Vulnerability: Human Trafficking, Governments’ Responsibilities in
Improving Refugee Mobilization Processes
A Dissertation submitted by Alexandra Perez Acevedo
in partial completion of the award of Executive Master in International
‘I hereby declare that the dissertation submitted is wholly the work of
Alexandra Perez Acevedo. Any other contributors or sources have either
been referenced in the prescribed manner or are listed in the
acknowledgements together with the nature and scope of their
Geneva School of Diplomacy and International Relations
I agree that, should the School wish to retain it for reference purposes, a copy of
my Dissertation may be held by the Geneva School of Diplomacy and
I confirm that this dissertation does not contain information of a commercial or
confidential nature or include personal information other than that which would
normally be in the public domain unless the relevant permissions have been
obtained. In particular, any information which identifies a particular individual’s
religious or political beliefs, information relating to their health, ethnicity, criminal
history or gender, has been made anonymous, unless permission has been
granted for its publication from the person to whom it relates.
The copyright for this Dissertation remains with me
Requests for Information
I agree that this Dissertation may be made available for review and kept in the
Name: Alexandra Perez Acevedo
Programme: Executive Master in International Relations (EMIR)
Refugees migration crisis in Europe have escalated to historic levels in the past
years. The use of technologies, networks, and high demand of third parties’
facilitators, have brought new challenges, such as the exploitation of asylum
seekers, as well as the attention of the international community towards the
responsibility and the role of governments in improving refugees’ mobilization
Based on existing findings, data, and interview with asylum seekers. This
dissertation reviews the current refugees’ migration crisis in Europe and its
connection to human trafficking and organized crime groups. While recognizing
that governments assistance and protection of refugees is mainly provided after
those have arrived in Europe, and very poor regarding the migration methods
used by asylum seekers.
Therefore, in order reduce those risks refugees may face by using illegal
migration methods, this thesis not only aims to drawn attention and raise
awareness towards those topics above described, it also provides
recommendations and highlight the importance of a bigger commitment of
governments as well as the use of empowerment tools. Those as key instruments
that could support in limiting the scoop of exploitative and trafficking environments
during the mobilization of refugees.
Word Count: 8.193
I cannot even begin to imagine the scary and horrifying situations that migrants,
such as refugees experience throughout the entire mobilization process. This
begins with those factors forcing them to flee their home country, moving onwards
to the dangerous journey, and unfortunately not ending with the arrival at their
Nevertheless, having felt vulnerable as a migrant on multiple occasions, and
having witnessed the public opinion regarding the refugee crisis that arose in
Germany between 2015 – 2016 made me more sensitive to their situation. Which
is why, I feel that this issue and try to understand refugee’s vulnerability is worth
researching. This leaves me with the big question, how their migration process
can be improved. Refugees not only face the regular challenges that migrants
must endure, but their vulnerability puts them at a high risk of trafficking and
exploitation. Within this the involvement of key players such as public, private
sectors and country nationalities are required to be involved in order to increase
the sensitivity towards this topic.
First of all, I would like to thank to all the respondents, experts and refugees who
agreed to meet and share their stories and opinions with me. Without their co-
operation, I would not have been able to conduct this dissertation.
I would also like to thank my supervisor for his outstanding guidance, advisory
and patience during this process. Finally, I would like to thank my family for their
unconditional support and encouragement. To those people I have met in the
past five years who have contributed to both my professional and personal
development, thank you.
Abbreviations and Acronyms
EUROPOL: The European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation
ILO: International Labour Organization
IMO: International Organization of Migration
NGO: Non-governmental organization
OCG: Organized Crime Groups
SDG: Sustainable Development Goals
THB: Trafficking in Human Beings
UM: Unaccompanied minors
UNICEF: United Nations Children’s Fund
UNHCR: United Nations Refugee Agency
UNODC: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
1 Introduction ……………………………………………………………………………………… 9
2 Theory ………………………………………………………………………………………….. 11
2.1 Economic benefit and Demand Theory: ……………………………………….. 11
2.2 Criminal theory: Rational choice and Punishment …………………………. 13
2.3 Migration Networks and personal motivators ………………………………… 15
2.4 Elite Theory: Political and Social Effect………………………………………… 17
2.5 Conclusion ………………………………………………………………………………. 19
3 Methodology ………………………………………………………………………………….. 21
3.1 Qualitive Methodologies …………………………………………………………….. 21
3.1.1 Documents as Sources of Data …………………………………………….. 21
3.1.2 Interview with Refugee migrants …………………………………………… 22
3.2 Quantitative Methodology ………………………………………………………….. 22
3.2.1 Official Existing Statistics …………………………………………………….. 22
3.3 Methodological issues……………………………………………………………….. 23
3.4 Hypothesis statement ……………………………………………………………….. 25
4 Chapter 1: Mobilization of refugees the perfect opportunity for trafficking and
exploitative environments. …………………………………………………………………….. 26
4.1 Introduction: …………………………………………………………………………….. 26
4.2 Who is a refugee? …………………………………………………………………….. 26
4.3 what is the difference between smuggling and trafficking? ……………… 27
4.4 Desperation and limited choices …………………………………………………. 28
4.5 Why is trafficking and exploitation of refugees a lucrative and profitable
business model? ……………………………………………………………………………….. 30
4.6 Borders closed, higher smuggling fees ………………………………………… 32
4.7 Conclusions and recommendations …………………………………………….. 34
5 Chapter 2: the role of receipient countries to improve the current refugee
migration conditions and ensure their safer mobilization ……………………………. 36
5.1 Introduction ……………………………………………………………………………… 36
5.2 A Big Challenge, A greater Commitment ……………………………………… 36
5.3 Conclusions and Recommendations …………………………………………… 39
6 Chapter 3: empowerment, a key instrument to the prevention of abusive and
exploitative environments ……………………………………………………………………… 41
6.1 Introduction ……………………………………………………………………………… 41
6.2 After arriving at their destination country………………………………………. 41
6.3 Feeling safe again ……………………………………………………………………. 43
6.4 Conclusions and Recommendations …………………………………………… 43
7 Conclusion …………………………………………………………………………………….. 47
8 Annex 1: Interviews with refugees …………………………………………………….. 48
9 Annex 2: Figures Table …………………………………………………………………… 49
10 Annotated bibliography ……………………………………………………………………. 50
12 Bibliography …………………………………………………………………………………… 60
Refugee Migration and Human Trafficking are not new phenomena,
nevertheless, the statistics related to these issues have significantly increased in
the last few years. Even though both topics are commonly discussed as separate
issues, and refugee migrants are not necessarily victims of trafficking, it is still
important to identify when there may be a correlation between the two situations.
