within their supply chains, such as child labour, excessive working hours and inadequate pay. However, we are still seeing gaps in this legislation where the obligations conflict with business interests, who are battling for higher sales in a competitive fashion market.

The business owners of major fashion brands in the UK including John Lewis, M&S, New Look, NEXT, River Island and Shop Direct are stepping up towards tackling the issue as the industry is facing growing pressure from external groups. These 6 brands have made a new agreement to tackle modern slavery within the textiles industry by committing to work with law enforcement, including the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) to address modern slavery within apparel supply chains. Their commitment includes raising awareness around worker abuses, protect at-risk and exploited employees, and root out modern slavery from their supply chains.

The top down government and legislation led approach to addressing labour abuses is critical, but falls short without compliance regulation and strict penalties. The competitiveness of the fashion market is continuing to overrule the moral obligation of many businesses to ensure supply chains are free from labour abuses. To thoroughly work towards eradicating modern slavery within the industry, there has to be a consumer led shift in the demand for low-priced unethical clothing, where major brands can influence through transparency and marketing campaigns for public awareness. 

Migration and Human Trafficking Public Awareness in Nigeria

IOM: Nigerian migrants stranded in Libya arrive in Lagos as part of IOM’s voluntary return and reintegration programme. 14 February 2017.
IOM: Nigerian migrants stranded in Libya arrive in Lagos as part of IOM’s voluntary return and reintegration programme. 14 February 2017.

In 2016, 37,550 Nigerians migrated to Italy, and many more unaccounted for did not survive the journey. As the number of African migrants crossing the Mediterranean to reach Europe increases and anti-immigration pressure is growing in Europe, more and more migrants are pushed to take illegal and high risk means. Often without much knowledge of the situations migrants are getting themselves into, they put themselves or their families at extreme risk of human trafficking, exploitation, immigration detention, sexual abuse, as well as physical dangers such as dying at sea.

The organisations including the International Organisation on Migration (IOM), National Commission For Refugees, Migrants and Internally displaced Peoples (NCFRMI) and Nigerian agency mandated with preventing human trafficking (NAPTIP) have launched a joint initiative of public awareness raising around the risks of migrant vulnerability to trafficking through public radio. They will air real testimonies of returned migrants and trafficking survivors who attempted to cross the Sahara desert or Mediterranean sea, give government and UN expert’s advice as well “promote social cohesion and deal with the issue of stigmatisation of returned migrants” according to the IOM.

For the full article, Nigeria: Awareness-raising radio show on perils and opportunities of migration, launched by UN agency read here. 

Control Mechanisms of Exploitation

Control Control Mechanisms of Exploitation

Modern slavery differs from the historic notion of slavery that implicates a restriction of ones freedom by chains and shackles, or more broadly control of another human being via physical or legal ownership. Although physical control still exists in illegal instances, the term ‘modern slavery’ encapsulates all forms of exploitation that happen to this day, and there are different control mechanisms that replace the physical handcuffs. The GLAA highlights three broad categories that often overlap: physical control, financial control and coercion that are used to restrict freedom and exploit people.

Physical Control
Despite the Universal Declaration of Human Rights declaring slavery illegal, there are cases where it still occurs through force or violence. For example in the UK, the infamous Rooney case where 18 workers were trafficked kept captive, working for little to no wages, physically abused, and in one case forced to ‘dig ones own grave’ if he did not agree to sign a contract for a lifetime of servitude.  Furthermore, a slave auction of migrants captured in Libya was brought to international media attention earlier this year, highlighting the extent to which people are being exploited under the mechanism of physical control in societies all around the world. In many cases, physical control can be exercised by confiscation of ID, passport or critical legal documentation, restricting the victims’ ability to leave their country of exploitation.

Financial Control
Financial control is an ever growing control mechanism of exploitation in modern societies. This may manifest in the form of debt bondage, where individuals or families give all their money or sell their assets to receive a false service or unjust return on their investment, either by deceit or out of desperation. This form of debt bondage is designed to be a life sentence and impossible to get out of due to the crippling interest rates, hence individuals must keep on working for free to ‘pay it off’. Forms of financial control are commonly being used to keep people in captivity by fraudulent trafficking and exploitation perpetrators. They may inflict on their workers undue or unreasonable fines, they may withhold their earnings, and or set up bank accounts which the worker cannot access often by taking advantage of language barriers. Many cases of this can be seen of Eastern Europeans having being trafficked to the UK and exploited for no or little wage, such as in the waste processing and construction sector.

