Victim identification

Defining a victim of trafficking

Who can identify a victim?

Types of exploitation

Process of victim identification

Indicators of trafficking

A victim of trafficking is a person who has been a victim of the crime of trafficking in persons defined by the Trafficking in Persons Protocol. This document provides an international definition of the crime of ‘trafficking in persons’. Anyone can be a victim of trafficking, regardless of their age, sex, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, ethnic or social origin, disability, or circumstances.

People must cross international borders to be considered victims of trafficking.Although many people are trafficked across international borders, human trafficking can also occur within a country’s borders, a phenomenon known as internal (or domestic) trafficking.
Only women and children can be victims of trafficking.Much research and media coverage on human trafficking has focused on the trafficking of women and children. However, men are also trafficked into all kinds of exploitation, particularly forced labour.
All victims of trafficking are trafficked for sexual exploitation.Although trafficking for sexual exploitation accounts for a significant portion of trafficking, people are trafficked for purposes of forced labour, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude, organ removal and other forms of exploitation.
All people working in the sex industry are victims of trafficking.Although trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation is one of the most common and visible forms of human trafficking, people working in the sex industry are not necessarily trafficked. Prohibited means, such as coercion, threat or deception, must have been used (where the victim is an adult) to indicate that a person has been trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation.
All undocumented migrants are victims of trafficking. Migrants in regular situations cannot be victims of trafficking.Although victims may be brought irregularly into the country in which they are exploited, not all people who enter a country irregularly country are exploited. Further, people who travel into or remain in a country through regular channels may also be victims of trafficking.
People who know about or appear to have consented to their situation cannot be considered victims of trafficking.Even if a person appears to accept his or her situation, or agree to the conditions (e.g. employment) at the outset he or she may still be a victim of trafficking.

The consent of a child is always irrelevant, and the consent of an adult victim is irrelevant if prohibited means such as coercion, threat or deception have been used to gain his or her compliance.
People who are related to, or in a relationship with, their trafficker cannot be considered victims of trafficking.Often victims are lured or groomed into a human trafficking situation by a friend or relative. Marriage and other intimate relationships are also a means by which traffickers may control their victims. Servile or forced forms of marriage can also constitute ‘practices similar to slavery’.
People who believe their life is easier or economically better than before cannot be considered victims of trafficking.Someone may be a victim of trafficking even if they are earning more money and/or have a more comfortable living situation that they did prior to being trafficked. Exploitation must be assessed objectively.

States have the primary responsibility to identify victims. Authorities including law enforcement (police, prosecutors, judicial officers, immigration and customs officers, and labour inspectors); social service workers, local administrators, and embassy and consular officers can also play a role in identifying victims of trafficking. In many States, the official processes of presumption, verification and confirmation conducted by relevant authorities are used to determine a person’s status as a victim of trafficking and provide him or her with access to corresponding levels of assistance and protection. In some States, responsibility for these processes is allocated to law enforcement officials, and in others, to State agencies responsible for social welfare. In other States, official processes for victim identification have been delegated to specialized non-government actors.

TIP: Strengthen the capacity of different stakeholders involved in identification: introduce clear guidelines and operating procedures to clarify roles and responsibilities of a broad pool of State authorities and other relevant actors in effective victim identification processes.

However, anybody in the community, including relatives, friends and peers, can play a role in victim identification, particularly during the initial screening phase. Non-governmental actors including civil society organizations, medical professionals, workers’ unions and recruitment agencies prove an invaluable source of information and can play a key role in identifying and referring presumed victims of trafficking to appropriate authorities.

TIP: Appropriate training is essential for relevant stakeholders to quickly and effectively identify victims of trafficking. Standard guidelines and procedures for identification should respect and protect the dignity and human rights of presumed victims of trafficking.

Most victims of trafficking are identified once they have been exploited. Different types of exploitation provide specific clues to identify victims.