The purpose of this dissertation is to analyze and further discuss the need for a
more inclusive commitment from the recipient governments: starting with the
improvement of the mobilization process and the migration conditions of
refugees, to providing asylum seekers with all the necessary tools for integration,
in order to reduce potential trafficking and exploitative environments.
According to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in 2016, over 65
million people worldwide were displaced due to either persecution, conflict,
violence, or human rights violations (UNHCR, Global Trends 2016).1 Turkey itself
has been a host to most asylum seekers (Apr. 2,9 million), while Germany was
the world’s largest recipient of new individual applications (Apr. 722.400 claims)
(UNHCR, Global Trends 2016).2 The International Labour Organization (ILO)
estimates, 40 million people are believed to be victims of modern slavery, of
which more than 24 million were in forced labour, 15.4 million were in forced
marriage (ILO).3 and 9.1 million having moved internally or internationally (IOM).4
1 UNHCR. GLOBAL TRENDS. Forced Displacement in 2016. Annual Report. Geneva: UNHCR, 2017.
Document. Available at www.unhcr.org/5943e8a34.pdf. Pp.1 – 3 2 Although the official numbers only showcase 3,2 Million people are stateless, the agency presume
almost 10 Million individuals are in this situation. UNHCR. GLOBAL TRENDS. Forced Displacement in 2016.
(see footnote 1) 3 The Global Estimates of Modern Slavery focus on two main issues: forced labour and forced marriage
International Labour Office (ILO), Global Estimates of Modern Slavery: forced labour and forced marriage”
Geneva, 2017 Pp. 9 4 According to IOM report, ILO report from 2016 estimates that in 2012 9.1 of those being forcibly
displaced were moved internally or internationally.
Complementary to this, the last UNODC report in 2016, states that the profile of
detected trafficking victims has changed. Nevertheless, women still represent the
most of them by approximately 51 % of the victims, children represent 28% and
men account for the remaining 21% (UNODC, Global report on trafficking in
Finally, it is important to remark that although this dissertation research focuses
on refugees as a vulnerable group with a high risk of falling victim to human
trafficking, all migrants especially those forcibly displaced are at higher risk of
being trafficked indifferent of the migration status they may hold.
5 UNODC. Global report on trafficking in Persons 2016. Annual Report. UNODC. Vienna: UNODC, 2016. (United
Nations publication, Sales No. E.16.IV.6). Available at www.unodc.org/documents/data-and-
analysis/glotip/2016_Global_Report_on_Trafficking_in_Persons.pdf Pp. 7
Refugee migration is not a new phenomenon, as in 1951 through the ratification
of the convention and protocol relating to the status of refugees, the definition of
the term refugee, their rights, and the legal obligations of states to protect
refugees were determined (UNHCR, Convention and Protocol Relating to Status
Nevertheless, referring to asylum seekers and how the trafficking industry could
potentially take advantage of the refugee migration process, is a more complex
situation, which cannot be analyzed from one perspective only. Therefore, in
order to understand the purpose of this dissertation, it is imperative to approach,
analyze and support the topic of research from different theoretical perspectives,
whilst explaining the most important elements of each of them.
2.1 Economic benefit and demand theory:
Economic theory explains from a cost – benefit perspective, that criminal actions
and behaviors estimate the gains and benefits in the participation of a certain
activity. According to Eagle and Betters, “criminals are more willing to commit a
crime if the expected benefit from legal work are less than the ones that they may
obtain from illegal work.”7
Furthermore, John Salt and Jeremy Stein formally proposed the concept of
migration as a global business, which could have both: a legal and illegal side
6 UNHCR. “convention and protocol relating to status of refugees.” December 2010. Ed. UNHCR P.O box
2500 1211 Geneva Switzerland: Published by UNHCR. Available www.unhcr.org/3b66c2aa10. Pp. 1 – 3 7 Thozama, Mandisa Lutya and Mark, Lanier (2012). An Integrated Theoretical Framework to Describe
Human Trafficking of Young Women and Girls for Involuntary Prostitution, Public Health – Social and
Behavioral Health, Prof. Jay Maddock (Ed.), ISBN: 978-953-51-0620-3, InTech, Available from:
theoreticalframework- to-describe-human-trafficking-of-young-women-and-girls-for-invo. Pp. 8
and its final purpose is commercial gain (UNODC, Smuggling of Migrants A
In the specific case of migrants fleeing conflicts and persecutions, regular
migration is not always a suitable option. Instead, the use and demand for third
parties and irregular migration procedures become the principal method to
escape the imminent threat of violence and destitution. As a result, criminals see
the possibility of leveraging the refugees’ desperation, as well as a business case
opportunity. Therefore, smuggling and human trafficking provide higher gains
and benefits than the risks and costs associated with the criminal institutions.
Salt and Stein also refer to the smuggling of migrants as a business, mainly
dominated by hierarchically organized criminal enterprises. These enterprises
which are also involved in other types of crime, such as the smuggling of drugs,
can utilize and leverage those already existing routes for the mobilization of
human cargo (UNODC, Smuggling of Migrants A Global Review).9 The latest
refugee migration phenomenon has not only boosted the demand for smuggling
procurement. After the European borders closed, the need for broader and more
efficient services across countries were required as well. This allowed organized
crime institutions to become more involved in the mobilization of people, thanks
to their extended networks across borders.
Organized criminal groups (OCGs) not only provide smuggling services, however
are also able to offer tailor-made facilitation service, including document forging,
8 UNODC refers to John Salt and Jeremy Stein, and the book “Migration as a business: the case of
trafficking”, International Migration, vol. 35, No. 4 (1997) to explain migration as an economic business.