Coercion, blackmail and deceit are used to recruit victims into a position of exploitation, or to maintain their slavery sentence. This can come in many forms, overlap with physical and financial control and may be perpetrated by family or friends of the victim rather than an external exploiter. Common cases of blackmail can be seen by Vietnamese women trafficked to work in massage parlours and end up being sexually exploited, who may be blackmailed by their traffickers to keep on working or receive family ridicule and shame for the nature of work (they have been forced into). In many cases, blackmail is used against the victims to stop them from running away and reporting to authorities, which poses problems for victim support services having being freed from their situation of exploitation.

Furthermore, coercion to enter situations of exploitation may be inflicted by families for traditional or cultural practices, rather than an external perpetrator. This may be seen through situations of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) or forced marriage. A particular example is a tradition in southern Nigeria’s Becheve community called “money marriage” where young girls are being used as currency to repay debts of family debts.

Modern slavery is an issue that takes many forms of exploitation where control mechanisms and tools of manipulation are constantly changing and evolving as legislations and sanctions tighten within each contexts. In order to address this, it is important look beyond the obvious signs of physical control to collect vast and accurate data to protect future vulnerable victims of exploitation.

Global Supply Chains: 4 Principals Adopted Against Modern Slavery

The UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA have made progress in the movement to expel modern slavery and labour exploitation from global supply chains.

These five partner countries have created a set of 4 principles designed for nations all over the world to adopt, in order to promote ethical supply chain compliance within their jurisdictions. The principles are aimed at policy level, addressing both public and private sector procurement, supply chains, recruitment and encourages the need for cooperation between such actors.

The four principles are as follows:

Governments should take steps to prevent and address human trafficking in government procurement practices

  • analyse, develop and implement measures to identify, prevent and reduce the risk of human trafficking in government procurement supply chains
  • provide tools and incentives and adopt risk assessment policies and procedures that require their procurement officers and contractors to assess the nature and extent of potential exposure to human trafficking in their supply chains
  • take targeted action, including adopting appropriate due diligence processes, to identify, prevent, mitigate, remedy, and account on how they address human trafficking

Governments should encourage the private sector to prevent and address human trafficking in its supply chains

  • work in partnership with business, workers and survivors to set clear expectations for private sector entities on their responsibility to conduct appropriate due diligence in their supply chains to identify, prevent and mitigate human trafficking
  • provide tools and incentives to the private sector to encourage meaningful action and public reporting of their efforts, including through programmes policies or legislation

Governments should advance responsible recruitment policies and practices

  • advance responsible recruitment practices, including by implementing polices that incentivise and support responsible practice, and by support initiatives such as the ‘Employer Pays Principle’
  • contribute to the growing knowledge base of promising practices for protecting workers from fraud and exploitation in the recruitment process

Governments should strive for harmonisation

  • make reasonable efforts to share information and work with other committed governments to align existing and proposed laws, regulations and polices to combat human trafficking in global supply chains


The UK,  leading global efforts in anti-slavery policy, is encouraging governments at the UN General Assembly to adopt these principles. By leveraging the combined $600 billion purchasing power of the partnered nations there is the capital to influence high-level actors in both public and private sectors.

The principles provide a clear and progressive framework for cooperating governments to aim towards. The major drawback, however, is the lack of enforcement of these principles, which in many instances is controlled by  legislation. However, for these principles to be effective in practice rather than theory, strict and coherent sanctions are critical. The further challenge is to address cross border transactions, and encourage non-cooperative countries that produce the majority of global slavery statistics to adopt and enforce such principles.

Modern Slavery On Our High Streets

Educating the public on signs of modern slavery within their workplace or community is key to identification and cooperation to combat labour abuses

Along with the progress seen in the UK’s legislative framework around human trafficking and modern slavery, there is growing public awareness of the issue. In order for the justice system to work effectively to intercept traffickers, there is demand for the public to be educated on signs of labour abuse, and to work with authorities to report it.

A ground breaking case in January this year led to two traffickers jailed under the Modern Slavery Act for involvement in the trafficking of teenage girls from Vietnam to work unpaid in nail bars in Bath, UK. The importance of this case highlights how victims of slavery can fit into society so blatantly that many people who witness it, do not question the criminality behind it.

