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DSP > Trafficking in Persons > World Day Against Trafficking in Persons

World Day Against Trafficking in Persons

July 30th was established by the United Nations (UN) as a day to raise awareness about a crime that affects all nations at the national, regional or international levels: trafficking in persons. The day was designated during the UN General Assembly in 2013 and marks the anniversary of the Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons adopted by the UN in 2010.

Trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants:  different concepts, similar contexts


Populations of developing countries experience daily difficult conditions such as poverty, unemployment, inequality, discrimination, exclusion, lack of a life perspective, among other factors. These hardships can contribute to the possible involvement of these populations with opportunities that seem to lead to a better life. However, what may seem like a great chance, can turn into a crime that causes harm not only to the laws of the country, but to something much more serious that affects the freedom and human dignity of people.

Countries and global institutions are aware of this crime and, in response, 167 of them signed the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its underlying protocols: Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air, Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, and Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Their parts and Components and Ammunition.

In the Americas, the response to the global concern was reinforced with instruments that stress the commitment of the countries to the issue. In 2004, member states of the Organization of American States (OAS) adopted the Resolution 2019/04 which establishes regular meetings of high-level national authorities on the matter. In 2010, the countries agreed on the First Work Plan against Trafficking in Persons in the Western Hemisphere for the period of 2010-2014. In 2014, another significant development was the adoption of the Brasilia Declaration and the II Work Plan against Trafficking in Persons in the Western Hemisphere.


Although the terms "trafficking in persons" and "smuggling of migrants" are often used interchangeably, there is a clear distinction between them:

Trafficking in Persons - The objective is the exploitation of the person for different purposes: sexual, labor, domestic servitude, removal of organs, exploitation resulting from the illegal adoption of children, among others. To become effective, the trafficker captures, transports and shelters these people resorting to threats, the use of force or other forms of coercion. In addition, giving or receiving payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person for purposes of exploitation is considered trafficking.

Smuggling of Migrants - The purpose of migrant smuggling is to facilitate the illegal entry of a person in a country of which the individual is not a national or permanent resident, in order to obtain, directly or indirectly, a financial or other material benefit.

Trafficking in Persons 

OAS role Open/Close

The Organization of American States (OAS) contemplates two levels of action that are in line with the prevention; combat; and assistance of victims of trafficking in persons: a political level and a technical level.

Political Level

At the political level, the OAS reunites, periodically, the highest national authorities on trafficking in persons. These meetings respond to the General Assembly Resolution 2019, adopted by the Member States in 2004. During the period of 2006 to 2014, Venezuela (2006), Argentina (2009), Guatemala (2012) and Brazil (2014) have hosted such meetings resulting in specific recommendations and mandates.

After the first two meetings of national authorities and during the 2009 OAS General Assembly, the Resolution 2456 was adopted delegating the OAS to prepare the First Work Plan to Combat Trafficking in Persons in the Occidental Hemisphere. The Work Plan was prepared and approved during 2010 General Assembly by Resolution 2551 constituting a framework to nurture related initiatives during the years 2010 to 2014.

In 2014, during the meeting of High Authorities in Brazil, Member States approved by consensus, the Declaration of Brasilia, as well as the Second Work Plan to Combat Trafficking in Persons in the Western Hemisphere to be executed during 2015-2018. Such Work Plan not only presents Member States commitment to prevent and combat trafficking in persons, as well as to protect victims of this crime, but also serves as an instrument that reflects the reality of trafficking in persons in the Americas.

The Second Work Plan takes into account different manifestations of exploitation considered trafficking in persons, and provides special attention to specific vulnerable populations such as indigenous people, traditional communities and LGBTI groups. The following are included as part of its mandates and guidelines:

  • Establishment of national mechanisms to monitor trafficking in persons related strategies.
  • Adopt measures to ensure that what constitutes trafficking in persons is irrespective of any consent given by the victim, regardless of their age.
  • With regard to children under the age of 18, the crime of trafficking in persons does not require a showing that force, fraud or coercion were used.
  • Reinforcement of national capacities through training initiatives.
  • Address trafficking in persons in comprehensive strategies and/or broad prevention actions plans.
  • Establishment, update and strengthening of national instruments and programs to combat trafficking in persons.
  • Foster the adoption of politics that assure that victims of trafficking in persons who don’t have regular migration condition have access to protection mechanisms.
  • Promote the adoption of legislation and procedures that prevent victims of trafficking in persons being involved in immigration and/or deportation procedures.
  • Foster the adoption of legislative measurements so that victims of trafficking in persons are not processed, detained or sanctioned for being part of illegal activities they were coerced to execute.

Technical Level

At the technical level, it is part of the OAS’ commitments to support and to strengthen Member States initiatives to prevent and combat trafficking in persons throughout reinforcing horizontal cooperation, as well as providing technical assistance to initiatives developed by countries, when appropriate. 


Trafficking in persons: Main forms of exploitation Open/Close

Sexual Exploitation

Sexual exploitation is one of the main objectives of trafficking in persons in the Americas. Women, men, boys and girls become victims of this type of exploitation, most of the times by receiving false promises of a better job and life style. Traffickers will use violence, threats, fraud and coercion to retain their victims.

Who are the main victims?

  • Vulnerable groups, especially from low-income environments, indigenous communities and LGBTI groups.
  • Homeless youth
  • Victims of domestic violencer

Where does it happen?

  • Residential brothels
  • Public Places
  • Bus stops
  • Bus stops
  • Hotels and motels
  • Massage salons
  • Beauty salons, among others

Traffickers' strategies

  • Develop emotional relationships with possible victims
  • Employment promises
  • Marriage promises
  • Marriage promises
  • Physical, emotional and physiological abuse
  • Sexual harassment
  • Confiscate documents and money
  • Isolation from family and friends
  • Use of drugs
  • Expensive gifts

Labor Exploitation

Trafficking in persons through labor exploitation is not defined by the type of work that is executed (being legal or illegal under national laws), but for the nature of the relationship between the employer and the employee.

Labor exploitation is a clear form of modern slavery in which individuals, being nationals or foreigners, are obliged to work or offer services under the use of force, fraud or coercion. This type of exploitation can be found in the domestic sphere, as well as in small and large businesses, or in urban and/or rural areas.

Most countries have supportive legislation to combat forced labor and other representations of slavery, however this crime is still underreported making it more difficult to effectively apply protective legislation.

Sectors where labor exploitation is usually reported:

  • Agriculture
  • Construction
  • Restaurants
  • Hotels
  • Factories
  • Cruises
  • Domestic Help
  • General services, such as cleaning


  • Abuse vulnerable situation of workers, especially when basic need are at risk (food, shelter, income, etc.)
  • Fraud
  • Freedom constraint
  • Isolation
  • Abusive treatments and precarious quality of life
  • Excessive working hours
  • Intimidation, threats and violence
  • Confiscate personal identification documents
  • Use of fraudulent contracts where the worker is obliged to sign under unfair labor conditions and remuneration
  • Servitude due to debts
  • Constant surveillance
  • Confiscate money
  • Physical, emotional and physiological abuse

Organ extraction

Trafficking in persons with means of organ extraction involves the recruitment, threatening, kidnapping and/or coercion related to debt.

As well as other types of exploitation, this type of trafficking in persons is still underreported and acknowledged.





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