Smuggling of Migrants A Global Review and Annotated Bibliography. Vienna: UNOV/dm/cms/epls,
January. Available 2011https://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/human-trafficking/2010/global-review-and-
annoted-bibiliography.html. Pp. 8 9 For example, roads used for drug trafficking can be adapted to various mode operandi to deal with
different commodities such as migrants. 390. UNODC (see footnote 8) Pp. 67
money lending along with a multitude of different mobilization possibilities
(Europol, SOCTA) according to the clients’ preferences and economic acquisition
power.10 The economic resources of the potential client, may not only create a
difference in the demand of service, but also a differentiating factor to target those
migrants who are inherently have more accompanying limitations and thus
making them more vulnerable to be exploited.
Approaching an economic theory based from a demand perspective and
considering the cost-benefit analysis of a criminal activity is pertinent. This helps
to understand why getting involved in smuggling and trafficking services is an
attractive business for independent criminals and for OCGs. Nevertheless,
different to the model presented by Salt and Stein where the migrants are
considered merely as an object,11 during the last refugee migration phenomenon,
refugees migrants are considered actively participating. Thanks to modern day
advanced technology and devices, asylum seekers on the move have more
access to information which allows them to play an active role in choosing the
smugglers themselves and have regular input in the mobilization process.
2.2 Criminal theory: Rational choice and punishment
Theories of criminal behaviors based in rational choice, data as early as the
eighteen century and proposals from writers, such as Hobbes, Beccaria, and
Bentham. Bentham augmented, “the profit of the crime is the force which urges
man to delinquency: the pain of the punishment is the force employed to restrain
him from it. If the first of these forces be the greater, the crime will be committed;
10 According to Europol report in 2017, Migrant smuggling networks offer their services including
transportation, accommodation, the provision of fraudulent documents and information on contact
points in other countries. Europol. Serious and organized crime threat assessment (SOCTA). The Hague,
Netherlands. European Police office 2017. Available
https://www.europol.europa.eu/socta/2017/understanding-organised-crime.html. Pp. 50. 11 On the other side Van Liempt and Doomernik criticized the Salt and Stein model for presenting migrants
as passive actors who simply follow the smugglers, thus ignoring their experiences, motivations and
impact on decisions made during the process. UNODC (see footnote 8) Pp.41.
if the second, the crime will not be committed” (Jacob).12 In other words, although
the cost-benefit from crime has been measured by its monetary profit, other
factors, such as physical, physiological and other benefits are also considered by
criminals before committing a crime.
The work of Hobbes, Beccaria, and Bentham has been of great importance in the
development of the Deterrence theory, which has 3 key elements: Severity,
certainty and celerity. Severity is important in order to discourage criminals from
committing a crime. The more sever the punishment is, the less likely it is that a
rational person would commit a crime. The second one is certainty which means
making sure the punishment will take place whenever a crime or offense has
been committed. Finally, Celerity in which timing is also an important factor, the
lower the rate of repercussion is before criminal has been convicted, the sooner
they may realize crime is not worth it (Ihekwoaba D. Onwudiwe).13
In the case of human trafficking and exploitation of refugees’ transportation,
elements, such as Severity, Certainty and Celerity don’t play a major role to deter
criminals. Due to the vulnerability of the victim and the structure of criminal
networks it is not easy to trace the trafficker and criminal organizations. This
means, abusers are more likely to commit the crime several times before being
detected. And in those cases where the criminals have already been captured, it
is still not possible to guarantee that they will be punished according to the crime
Victims of trafficking and exploitative environments are afraid to report their
abusers, even though they have escaped or already found a safe place and a
12Jacob, Anupama. “Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment” Ed. LLC Taylor & Francis Group.
School of Social Welfare, University of California at Berkley: 2011. Available at
pdf. Pp.271 – 275 13 Ihekwoaba D. Onwudiwe, Jonathan Odo and Emmanuel C. Onyeozili. Deterrence Theory. Available at
marisluste.files.wordpress.com/2010/11/deterrence-theory.pdf. Pp. 235
new life. Victims are afraid that by coming forward and providing information to
the authorities, the abusers may find them and take reprisals against them or their
families, endangering their new life and stability.
Criminals, especially those who part of organized crime groups, make rational
decisions and choices based on the monetary profit, and the punishment they
may face. By profiling their victims’ vulnerability and taking advantage of it,
criminals, try to minimize the risks of detection, apprehension, conviction and the
severity of punishment.
2.3 Migration networks and personal motivators
Personal motivation, social backgrounds, contacts, gender, networks and the
ability to source vital information, play an important role in refugee’s migration
process. At the same time, this serves as a tool for both traffickers and organized
criminal entities to target and profile their victims.
Everett Lee postulates that migration is the result of an individual’s calculation,
based on the advantages and disadvantages of the destination country while
considering factors, such as personal contacts and sources of information
(Pichè).14 In the case of those migrants, such as refuges, the role of networks is
Boyd and Nowak address three core types of migrant networks: labour networks,
family and personal networks, and illegal migrant networks. Traditionally some of
these networks are believed to be stronger than others: for example, family`s
networks, are considered to be more relevant than illegal migrant networks, which
are believed to be the weakest, as is based on common cultures, ethnicities, or
14 Piché, Victor and Dutreuilh, Catriona. “Contemporary Migration Theories as Reflected in their Founding
Texts” (English Edition, 2002-). Vol. 68, No. 1 (January-March 2013). Institut National d’Etudes
Démographiques. http://www.jstor.org/stable/42778388. Pp. 144-148
transitory friendships (King).15 This approach provided by Boyd and Nowak is
necessary to understand how migrants can create and even maintain social ties
with other migrants, family, non-migrants and different migration stakeholders as
smugglers or facilitators.
“Illegal migrant networks generate a sense of mutual trust or empathy and
thereby result in bonds”.16 Smugglers and migration facilitators are part of the
illegal network and migrants who are still trapped in conflict zones, inform
themselves not only about them, but also as to which countries are politically
friendly to asylum seekers. Considering aspects, such as their culture, the
language, and what can be expected as an individual and as a member of the
host countries society. Therefore, the most relevant information migrants can
source, is that of past migration experiences from relatives, friends or other peers
in a similar situation in order to decide where to go and how to accomplish this.