UK authorities such as the GLAA have composed toolsets for public education around the identification of modern slavery. Spot the Signs guidance provides clear explanations of human trafficking, forced labour, debt bondage and outlines specific types of exploitation to be aware of, including labour exploitation, sexual exploitation, domestic servitude, organ harvesting and criminal exploitation. The industries regulated by GLAA for forced labour are agriculture, food processing and packaging, construction, warehousing and logistics, service industry and catering, sweatshop manufacturing. As HTMSE have previously noted, there is an ever growing number of target industries for traffickers, including recently recycling and waste processing, football and sports, the beauty and massage industry, as well as a notorious market for forced criminality in cannabis growing operations. 

Although each case of labour exploitation will have a variety of variables and indicators, as seen in the Bath case, young, foreign girls who seem fearful or ‘controlled’, and a have language barrier whereby their traffickers can take advantage of them, are potential victims. The GLAA outlines the most common indicators of labour exploitation. In addition to the victim’s characteristics and behaviour, signs to look out for in a victim’s situation are

Unfortunately, once a potential victim is identified, it is not a simple process to restore their freedom. Due to the nature of their mental ‘conditioning’ by the traffickers, Stockholm Syndrome poses a major issue for authorities. If victims do not know they are being exploited or understand their situation, in many cases they are fearful of authorities and will resist cooperation. Spot the Signs highlights the irrelevance of the victim’s “consent” if they are “controlled by force, threats, coercion, abduction, fraud and deception” as it constitutes control over another person. For example, in the Bath case, one of the victims ran away from their foster home to their traffickers within days of release. This is where a victim centred approach, particularly in language services, is critical to consider right from the beginning in the identification of potential victims, and on going in order to ensure successful rehabilitation.

Although the public may not wish to become involved in a case, it is their civic duty if they witness or have suspicion of labour exploitation, to report it. In order to encourage the reporting of modern slavery suspicions, authorities should safeguard interests by maintaining anonymity and providing comprehensive, simple reporting methods. Educating the public on the signs of modern slavery within their workplace or community is key to identification and active public cooperation to combat labour abuses.

Growing Awareness of Labour Exploitation at Waste Recycling Facilities 

8% of MRW survey participants stated they witnessed possible cases of labour exploitation in the last year
8% of MRW survey participants stated they witnessed possible cases of labour exploitation in the last year

New statistics report that over a third of rescued modern slavery victims in the UK have, at some point over the course of their exploitation, been used for labour at waste or recycling processing plants. This work involves long strenuous hours in harsh, dirty environments, ‘picking’ and sorting materials that come into the depot. These cases highlight the recycling industry as one of the increasing target points for human traffickers, where the victims maybe moved between known industries such as car washes and factory work.

Surveys from the Materials Recycling World industry insight have claimed that 8% of those who took part stated they witnessed possible cases of labour exploitation in the last year. Reports suggest eastern European gang members are accompanying the victims posing as ‘friends’ to help interpret where there were language barriers. A case recorded by Hope for Justice recounted that the ‘friend’ would accompany the victim to the bank to set up a bank account, and manipulate the situation into gaining access to the account and take the wages from the worker. As suggested by Neil Wain, International Programme Director at Hope for Justice, such “findings suggest there may still be a limited awareness of the factors that cause and contribute to modern slavery in this sector of the economy, and that more training and understanding would be beneficial.”

The NCA has recorded 1,631 referrals of modern slavery in the first 3 months of 2018. There is growing awareness around the waste industry as a key sector for the skills and labour sets of human trafficking victims. These findings point to the need for tightening of regulation around waste and recycling supply chains, particularly those attached to local government. As a government utility, it is critical that waste collection and treatment systems do not facilitate modern slavery. The private sector waste companies need assessment around the UK’s Modern Slavery legalisation.

For further reporting on by Materials Recycling World, read here. 

Combatting the Vulnerability of Refugees Against Labour Exploitation

Image Credit: Deutsche Welle - Syrian Refugee Working at BMW
Image Credit: Deutsche Welle – Syrian Refugee Working at BMW

In many cases, migrants and refugees make vulnerable targets for exploitation within their host countries as they are often in positions of desperation and vulnerability. In many cases their skill sets or education are not suited to those needed in their place of settlement, forcing them into poor and inappropriate work conditions, hard labour or making them vulnerable to recruitment by traffickers to exploitation.