Forced labour or services

Forced labour or services are defined by the Article 2(1) of the Forced Labour Convention, 1930, as ‘all work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered herself/himself voluntarily’. ‘Menace’ has been interpreted to include physical and also psychological coercion by the employer, such as by denying employees possibilities of promotions, transfers, new employment or housing. ‘Involuntariness’ is also critical to identifying forced labour. Labour is forced unless the worker has freely given his or her consent and can revoke it.




Slavery is marked by the relationship that exists between the perpetrator and his or her victim, rather than by the conditions of the situation as such. A person in a situation of slavery could conceivably live in comfort, but have no power to make fundamental personal decisions.




Debt bondage

Victims of trafficking might be kept and exploited in slavery-like conditions through debt bondage.

The Article 1(a) of the Supplementary Convention on Slavery refers debt bondage as a situation in which a person provides services to pay a debt that can never be repaid. A situation of debt bondage may be identifiable by the existence of a debt that is indeterminable and cannot be paid by any amount of work or service. Many jurisdictions understand debt bondage more broadly, as situations where labour or services are provided to repay a debt in conditions that are exploitative.



According to the Article 1(b) of the Supplementary Convention on Slavery, serfdom is the situation where ‘a person is forced to live and work on another person’s land, often with little or no pay’.

Since the Supplementary Convention on Slavery entered into force, which only identifies the forced marriage of women, it has been widely acknowledged that boys and men can also be forced into marriage. To combat forced marriage in all its forms, it is considered good practice to ensure that legislation prohibiting forced marriage applies equally, regardless of the sex of the victim.


Sale of children into exploitation

It is also considered to be a form of servitude when the parents or guardians of a child allow a third party to exploit the child’s labour.

The 1999 ILO Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labour adds forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict, pornography, illicit activities such as the production and trafficking of drugs, and ‘work which, by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out, is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children’.

Article 2(a) of the 2002 Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography broadly defines the ‘sale of children’ as ‘any act or transaction whereby a child is transferred by any person or group of persons to another for remuneration or any other consideration’.



Removal of organs

Trafficking in persons for the purpose of organ removal can occur in the context of commercial trade in organs for transplantation into paying donors, as well as in cultural and ritualistic contexts that may involve the removal of body parts in addition to organs. In some States, anti-trafficking legislation goes beyond organ removal to also include body parts (to capture cultural and ritualistic practices), as well as cells and fluids (to capture situations of commercial surrogacy). Trafficking for the purpose of organ removal raises unique identification challenges, given that the exploitative act occurs only once, as opposed to other forms of exploitation that may involve ongoing provision of labour or services.


Other forms of exploitation

States should at a minimum understand exploitation as including the forms of exploitation expressly referenced in Article 3(a) of the Trafficking in Persons Protocol. Other forms of exploitation encountered in practice include exploitation for forced begging and criminal activity, such as drug cultivation or transportation by acting as ‘drug mules’. Beyond risking detection and prosecution for drug-related crimes, victims trafficked to cultivate or carry drugs on or in their bodies have been exposed to significant risks to their lives and safety.



The identification process has three basic stages. Each stage offers opportunities to screen people by observation and interaction, from the point of initial contact through to the conducting of interviews. At each stage of the identification process, practitioners must consider the assistance and protection needs of victims. States should consider incorporating identification procedures into wider protection processes to allow appropriate referrals to be made where particular protection needs are identified (for instance, where victims of trafficking are children or asylum seekers).

First contact

Initial screening can reveal that a person might be a victim of trafficking. This may be done by anyone who comes into contact with the presumed victim, and results in referral to appropriate authorities. Where verification cannot be conclusively made, the presumption that the person is a victim of trafficking should be applied in order to afford him or her access to assistance and protection services.

Tip: In case of adults: introduce a presumption in favour of treating presumed victims of trafficking as victims. State policies for victim identification should allow authorities who suspect that a person is a victim of trafficking to act upon that presumption by treating the person as if he or she is a victim for the purposes of providing initial assistance and protection.

Tip: In case of children: strengthen identification of child victims of trafficking. Implement procedures for rapid identification of potential child victims of trafficking and immediate notification of specialized child service providers, through identification approaches that afford both: the presumption of minority, and the presumption of victim status.