Furthermore, Stephen Castles points out, “migrant’s networks can lead to a
reduction of economic, social and psychological costs of migration” (Studies).17
and complementary to this, Palloni also refers to networks as a helping factor in
the reduction of both the costs and the risks associated to migration, leading to
an increase of the migration benefits.18
Just as migration networks may serve as facilitators, they may also do it in benefit
of criminals and exploiters. According to Skeldon, numerous reports on human
trafficking, confirmed the existence of smuggling networks often linked to criminal
15 King, Russell. “Theories and Typologies of Migration: an overview and a primer.” Willy Brandt Series of
Working Papers in International Migration and Ethnic Relations 3/12 . Ed. Erica Righard. Malmö: Malmö
Institute for Studies of Migration, Diversity and Welfare (MIM) Malmö University, March 2012. Pp.22 16 (See Footnote 15) Pp. 22 17 Studies, Migration. Migration Studies. Studies Blog. Vers. Migrant Network Theory. September 9th
2016. VU University Amsterdam. Available at migrationstudies1617.edublogs.org/2016/09/09/migrant-
network-theory/ 18 (See Footnote 14) Pp. 9
organizations.19 This enables organized criminal entities to identify those
refugees who are more vulnerable to exploitation, in order to use their smuggling
services to commit further crimes, as trafficking.
An understanding of the roots for the current refugee migration and how its
mobilization has evolved and changed, is key factor not only to predict the next
refugee flow trends but also to understand the new methods which may be used
in the illegal transportation of refugees. Elizabeth Fusell recognized that migration
networks contribute to understand: the dynamics of differential migration. “It helps
to predict future migration, as networks ‘reproduce’ migrants over time; and they
contribute to resolving a major theoretical distinction between the initial causes
of migration, its perpetuation and its diffusion in time and space.” (King)
Different sources of information, technological advancements, the ability to create
and establish different networks, provides the migrants with the opportunity to
actively participate in the subject of the migration process. Through constant
communication and feedback on smuggling services, migration routes and the
exchange of personal experience, migrants have the power to benefit or
undermine smugglers and trafficker’s business operations.
2.4 Elite theory: Political and social effect
Although Everett Lee refers to personal motivation as a driver for migration,
where individuals can evaluate both the advantages and disadvantages of doing
so. It’s often the case that refugees don’t really have the choice, but to leave
everything behind in order to escape violence and survive.
19 (See footnote 14) Pp. 9
Classical and current elite theorists share the ambition of explaining state
outcomes and the relationship between state and society through elite behavior.20
Elite theory is a concept which has been largely used by classical authors and
with deep roots in classical sociology. Nevertheless, different political
phenomena, such as regimen change, elite dispute power, welfare state, etc. fit
within the scope of elite theory. In the particular case of refugee migration, and
therein causes, it is relevant to reference Elite Theory in order to explain how
political changes and disruptions, the lack of democracy and poor state welfare,
may serve as drivers of conflict and forced displacement.
War and conflict in the Middle East and North African countries has been one of
the main motivators for people to flee towards Europe. According to the UNHCR,
most of the refugees who have arrived in Europe come from Syria, Afghanistan
and South Sudan21. Syria for example, has hosted one of the worst internal
conflicts in modern history since 2011, which has led to an estimated mass
exodus of 5 million citizens22. What started as a protest to an oppressive
government, ended up not only in political conflict between governmental forces,
rebels, religious, cultural ethnic and radical group, but escalated to the
involvement of the international community who provided; military resources and
weapons to the different parties already involved. (BBC).23
Castles and Miller also point out that “the recent massive shifts in global
economic, political and military power dynamics represent just such a
20 López, Matias 2013. Elite theory, Editorial Arrangement of Sociopedia.isa. Network for Studies of Social
Inequality. NIED at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. DOI:
10.1177/2056846013112Interdisciplinary. Avaiable at
www.sagepub.net/isa/resources/pdf/elitetheory.pdf. Pp. 1 21 (see footnote 1) Pp. 3 22 BBC. BBC Mundo. Vers. “7 preguntas para entender el origen de la guerra en Siria que lleva años
desangrando al país”. 15 Abril 2018. http://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-internacional-37451282. 23 (see footnote 22)
transformational change” (King).24 A position which could help to explain how the
need for a meaningful regimen change in some parts of the world has driven
countries like Syria to where they are today and with-it millions of people to flee
their countries and at the same time creates a change and a challenge for those
countries which adopt refugees.
In other words, elite theory is relevant to this investigation, as political conditions,
such as poor welfare, regime change, and regime dispute are a common
denominator of those countries with a large number of nationals obligated to flee
The integration of these 4 theories is relevant in the production of this dissertation,
in order to explain and understand the vulnerability of refugees, as well as the
factors that may drive some people to get involved in criminal activities, such as
trafficking, exploitation and the smuggling of people.
Political and social backgrounds, such as internal conflict, power disputes and
welfare could explain these motives, that often oblige people to flee their homes.
While family and migration networks are an important source of information that
can help and facilitate the migration process of refugees and potentially limit the
scope of exploitative services. This is possible by providing valuable information
during their mobilization in terms of routes, and facilitators both during the journey
and once they have arrived at the destination country.
Even though, economic factors may be the main motivator for people to get
involved in criminal activities as criminals analyze the cost-benefits of their
actions. Getting involved in a criminal activity is also a rational choice, based on
24 (See footnote 15). Pp. 19 – 20
victim profiling, evaluation of the potential risks and the economic benefits.
Migrants, specifically those forcibly displaced and looking for asylum make a
good profile victim due to their vulnerability, representing a lower risk for criminals
of being captured and prosecuted.
This chapter provides an overview of those methodologies used for the
production of this thesis. Refugee migration process and human trafficking are
topics which have been discussed for many years by academics and specific
institutions. Therefore, sources specialized in each of these topics as well as
reports which address overlaps between both issues, were implemented during
this investigation. Mostly secondary data sources have been used to analyze the
topic of research and complementary to this, primary data from interviews with
refugees in Germany have been conducted for this study.
