Academic journal article Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice

Organised Crime and Trafficking in Persons

Academic journal article Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice

Organised Crime and Trafficking in Persons

Article excerpt

It is frequently assumed that organised criminal groups are heavily implicated in trafficking in persons (Gozdziak & Bump 2008; Aronowitz 2009). However, this assumption remains relatively untested. As the response to trafficking in persons continues to grow both globally and nationally, increased information is available about the people involved in the trafficking process, their level of organisation, their offending methods and their connections with other forms of criminality. The picture that is beginning to emerge from this information is increasingly complex. For example, it appears that there is considerable diversity in the characteristics and criminal histories of offenders involved in trafficking crimes, the length and scope of their operations, their modus operandi and motives. It is important to understand these characteristics if strategies to combat trafficking in persons are to be effective.

The purpose of this paper is to provide an overview of the existing Australian and international research on the involvement of organised criminal groups in the trafficking process for labour- related forms of exploitation. The issue of trafficking in persons for the removal of organs is not considered. As the existing research is far from comprehensive, the information that can be obtained is incomplete. Nonetheless, this review does identify several key themes that can help inform and frame future research and responses to this issue.

The first section of this paper provides an introduction to the issue of organised crime and its defining features. The second section comprises a thematic review of the existing literature on the extent to which organised criminal groups are involved in trafficking crimes.


This paper uses the terminology of 'trafficking in persons' and 'smuggling of migrants' as defined in the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (Trafficking in Persons Protocol) (UN 2000a) and the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (Migrant Smuggling Protocol) (UN 2000b). As defined in Article 3 of the Trafficking in Persons Protocol, trafficking in persons occurs when a person intentionally recruits, transfers or harbours another person, through some form of deception, fraud, violence or coercion, for the purpose of exploitation. In this context, exploitation includes conduct that is so severe and harmful that it is proper to describe it as, for example, slavery, forced labour or sexual exploitation. People can also be trafficked for the removal of their organs. The international legal definition recognises a different standard for children, requiring only recruitment, transfer or harbouring for exploitation.

Migrant smuggling is a related but distinct legal concept to trafficking in persons. As defined in Article 3 of the Migrant Smuggling Protocol, migrant smuggling involves two main elements: (i) intentionally facilitating the ilegal entry of a person into another country; (N) for some form of financial or material benefit. While migrant smuggling and trafficking in persons are distinct legal concepts, in reality these crime types can overlap. For example, a trafficked person may have been smuggled as part of the migration process and, similarly, a smuggled person may also become a victim of trafficking.

This paper focuses on the first of these crime types (trafficking in persons) and the extent to which organised criminal groups are involved. As the existing literature on migrant smuggling provides some useful insights into the organisation of migrationrelated forms of crime, this literature is referenced where relevant.

What is organised crime?

There are enduring debates about the precise nature and definition of organised crime. …

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