Initial interview

The initial interview stage allows appropriate authorities to verify that the person is a victim of trafficking. This may result in the person being entitled to more comprehensive assistance and protection services. It may also coincide with the investigation and prosecution of alleged traffickers. A key objective of initial interviews is to assess risks and determine specific assistance and protection needs. At this stage, the person should be informed about the purpose, procedure, and consequences of the interview. The person should be given clear information in a language he or she understands, with the use of experienced interpreters, if necessary.

Tip:  Support the use of victim-sensitive interview techniques. Ensure persons conducting interviews are equipped with appropriate skills to address language, gender, age and cultural considerations. As far as possible, consult with individual interviewees as to their preferences and accommodate those preferences to the extent appropriate.

Tip: Ensure identification procedures allow for appropriate referral of asylum seekers. States should not contact the diplomatic representation of the country of origin for identification if a person has applied for asylum, or if there is reason to believe that a person is a refugee.

Formal interview

The third stage offers confirmation that the person is a victim of the crime of trafficking in persons, as a result of the conviction of a trafficker. This phase may only apply in some jurisdictions; also, the fact that the crime of ‘trafficking in persons’ could not be successfully prosecuted does not mean that a person is not a victim. Formal interviews provide the opportunity to refine the assistance and protection services provided, on the basis of specific needs that may be identified. Depending on the condition and the needs of an individual victim or presumed victim of trafficking, formal interviews may take place before or after the reflection period has commenced, at a point when the possible victim is better able to contribute after having received initial assistance and protection. Referrals to specialized services providers may be needed.




Authorities should look for indicators of trafficking among smuggled migrants, vulnerable groups, refugees and migrants to ensure that any victims of trafficking are identified. Such indicators can be useful tools for training and capacity building of specific stakeholders (for instance, medical professionals as well as police, immigration and customs officials), and may relate to certain aspects of the particular form of exploitation (for example, forced labour). In practice, given that most victims of trafficking are identified once they are being subjected to exploitation, indicators relating to the exploitation phase are considered to be more reliable. Lists of indicators are most effective when they are adapted to the specific situations authorities encounter in the course of their work. States should ideally update indicator lists on a regular basis to ensure their ongoing relevance to changing trafficking trends.

Below is an example of a non-exhaustive list of indicators related to different forms of exploitation:


The indicators below may apply to any form of exploitation. Some of the indicators will point to signs of exploitation and others will suggest signs of control that the trafficker may have over the suspected victim:

  • The person is forced/coerced to enter into or remain in the situation
  • The person is deceived about the nature/location of the situation
  • The person’s working days or hours are excessive
  • The person’s living or working conditions are inhumane and/or degrading
  • The person is under the control of/heavily dependent on others
  • The person is subject to threats or use of violence
  • The person is in a situation that is inappropriate for his or her age


  • Cash or other ‘gifts’ were paid to a third party to bring about the marriage
  • A marriage contract was negotiated by people other than the married parties and/or without their involvement or agreement
  • The person is forced into a situation of labour, domestic servitude or sexual exploitation
  • The person has received/is to receive virginity testing
  • The person’s relatives were forced into marriage
  • The person displays signs of depression, self-harm, social isolation or substance abuse
  • There are signs of family discord, violence or abuse
  • The person is underage


  • The person receives poor quality or substandard food and shows signs of malnourishment
  • The person works excessive hours
  • The person has no private space, or private space is inadequate
  • The person is confined or denied social interaction and/or never leaves the house without their employer
  • The person is subject to insults, abuse, threats, violence or assaults
  • The person pays a recruitment fee
  • The person is underage


  • The person cannot refuse to service clients, to carry out specific sexual acts or to have unprotected sex
  • The person does not receive money directly from clients or receives only a small portion of the fee paid by clients to employers or intermediaries
  • The person is forced or coerced to use or not use specific types of contraception
  • The person is forced or coerced to receive medical or pregnancy testing
  • The person is underage