This chapter briefly points out the research limitations, such as, lack of statistical
data and measuring numbers on refugees’ victim of trafficking, and with it the
main difficulties in collecting this information.
3.1 Qualitive methodologies
3.1.1 Documents as sources of data
Acknowledging that refugees’ migration and trafficking are sensitive topics,
official documents from different UN Agencies and governmental institutions were
used as main secondary data sources to analyze the exactitude and depth of the
Secondary information provides a deeper understanding about those theories
that have already been applied to migration, trafficking and smuggling of
migrants’ investigations, which are relevant to the subject of research and serve
as support to this dissertation.
Moreover newspapers, journal reports from official organizations containing
refugees’ testimonies have been utilized as complementary information.
3.1.2 Interview with refugee migrants
Plenty is the primary data available referring to migration Journeys and human
trafficking, such as interviews with refugees and victims of exploitative
environments, conducted by official institutions, NGO’s, Journalist, etc.
Nevertheless, the redaction of these testimonies may be influenced by the
purpose of research, writing style of the editor or source responsible for its
Therefore, conducting interviews with refugees, is of great relevance to gain a
better understanding as to how the potential group at risk feels towards the topic
of this dissertation, their feelings during their mobilization process, and their
experienced vulnerabilities. Finally, complimentary to the refugee’s personal
impressions, is important to capture their perspective as to how recipient
countries may help to improve the mobilization of asylum seekers and reduce
their risk of exposure to trafficking and exploitative environments.
3.2 Quantitative methodology
3.2.1 Official existing statistics
The statistical data presented in this thesis, has been obtained from official
reports produced by International Institutions, such as, UNODC, UNHCR, ILO,
etc. For example, UNODC has been collecting data on patterns and trends of
trafficking in persons from official, national criminal justice sources since 2003
covering more of 137 countries, (UNODC, Global report on trafficking in Persons
2016)25 Using direct methods, such as immigration enforcement data, survey
data, and administrative records as reported or detected cases “help to draw
25 UNODC. Global report on trafficking in Persons 2016. Annual Report. UNODC. Vienna: UNODC, 2016.
November 2017. Available at http://www.unodc.org/documents/data-and-
analysis/glotip/2016_Global_Report_on_Trafficking_in_Persons.pdf. Pp. 23
conclusions on the profile of the victims – their age, sex and citizenship – as well
the profile of the offenders and the forms of trafficking recorded.”26
The use of already existing statistics and estimated numbers are necessary to
analyze the current trends of trafficking environments and provides a
comprehensive overview regarding the current refugee phenomenon in Europe.
Understanding the statistics related to both topics trafficking and smuggling, is
relevant to this dissertation in order to find a correlation between both situations,
and possible migration trends that put refugees at potential risk of trafficking and
exploitative environments. Moreover, this showcases why a bigger involvement
from governments, as well as unified methods of data collection and definitions
is not only pertinent, but essential to generate a positive change in the migration
methods used by of refugees and risks exposure reduction.
3.3 Methodological issues
The collection of direct information is mostly problematic, require time and
combination of resources. Lack of work experience in the sector of investigation
and limited contacts who could procure meetings with refugee migrants in
Germany, was one of the biggest challenges of the investigation. Refugee
migrants are usually reluctant when being part of investigative research,
especially if they have been a victim of trafficking or exposed to exploitative
environments. This could be due to fear retaliation and that the information
provided could be used against them too. Therefore, establishing a relationship
of trust in a short period of time and asking the right questions during the
interviews, was crucial to obtaining information which represents an added value
for the topic of research.
26 (See footnote 24) Pp. 39
Both establishing contact with refugees, specifically victims of trafficking and
exploitation, and obtaining reliable secondary statistical data represents a great
challenge. Governments and official international organizations, such as UNHCR
and UNODC are only able to provide approximated statistical data. “Crime
statistics based on reported or detected cases have a limited use in research on
crime. Not all crimes committed are discovered or identified” (UNODC, Global
report on trafficking in Persons 2016).27 International organizations state that
exact numbers are impossible to calculate, due to the traceability of irregular
migration and trafficking which only utilizes officially reported cases. Statistics
collected from different sources, may also not be comparable due to differences
concerning the methods of data collection and the definitions of terms.
“Reporting from Member States is not uniform. Some countries only
provide data for some of the indicators included in the questionnaire. Some
report only the age of the detected victims, and some do not report the
forms of exploitation. Some authorities provide citizenship data for both
offenders and victims, and others for victims only” (UNODC, Data and
It is important to point out that despite official reports recognizing that refugee
migrants, especially children and women tend to be victims of trafficking and
exploitative situations, it was not possible to find exact statistical data or
estimates. Although both topics are continuously discussed, by academics and
professionals, research has been primarily conducted as separate issues and
27 (See Footnote 24) Pp. 39 28UNODC. “Annex I: Methodology and data coverage”. Data and analysis 2016. Available at
therefore concrete results and proposals about minimizing the risk of migrant
trafficking are limited.
3.4 Hypothesis statement
Based on primary information collected during personal interviews with refugees
as well as secondary information, both addressing topics, such as smuggling of
refugees into Europe, their potential exposure to perilous routes and even fatal
journeys; human trafficking and scenarios where both situations take place at the
same time. The next chapters aim to either refute or accept if: Only a more
inclusive commitment from recipient governments to improving the mobilization
and migration conditions of refugees can lead to their reduced potential trafficking
and exploitative environments.
Considering the statement above, the following 3 chapters, have been designed
in a way each of them address a particular part of the statement. The first chapter
aims to familiarize the reader with the topic of investigation and understand how
the mobilization of refugees could generate scenarios of trafficking, exploitative
environments and a lucrative opportunity for criminals. This lead to the second
chapter, which address how a bigger commitment of governmental bodies could
limit the creation and extension of these scenarios. Finally, the third chapter
discuss from a preventive perspective, how the empowerment of victims is a key
instrument in reducing the repetition of similar abusive and exploitative
4 Chapter 1: Mobilization of refugees the perfect opportunity for
trafficking and exploitative environments.