The UNHCR, OECD and other international agencies are working on an ‘Action Plan’ to overcome the issue of refugee employment. This plan aims to integrate refugees into the labour market by overcoming the issues and creating a strategy to identify the skills that can actively contribute to the economy of the host nation.

Through research and interviews, having secure and safe employment is the top contributor to integration in a new society, which protects them from the potential for labour exploitation. Although each host destination has subjective conditions and labour requirements, the action plan is a holistic and broad framework composed of 10 steps:

  • Action 1 – Navigate the administrative framework
  • Action 2 – Provide employers with sufficient legal certainty
  • Action 3 – Identify and verify refugees’ skills
  • Action 4 – Developing skills for job-readiness
  • Action 5 – Match refugee talent with employers’ needs
  • Action 6 – Provide equal opportunities in recruitment and combat stereotypes
  • Action 7 – Prepare the working environment
  • Action 8 – Enable long-term employability
  • Action 9 – Make the business case for hiring refugees
  • Action 10 – Coordinate actions between all stakeholders

Whether in refuge from conflict, environmental or economic hardship, 65 million people globally have been forcibly displaced from their homes, of which refugees make up 25.5 million. Due to the nature of globalisation, these rates are increasing, along with the frequency and types of labour exploitation of refugees and vulnerable populations.

For the full Action Plan, read here.  

Child Rights and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

Child Rights and Corporate Social Responsibility
Child Rights and Corporate Social Responsibility

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has been understood and conceptually used since the 1990s, yet only recently gained weight in legal terms. It was designed to hold businesses accountable for the environmental wellbeing and human rights within their production and supply chains that they financially benefit from, and in turn to uphold the rights of the most vulnerable sector of society – children.

The importance of child rights

The interaction between businesses and children is inevitable, as people under 18 years old make up a third of the worlds population. The importance of this interaction, whether as consumers, relations to employees or young workers themselves is critical because childhood is the most fundamental stage of development, where young people are more sensitive both to psychological and physical harm. Furthermore, they are most vulnerable to violence and abuse, deeming defenceless when forced into certain situations either out of desperation or before their own autonomy has developed to protest. If they are exposed to hazardous operations whether directly or indirectly, they are at high risk of mental and physical damage. In extreme yet unfortunately widespread cases of child labour exploitation within supply chains, for domestic work or other forms of illicit labour, the consequences to a child’s wellbeing can be irreversible.

Furthermore, the wellbeing of children is important to the long-term economic growth within communities. 215 million children are engaged in child labour worldwide, and 101 million children are not attending primary school. By being exploited from a young age, the stunt in education that children undergo will ultimately feedback negatively on the future overall productivity rates of businesses within certain economies.

The development of CSR

In the development CSR, rights observers have understood that corporate interests generally outweigh the voluntary demand for an ethical and socially responsible supply chain. There are various examples of CSR that have developed, which compels corporations to comply with legal standards. For example the UK Modern Slavery Act 2015 that that dictates national legal standards, which requires corporations to publish the steps they are taking to ensure their supply chains and free of modern slavery, child labour, human trafficking. This regulation applies both domestically and for international sourcing, in which certain export standards of mandatory social compliance are placed onto developing countries with cheap labour. The California Transparency in Supply Chain Act (CTSCA) 2010 operates similar obligations but working at state level. The Indian Companies Act (2013) compels Indian corporations to spend 2% of their pre-tax profit on CSR.

How Child Rights fit into CSR

Although such legislation is aimed more broadly at achieving supply chain transparency, upholding child rights is a key element of this. Specifically, there is a set of 10 Child Rights and Business Principles as outlined by Save the Children, the UN Global Compact and UNICEF, which give a comprehensive yet non-exhaustive list of CSR requirements in relation to child rights. Corporations must:

  1. Meet their responsibility to respect children’s rights and commit to supporting the human rights of children
  2. Contribute to the elimination of child labour, including in all business activities and business relationships
  3. Provide decent work for young workers, parents and caregivers
  4. Ensure the protection and safety of children in all business activities and facilities
  5. Ensure that products and services are safe, and seek to support children’s rights through them
  6. Use marketing and advertising that respect and support children’s rights
  7. Respect and support children’s rights in relation to the environment and to land acquisition and use
  8. Respect and support children’s rights in security arrangements
  9. Help protect children affected by emergencies
  10. Reinforce community and government efforts to protect and fulfil children’s rights

As this literature points out, the rights of children are no ‘new legal obligation’, instead are innate human rights, which in turn drives CSR. This can be broken down into the Corporate Responsibility to Respect, which applies to the business’s own activities and to its business relationships, linked to its operations, products or services” as well as the Corporate Commitment to Support, which demands voluntary actions that seek to advance human rights, including children’s rights, through core business activities, strategic social investments and philanthropy, advocacy and public policy engagement, and working in partnership and other collective action.”