The following indicators pertain primarily to situations in which organs are to be removed or have been removed for transplantation in a medical context. They are less relevant for organ removal for cultural and ritualistic purposes:

  • The person is forced or coerced into agreeing to organ removal
  • The person is deceived about the procedures involved or the compensation to be received for organ removal
  • The person does not know where or when the transplant procedure is to take place
  • The person does not understand the transplant procedure and associated risks
  • There appears to be a third party procurer
  • There are indications that the intended recipient is intending to travel overseas with the person


  • The person is punished if he or she does not collect or steal enough
  • The person lives with others who perform the same activities
  • The person does not understand the purpose of the activities or their illicit nature
  • The person is underage, elderly or disabled

Tip: Consider weighing indicators. States should consider weighing indicators to help those responsible for identification of victims to prioritize certain kinds of information. The approach taken by the ILO and the European Commission qualifies each indicator as being strong, medium or weak, with the provision that a single indicator may be strong for children while being medium for adults, or strong for sexual exploitation and weak for labour exploitation.



Initial protection and direct assistance to victims

Physical safety, security and privacy

Access to accommodation, food and clothing

Counselling and advice

Medical, psychological and material assistance

Reflection and recovery period

Residence status

Family tracing and reunification

Victims with special needs

Article 6(5) of the Trafficking in Persons Protocol requires States to ensure the victim’s physical safety on its own territory; Articles 24 and 25 of the Organized Crime Convention specifically provide for protection of victims from intimidation and retaliation.

Those who are the first point of contact with potential victims of trafficking will have to take steps to protect the security of the potential victim, as well as staff who come into contact with the victim. Through a process of risk assessment, appropriate measures can be put in place to manage those risks. Security measures may range from the presence of security personnel, or direct communication and cooperation with police, to the presence of private security companies in shelters. Where victims are placed in non-shelter accommodation, the risk assessment conducted will need to consider the security challenges that may be posed to the victim, the victim’s family and friends, and service providers, including access to communication and the reliability and competence of local police. It is crucial that all staff members involved in providing assistance to victims are given security briefings and are kept up to date with risks to victims and to themselves. Information about victims and their circumstances should only be shared on a ‘need-to-know’ basis, meaning that staff should be only provided with information they need for the purpose of performing their protection work.

There is a risk that traffickers may seek to infiltrate assistance programs or obtain information about a victim’s location. Service providers should remain alert to this risk and not disclose any information to people whose identities and credentials are unknown. For more on protection of victim identity, go to victim and witness protection.


Article 6(3) of the Trafficking in Persons Protocol stipulates that victims of trafficking may be provided with various support measures, including food, clothing and safe accommodation in shelters or other locations appropriate to their needs, and should be allowed freedom of movement. Victims should not be held in locked facilities, whether immigration detention centers, jails, or other closed facilities where they are not free to come and go.


In line with Article 6(3)(b) of the Trafficking in Persons Protocol, victims of trafficking should be given detailed information about their rights, as well as the scope, nature and function of the assistance and protection program, and the obligations and responsibilities it will entail. The information should be provided when victims of trafficking are in a position to adequately discern and understand all the information provided. Access to translators or interpreters may be necessary if victims of trafficking do not speak the language of the place in which they are identified. Informing them of the availability of assistance may ease the anxiety of victims of trafficking and help them decide on next steps and processes. For information on the identification of victims of trafficking at the point of first contact and throughout interviews (including those undertaken for criminal justice objectives) go to First contact.


Because various types of exploitation are often accompanied by physical and mental abuse, victims require immediate medical attention and access to health care for long-term recovery. States should develop minimum standards for health care and designate specialized agencies to deliver medical services.



It is considered a best practice to provide victims of trafficking (domestic or foreign victims) with a ‘reflection period’ to begin to recover from their experiences and make a decision about whether or not to assist with an investigation or prosecution. Reflection periods vary amongst States, and typically range from 30 to 90 days.