It is estimated that in 2015 and 2016, more than 2,5 million of people applied for
asylum in Europe, and Germany became the country with the higher number of
applications (Parliament).29 Trafficking and exploitation of refugees may take
place before, during and after asylum seekers have reached their destination
countries. Nevertheless, due to the increase in the mobilization of refugees during
the past 12 years from the middle east to Europe, mobilization of refugees with
the help of intermediaries better known as smugglers has become an activity in
high demand which according to Interpol generated a revenue between 3 to 6
billion Euros in 2015 (Europol, Migrant Smuggling in the EU).30
This chapter aims to explain why refugees are a group of high interest for OCGs
and how the use of third parties, more specifically smugglers, may be a useful
accessory tool. Creating environments suitable for exploitation and trafficking
during the mobilization of asylum seekers.
4.2 Who is a refugee?
In 1951 according to the article 1A (2) convention and Protocol relating to the
Status of Refugees. “A refugee, is person who is outside his or her country of
nationality or habitual residence; has a well-founded fear of being persecuted
because of his or her race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social
group or political opinion; and is unable or unwilling to avail him or herself of the
29 Parliament, European. Vers. EU Migrant crisis: facts and figures, Society 30.06.2017. News European
Parlament. Available at www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/headlines/society/20170629STO78630/eu-
migrant-crisis-facts-and-figures 30 If the scale of the current migration crisis persists in the upcoming years, this turnover is set to double
or triple. Europol. “Migrant Smuggling in the EU.” February 2016. Available at
protection of that country, or to return there, for fear of persecution” (UNHCR,
Convention and Protocol Relating to Status of Refugees)
A broader definition of refugee is included in UNHCR’s Statute. Extending
international protection to persons fleeing indiscriminate effects of generalized
violence or events seriously disrupting the public order, which do not fulfil the
requirements of a refugee according to the 1951 Convention (UNODC, Global
report on trafficking in Persons 2016).
Internally displaced people (IDP’s) are also placed among the most vulnerable
people in the world. IDP’s are forced to flee his or her home because of the
persecution of war or violence. Unlike refugees, IDP’s don’t cross borders to
preserve life or freedom. According to UNCHR “They are on the run at home”
meaning, they stay within their own country and remain under the protection of
its government, even if that government is the reason for their displacement
(UNHCR, Internally Displaced People).
4.3 what is the difference between smuggling and trafficking?
Smuggling of migrants is not the same as trafficking. UNODC defines “Trafficking
in Persons as 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, 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” (UNODC, Human Trafficking) while migrant smuggling, is “the
procurement for financial or other material benefit of illegal entry of a person into
a State of which that person is not a national or resident” (UNODC, Migrant
Taking into consideration both definitions, the difference between smuggling and
trafficking, is that while smuggling involves crossing borders with people who
agree to be mobilized, the contract between the smuggler and the client normally
ends at the destination. Trafficking does not necessary imply crossing borders,
but people victim to it, do not agree or if they do it is under false pretenses.
Nevertheless, a migrant who has been smuggled can fall victim to trafficking or
exploitative environments, but abuse or extreme violence without reason does
not constitute exploitation by itself (HRW).31
4.4 Desperation and limited choices
Both lack of time and resources while trying to cross international borders, make
the use of intermediaries, such as smugglers the only option for refugees.
Different to what the civil society believes to know, refugees don’t have too much
time to prepare for their journeys, and neither do they cross borders and come to
Europe by themselves. It is estimated that 90% of the refugees who arrived in
Europe had help by hiring intermediary services.32
31Human Rights Watch. Smuggling and trafficking human beings. 7 July 2015. Available at
www.hrw.org/news/2015/07/07/smuggling-and-trafficking-human-beings. 32 (see footnote 30) Pp. 13
Figure 1: Refugees crossing the Mediterranean Sea
Photo: Amar, Iraqi refugee
“When I hired the smuggler, who would take me from Iraq to Greece, he
told me I would be first in a small car and then in a boat with 15 people
from Turkey to Greece. Truth is, I ended in a small van with 40 people and
over 60 people in a boat.”33
Amar, 25 years old from Iraq.
Source: Personal Interview.
“I was told there would be 15 people on the boat and there were over 40!”
Samir, from Afghanistan, Refugee in Germany.
Source: Personal interview
Taking into consideration both testimonies and other interviews recorded by
official reports, such as caritas Europe, it could be say that although most of
refugees are aware of the risks of illegal migration at the time of hiring smuggling
services, most of them are also misinformed about the details of the journey.
According to Europol, “OCGs involved in migrant smuggling have been known to
use the threat of kidnapping in order to extort debt payments (Europol, SOCTA).34
However, at the end of the day, once the desperation and the need to stay alive
becomes the priority, checking those details is no longer important as long there
is a chance to survive and escape war or violence.
“It was either leaving or stay and getting killed
These are the words of Samir a refugee in Germany who had to leave
Afghanistan within days after the Taliban threatened to kill him if he decided to
stay in the country.
33 Amar has provided a personal picture as support to his interview. This picture was taken while he and
other refugees were crossing the Mediterranean Sea (from Turkey to Greece). 34 (See footnote 10) Pp. 16
4.5 Why is trafficking and exploitation of refugees a lucrative and
profitable business model?
Having an exact number of refugees in onwards Journeys is a big challenge for
official agencies and governments, and at the same time a great opportunity for
organized crime and traffickers.
Traffickers and smugglers are rational human beings, who evaluate the risks, the
potential economic benefits, the vulnerability of their victims and how to make use
of it.35 Driven by desperation, the imminent need to flee their country and a limited
record of those migrants illegally crossing borders, makes refugees the perfect
target for organized criminal organizations to exploit.
“I never felt safe, I never really knew where exactly I was going or if I will
make it to the next place”
Organized criminal networks involved in other crimes, such as drug trafficking,
may as well provide smuggling services, by taking advantage of those routes for
goods trafficking to the mobilization of people. Whereas transporting drugs and
goods requires the trafficker’s presence at all times, in the special case of
refugees this is not the case. According to Samir, his smuggler worked as part of
a compartmentalized group, where different persons are involved in a specific
part of the mobilization process. Meaning, that each time someone different
would take him to a certain location; afterwards he would have to continue his
journey with just a map and the instructions that this person gave to him and at
some point, someone else would meet him again.