The focus of CSR towards children aims to eliminate child labour from supply chains, but also must take the nuanced approach which includes protecting the rights of children in their core business strategy, covering all operations, employee rights, marketing, and delivery of products and services.

The aim is for states to be responsible by implementing such CSR legislation to level out the injustices and inequalities of the world’s wealthiest corporations taking advantage of the worlds most poor and vulnerable. Although this works ideologically, the problem comes with implementation. Limitations with CSR studies show that even passive state regulation does not necessarily lead to thorough commitment to supply chains free of human rights abuses and environmental degradation by corporations. Trends show most corporations only apply resource to CSR when receiving pressure from external organisations. Hence, it takes active pressure by rights groups, NGOs and governments to achieve this, indicating the critical role of UNICEF and organisations to lobby against corporate interests. For CSR to be achieved, strict legal requirements and binding commitments must be met with appropriate sanctions as means of compulsion to achieve child rights.

Analysis of Global Revenue Produced by Human Trafficking

The International Labour Organisation estimates human trafficking derives USD 150.2 billion per year, making it one of the most profitable criminal ventures worldwide
The International Labour Organisation estimates human trafficking derives USD 150.2 billion per year, making it one of the most profitable criminal ventures worldwide

In parallel to the transatlantic slave trade as one of the most profitable business ventures in global history, modern slavery in the form of human trafficking follows suit. The International Labour Organisation estimates human trafficking derives USD 150.2 billion per year, making it still one of the most profitable criminal ventures worldwide. Furthermore, in an environment of globalisation it is rapidly increasing in numbers and in typologies. The rise in displacement and movement of people, whether in refuge from conflict zones, economic or environmental migration means there is increased vulnerability to trafficking, and in turn, more revenue produced by trafficking rings.

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG) compiled a study Financial Flows From Human Trafficking to address the use of human trafficking as a source of money laundering and terrorist funding. Modern terror networks have indeed taken advantage of this profitable business venture, which creates a complex nexus between trafficking, money laundering and terror financing.

The report divides human trafficking into three categories in which revenue is produced through very unique money laundering systems. Firstly, trafficking for forced labour produces USD 51.2 billion per year, of which USD 43.40 billion is generated by hard labour exploitation, and USD 7.9 billion produced through domestic servitude. Second, trafficking for forced sexual exploitation produces USD 99 billion. Third, organ removal produces between USD 600 million – 1.2 billion, however the report refrains from providing a defined figure because the crime is rarely done in isolation, and therefore overlaps with other crimes which clouds the figures.

The aim of the FATF report is to provide “tangible indicators and best practices for national authorities to improve their effectiveness in combatting money laundering and terrorist financing from human trafficking”. In order to understand these systems appropriately, they provide a set of ‘money laundering indicators’ to be adopted by specialists and authorities working in the human trafficking sector,  to create a systematic form of recording and analysing financial flows from trafficking. The report finds major issues that international actors have in disrupting the nexus between human trafficking, money laundering and terror financing, and outlines resolutions including the need to:

On analysis, the conclusions of this report put significant weight on the need for cooperation between international, state and regional authorities to work together in combatting financial flows from human trafficking. However, there are many challenges and complexities including the corruption of state actors that contribute to the global trafficking systems and obscure the financial figures recorded, including which revenue streams are being used for terror funding. The international institutions such as FATF need to work closely with governments to systematically identify and analyse this. By nature of the black market, accurate figures are impossible to find which inhibits the capacity of national authorities, financial institutions, NGOs and actors to prioritise responses to human trafficking in its various forms. Yet as we further understand the finances of the crime, we are able to respond with effective measures of prevention and resolution.

For the full FAFT report, Financial Flows From Human Trafficking read here.