The protection plan for victims of trafficking who are non-citizens with irregular status may require temporary visa arrangements (see Residence status) to enable the person to remain in the country during the reflection period.

Special consideration should be given to children.


The Trafficking in Persons Protocol provides States with measures that will allow for permitting foreign victims with no legal rights to remain on State’s territory to stay on a temporary basis or permanently (Article 7).

There are various ways States can grant temporary residence for foreign victims during the recovery period, or in cases when victims agree to participate in criminal investigation and/or a trial.

It is best practice that States do not detain victims of trafficking in shelters or detentions centres.

Special consideration should be given to children.



Family tracing is not only important for a victim who wishes to be reunited with his or her family as soon as possible, but also for the family the victim has left behind. Family tracing can be a lengthy process, but when successful, leads to family reunification. However, it is important to ensure that family members were not complicit in the trafficking of the victim. This is especially essential in the case of children and unaccompanied minors, to prevent children from going back to situations where they could face abuse, neglect, or possibly being re-trafficked.


The Trafficking in Persons Protocol also emphasises that States should take into account the age, gender and individual needs of victims of trafficking, in particular the special needs of children such as appropriate housing, education and care (Article 6(4)).


Presumed victims of trafficking should be referred immediately to child protection authorities to conduct age assessments, appoint legal guardians and conduct best-interest determinations in making interim care arrangements as appropriate. If the child is accompanied, decisions must be made as to whether or not his or her guardian can represent the child’s best interests, for example if the guardian is suspected of being involved in the child’s trafficking or exploitation. Responsibilities of the guardian include ensuring the child has appropriate care, accommodation, health care, psycho-social support, education and language support, and also keeping the child informed of his or her rights, and assisting in the identification of sustainable protection solutions in the child’s best interests.

Children should be consulted in determining what is in their best interests. Article 12 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) determines that the views of the child should be given due weight, in accordance with the age and maturity of the child. In consulting with children, consideration should also be given to Article 16 of the CRC, protecting children from arbitrary or unlawful interference with their privacy, family or correspondence, and Article 17 concerning State obligations to guarantee the right of children to access information.

UNICEF guidelines provide that children should be granted a reflection period during which no deportation should be carried out.

With regard to the principle of non-refoulement, the Committee on the Rights of the Child has stipulated that: ‘Return to the country of origin is not an option if it would lead to a “reasonable risk” that such return would result in the violation of fundamental human rights of the child, and, in particular, if the principle of non-refoulement applies. Return to the country of origin shall in principle only be arranged if such return is in the best interests of the child’.


Asylum seekers and refugees

Some victims of trafficking might also have well-founded fear of persecution or be at risk of serious harm and be eligible to claim asylum status. Helping victims of trafficking to submit an asylum or refugee claim, or referring a victim to appropriate departments or specialized agencies, should be part of comprehensive assistance services.

Victims of trafficking who are also asylum seekers are additionally protected by the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees. Principles of non-refoulement are specifically referenced to emphasise that States cannot expel or return a refugee or asylum seeker to a place where his or her life or freedom would be threatened on account of his or her race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.

Sustainable protection solutions

Return and Reintegration


Victims of trafficking may return to their communities of origin, unless they are granted residency or other visas to remain, or be moved to a third State. Where victims are returned to their places of origin – whether domestically or in another State – authorities should make efforts to ensure that they are protected from retaliation or re-trafficking upon arrival and during the reintegration process (Article 8 of the Trafficking in Persons Protocol).

Any return to countries of origin should, to the extent possible, be voluntary and carried out with regard for the rights, safety and dignity of returnees and include the provision of the adequate protection, assistance and support necessary to achieve reintegration and prevent re-trafficking. Where it is preferable for a victim to relocate to a third State, the State in question should assist in the facilitation of safe relocation and integration.

Where there are ongoing safety concerns, humanitarian considerations or other risks that prohibit victims from being returned, temporary or permanent residency in the country of destination should be considered.

Victims returned to their place of origin, either domestically or in another State, should be monitored to ensure that they do not face any retaliation from traffickers or being re-trafficked.