“I only saw him once, he took me in his car somewhere, gave me a map
and the instructions how to continue. I never saw him again”
35 (See Footnote 7)
However, not all refugees make it to their destination. There are also those who
die on the way, as well as those who simply disappear. Organized criminal
networks and traffickers can use smuggling services as a cover to also deceive
their victims, often transporting them to alternative locations or selling them to
other criminal networks, such as terrorist groups.
“There was a girl, the last time the family heard from her was in Turkey
and after they made the payment, they didn’t hear from her again. After
some months, ISIS tried to sell her back to the family due to her health
During his interview Amal also mentioned in some occasions Smuggling services
are also used by terrorist groups, such as ISIS, who not only infiltrate their
members into the smuggling process to reach Europe,36 but also use smugglers
to buy people that are supposed to arrive in Europe. Terrorist groups tends
purchase children, girls and women from smugglers for soldier recruitment and
sexual exploitation (UNODC, Handbook on Children Recruited and Exploited by
Terrorist and Violent Extremist Groups).37
“It depends on the age, gender and physic condition, but smugglers may
sell them for 20 Euro to terrorist groups and once they are sick or in bad
condition, they tried them to sell them back to the family for a much higher
price they know families cannot afford.”
36 According to Europol, Recent investigations have revealed that terrorist groups have made use of
migrant smuggling networks to allow their operatives to enter the EU. (See footnote 10) Pp. 55 37 UNODC. Handbook on Children Recruited and Exploited by Terrorist and Violent Extremist Groups.
Vienna: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 2017. Document. Available
Pp. 10 -15
In November 2015, a joint operation between Spanish and Polish law
enforcement authorities, coordinated by Europol, revealed the operation
of a migrant smuggling network exploiting irregular migrants from Pakistan
in restaurants in Spain. Irregular migrants were forced to work long hours
in appalling conditions without salary, holiday or social security to repay
their debts to smugglers for the travel and provision of fraudulent
documents. The migrant smugglers used the criminal proceeds to invest
in new restaurants, which were also used for the exploitation of irregular
migrants. (Europol, SOCTA)38
Both examples, showcase how smugglers and organized criminal networks are
in complete control once a refugee hires their services. Just as they may be able
to sell people to terrorist groups; Organized Crime Groups involved in smuggling
and trafficking activities, can easily double their profit. Charging a transportation
fee for a journey which may never be completed, in form of human trafficking or
keeping the refugees against their will in form of debt bondage.
4.6 Borders closed, higher smuggling fees
Before European countries closed their borders, refugees would pay for
smuggling services only until the first European country they arrived in, such as
Greece or Italy, and afterwards continued their journeys either with the help of
local force or humanitarian organizations. However, after the borders were closed
and the new policy enforced that asylum applications should be filed in the first
country of arrival,39 refugees have been obligated to pay higher smuggling
38 (see footnote 10) Pp. 53 39 The large-scale, uncontrolled arrival of migrants and asylum seekers has put a strain not only on many
Member States’ asylum systems, but also on the Common European Asylum System as a whole, which
establishes the Member State responsible for examining an asylum application based primarily on the
first point of irregular entry European Commission, Migration and Home Affairs. Country responsible for
asylum application (Dublin). Available at https://ec.europa.eu/home-affairs/what-we-
do/policies/asylum/examination-of-applicants_en (Last update: 31/05/2018)
service fees, as they now need assistance to arrive at their desired destination
country to not get stuck in transit countries indefinitely.
This new situation creates an optimal condition for organized crime groups
already established in Europe to take over smuggling operations, as traditional
local smugglers with a limited network may not be able to effectively procure the
transport of people within Europe.
“OCGs involved in THB also continue to exploit asylum provisions in order
to traffic non-EU nationals into the EU. On many occasions, victims are
provided with fraudulent documents to conceal their real identity and age.”
One of the traditional methods for traffickers to control their victims is by retaining
their original documentation and providing a false documentation (Europol,
SOCTA).40 To mobilize people in Europe, a provision of false documents may be
necessary, allowing organized criminal networks to take full control of the
situation while retaining the original ID of the refugees with no guarantee to return
“The fees for the forged documents ranged from EUR 100 to EUR 3,000 per piece
depending on the quality, type and country of issue.” (Europol, SOCTA) In some
cases, forging documents and smuggling fees may be higher than what refugees
and their families might be able to pay, allowing traffickers and criminal
organizations to identify potential victims for debt bonds.
Finally, as a result of the migration crisis, the number of unaccompanied minors
(UM) in the EU has significantly increased in recent years (Europol, SOCTA).
40 Sexual exploitation victims originating from outside the EU are still routinely subjected to
violence, debt bondage, passport confiscation and other forms of coercion as an integral part
of trafficking modi operandi. (See footnote 10) Pp. 52
This last group is especially vulnerable to all types of exploitation, such as debt
bondage, forced labour, whereby they are consistently underpaid, or sexually
exploited. Due to their condition, UM require not only a greater protection but
faster response from governments and international agencies in their legalization
4.7 Conclusions and recommendations
The following conclusions and recommendations have been drawn based on the
investigations addressed in this chapter and considering the opinion and
perspective from the interviewed refugees.
• The lack of regular migration possibilities for refugees to come to Europe,
created a need, demand and with it a business opportunity for smuggling
services providers and organized criminal groups. Refugees’ vulnerability and
inherit lack of traceability, makes them the perfect target for smugglers and
organized criminal groups.
• Although drug trafficking is one of the largest and most profitable illegal
business,41 in recent years human trafficking seems to be a more attractive
and lucrative business than the trafficking of drugs and other goods.
• The ability of smugglers to use the same routes for the mobilization of people
as well as for goods and drugs, maximize their profit opportunity whilst
minimizing their risk. Therefore, to prevent both human trafficking and the
import of such illegal goods, governments must to be able to identify these
networks and routes.