Economic empowerment is one of the key factors in successful reintegration of a victim. Upon return to their home or country of origin, victims very often face the same financial hardship that led them to leave in the first place, in addition to repaying acquired debt. To help victims achieve economic self-sustainability that will prevent them from being re-trafficked, States and/or international or local organizations can take various measures, including: providing some financial support, small business loans, skills training, guidance in seeking employment, etc.

Return to the home community and reunification can be a challenging process as a victim might face stigmatization, discrimination, even rejection by their relatives. When considering whether to return victims, risk assessments should be conducted to determine if there is a chance that poor reintegration might lead to the victim being re-trafficked. Reintegration programs should include long-term assistance that can be delivered by the State’s relevant agencies or non-governmental organizations.

Special consideration should be given to children.


A key means of facilitating sustainable protection solutions is through the provision of compensation, financial assistance, or reparation in recognition of the injury, loss or harm experienced by the victim of trafficking. Compensation may include unpaid wages, legal fees, medical expenses, lost opportunities and compensation for pain and suffering. Consideration should be given to ensuring that compensation is accessible to victims of trafficking who are non-citizens. There are many possible sources of victim compensation that States can establish. For example, asset forfeiture is one means to secure legal remedies and compensation for victims. States should facilitate such acquisition of a perpetrator’s assets on behalf of victims.



Protection through the criminal justice system


During the trial


The protection provisions of the Trafficking in Persons Protocol provide the minimum standards for pre-trial support to victims and witnesses of trafficking in persons. States should put in place a formal process to provide such support. Competent NGOs and civil society organizations that understand the criminal justice system and have specialist training in providing support to victims may be able to assist in the provision of such support services. For more, see Prosecution pillar/ Law enforcement and treatment of victims/witness in a criminal justice system.

States should provide victims with comprehensive information, in a language they understand, on options that are available to them including as witnesses in court proceedings. States should also strive to provide victims with access to independent legal counsel to assist them in understanding their legal rights and obligations. 

States may consider making measures and testimonial aids for protection of vulnerable persons, automatically available for child victims. Additional protections may also be considered, such as allowing submission of video recordings of police interviews with child victims and/or witnesses as evidence in chief. However, child victims should not be required to participate, especially when they have experienced extreme trauma. For more, see Prosecution pillar/ Law enforcement and treatment of victims/witness in a criminal justice system.

Immediately following the trial, witness assistance officers or other appropriate authorities should provide victims with information about the outcome of the trial and its implications, including the sentence imposed on the trafficker, its duration and the trafficker’s proposed release date, as well as any appeal possibilities. The victim’s protection plan should be revised accordingly, in consultation with the victim and in consideration of his or her concerns. Following a prosecution States should consider the need for ongoing witness protection and personal safety measures, including by allowing victims to remain permanently in the jurisdiction if victims would be in danger upon return to their country of origin. Beyond any danger from retaliation or re-trafficking, an assessment of the risks posed by inadequate assistance and support in States of origin may be relevant in determining whether or not a victim should be returned or rather be granted a residence permit in the country in which the trial takes place or elsewhere.

Coordination and multi-stakeholder approach

Protection stakeholders

Return and reintegration stakeholders

Coordination at political level

Coordination at the operational level

The Trafficking in Persons Protocol acknowledges the necessity of multi-stakeholder coordination in assistance and protection measures, by requiring States to consider implementing measures to provide for the physical, psychological and social recovery of trafficking victims ‘in cooperation with non-governmental organizations, other relevant organizations and other elements of civil society’. Several governmental and non-governmental stakeholders may be involved in protecting victims in any given State including police, immigration and social service authorities, as well as labour and industry-related actors, ministries of interior and foreign affairs and NGOs specializing in services for victims of crime, migrants, women and/or children, as well as providers of legal aid.

Stakeholders involved in return and reintegration of victims to their countries of origin may include immigration and foreign affairs authorities, police, consular affairs, social service departments, as well as other authorities in countries of origin and destination. These actors, in both returning and receiving States, may need to issue victims of trafficking with the documentation they require in order to return. Government shelters or temporary accommodation providers in both returning and receiving States will need to be engaged throughout the process. State actors from both States will also need to coordinate in advance to develop and implement a plan for the social inclusion of the returning person. For instance, ministries of labour, employment and industry may play key roles in providing sustainable livelihood opportunities for victims of trafficking reintegrating into society. NGOs involved in issues of return and reintegration may include support groups for victims, migrants, women and children. International organizations such as IOM and UN agencies may play a vital role in supporting or monitoring return procedures, and facilitating cooperation between States in the development of sustainable protection and social inclusion plans. Such non-governmental and inter-governmental actors may be active in facilitating coordination between returning and receiving States, offering both pre-departure assistance and post-return assistance.

Coordination at the political level is required in order to lay foundations for effective multi-stakeholder coordination of protection. States have committed themselves to strong coordinated obligations, by becoming parties to the Trafficking in Persons Protocol, members of the Association of the Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have entered into a Declaration against Trafficking in Persons Particularly Women and Children. The Declaration emphasizes the need for a regional approach to prevent trafficking, including to take actions to safeguard the rights and dignity of victims of trafficking. The Coordinated Mekong Ministerial Initiative against Trafficking (COMMIT) was established in 2004 with the signing of a MOU that commits signatory governments of the Greater Mekong Sub-region to coordinate and strengthen their efforts against trafficking, including in the protection, recovery and reintegration of victims.

At the national level, political coordination occurs in many ways, including through arrangements entered into by government and non-governmental actors to coordinate their protection functions. Approaches differ from State to State, but generally involve a national coordinator who is a high-level government official or agency, and a committee or roundtable comprised of senior representatives of government agencies and civil society groups who work together to develop national policy and procedural recommendations.


Given that several stakeholders may be involved in ensuring that victims of trafficking are protected, it is vital that coordination mechanisms are put in place to allow for the different services to complement each other in providing appropriate assistance.

Operational level coordination to ensure inter-agency collaboration is a prerequisite for the success of any national or local strategy to prevent and combat human trafficking. Good practice examples include standard operating procedures (SOPs), regular meetings as well as evaluation and monitoring mechanisms agreed upon and utilized by different stakeholders.

Operationalizing political commitments to strengthen coordination in protection of victims of trafficking

Effective political commitments (including MOUs) mention several key elements, including:

  • Partners to the commitment, their mandates and the areas they will operate
  • The basic principles and purpose of the cooperation
  • The target groups to benefit from the commitment
  • Arrangements for safe and confidential communication and information exchange
  • Procedures for cooperation
  • Appropriate measures for minors.

In practice, political commitments are operationalized where partners to them take the following actions to protect victims of trafficking:

  • Political commitments are supported by sufficient financial commitment
    • Persons who are suspected to be victims of trafficking, are treated as if they are victims of crime for the purpose of initial assistance and protection, regardless of their migration status or their involvement in criminal acts that are a consequence of their trafficking

    • Presumed victims of trafficking are informed orally and in writing, in a language they understand, of opportunities for protection and support

  • Presumed victims of trafficking are afforded a period of reflection

    • Safe accommodation and necessary support services are made available to presumed victims of trafficking, irrespective of migration status or their willingness to participate in a criminal justice investigation

    • Relevant State and NGO protection partners consult on protecting persons who decide to cooperate with criminal justice authorities or decide to return to countries of origin

    • State and NGO partners consult with each other on whether the presumed victim of trafficking faces dangers from the trafficker

    • Presumed victims of trafficking are informed orally and in writing, in a language they understand, of the future course of legal proceedings

    • Presumed victims of trafficking are accompanied by service providers before, during and after legal proceedings

    • Victims of trafficking receive support for the provision of compensation, financial assistance, or reparation in recognition of the injury, loss or harm experienced

    • The protection needs of victims of trafficking are considered after the conclusion of any criminal justices process to support their sustainable social and economic reintegration and reduce the risks of retaliation and re-trafficking.