• Governments should guarantee and assure victims of trafficking and
exploitation, that justice will be served. Or else, crimes committed will continue
41 The EU retail drug market is estimated to be worth at least EUR 24 billion a year. (See footnote 10) Pp.
if the risks and the probability for punishment are much lower than the
business opportunity. Meaning as long there is not celerity, Severity and
certainty, repercussion of these crimes, they will not only continue but most
• Talking about prevention of possible trafficking and exploitative environments
will be further discussed in the next chapter. Nevertheless, it is important for
governments to set effective conviction and impose adequate punishment for
criminals involved in the exploitation of migrants, indifferent of where the crime
took place. Otherwise the criminal has an advantage not only by using the
psychological weakness of refugee migrants to create fear and intimidation
but also a legal advantage within the international system.
5 Chapter 2: THE ROLE OF RECEIPIENT COUNTRIES TO IMPROVE THE
CURRENT REFUGEE MIGRATION CONDITIONS AND ENSURE THEIR
“Take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end
modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and
elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use
of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms.” (UN)42
In September 2015, 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) were set by the
United Nations. Within the context of this dissertation, Sustainable Development
Goal 8, and its target 8.7 which is mentioned above, its significantly relevant.
Nevertheless, in order to be able to achieve this goal, it is necessary a
commitment from all stakeholders, including: the private sector, civil society and
Although refugee migrants may have the opportunity to apply formal asylum in
Europe, regular migration options are not exactly provided by governments. This
chapter aims to explain, how this situation leads asylum seekers to use the help
of intermediaries and irregular migration process without guarantees. A condition
that instead of ending modern slavery, could drive the expansion of unsafe routes
and exploitative environments.
5.2 A Big Challenge, A greater Commitment
The illegal entry of refugees in Europe has become one of the biggest topic of
concern of central governments and the European parliament, leading to major
42UN. Sustainable development goals. September 2015. Available at
political speeches about politics and regulations pro or against refugees. One of
the main discussions, is how safe it is to accept asylum applications and the
implications of doing so for the economic and social national environment. It is a
reality, that due to the large scale of refugees trying to enter European countries,
it has become a challenge for governments to deliver proper short-term solutions
but refusing the entry of refugee migrants is neither an option.
The European parliament estimates that 2,5 million people formally applied for
asylum in 2015 and 2016 (Parliament),43 where Europol considers that around
90% of the refugees used the services of intermediaries (Europol, Migrant
Smuggling in the EU).44 This means that approximately 2.250.000 refugees who
formally applied for asylum, used the services of smugglers to get to Europe and
had no other choice than enter illegally while risking their lives.
“The question is not why we come to Europe, but why do we have to
leave in first place”
Recipient countries obligations toward asylum seekers, should not begin and
neither end by granting a formal refugee status. Governments who are willing to
receive refugees and the international community as an act of responsibility to
the world, should promote regular migration possibilities for those who are forced
to flee their countries. If leaving is the only chance to survive and escape violence,
and intermediaries are the only option to migrate, refugees will keep using
smugglers and organized criminal entities services to reach their destination
indifferent of the risks and lack of guarantees it may represents.
43 (See Footnote 28) 44 (See Footnote 29) Pp. 13
“When ISIS finally reached our city, we had to scape our hometown. We
lived in a refugee camp in Iraq, but after 16 months of living there I
couldn’t stand it anymore, the situation was just unbearable”
This is the situation many refugees from countries like Iraq, who while living in
refugee camps, decide to continue their journey with the help of smugglers. But
why after being under UN Agencies protection, is irregular migration their only
option? Although the UNHCR may have some refugee camps in middle east, the
living conditions are everything but ideal. Refugees argue that allocated funds
are not enough, lack of food and poor sanitary conditions increase the internal
conflicts and the longer they are there, the more they want to leave. For example,
from the $245 million Regional Winter Assistance Plan 2017/2018 only 26% was
covered by October 2017 (UNHCR, UNHCR)45. Moreover, it must not be ignored
that many of those refugees, as Amal, are people who wants to continue their
life, their studies, have a future and a real chance to live away from conflict and
staying at provisional refugee camps doesn’t fit that view.
Just as the funds are not always fully provided on time, which inevitably lead to
lack of provisions and poor humanitarian aid, neither governments nor
international agencies have been able to elaborate an efficient plan to procure
regular and safe migration options, even for those refugees who are already living
in provisional camps.
As long as refugees do not receive assistance from the legal sector, illegal
sources will not always be an option, but the only option. Therefore, talking about
prevention of trafficking and exploitation of refugee migrants is a big challenge,
45 UNHCR. “Millions of refugees at risk in the Middle East as winter funds dwindle”. October 3th 2017.
which also requires an even greater compromise. As one of the few possibilities
to reduce smuggling business and exploitative environments in the mobilization
of refugees, is a real commitment from governments and the private legal sector.
Meaning governments, private sector and public society are all somewhat
responsible, and must be willing to make some investment if their commitment is
5.3 Conclusions and Recommendations
The conclusions below, are a summary of the research in terms of current
measures implemented by governments regarding the migration process of
asylum seekers. Its effectiveness, flaws and current commitment of the pertinent
• The commitment towards refugees is a responsibility which should start
with the international community procuring and securing peace in those
regions in conflict, preventing people to leave their countries in first place.
• Refugee camps should not be implemented as a permanent but as
temporary solution. It is not realistic and neither aligned to the 17 SDG to
expect asylum seekers to live for long periods of time in refugee shelters,
and even less under poor living conditions. In other words, by keeping
asylum seekers in refugee camps for long periods of time, governments
and UN Agencies may be working pro SDG but at the same time contrary
• Poor living conditions in transit refugees` camps, creates once again a
business opportunity for Organized Crime Groups, who not only appeal to
the desperation of refugees in their home countries, but also to those
residing base camps in transit countries, as after several months living in
containers with limited resources people are desperate to leave and start
a new life.
• If combating terrorism, organized crime and smuggling activities is a real
and global compromise, governments needs to get involved efficiently and
actively in the mobilization of people. As long as the international
community does not provide alternative legal options, illegal solutions will
always be an option, a profitable business and flourish with all the
conditions to operate.
The following recommendations are based on the findings of the research. Taking
into consideration the answer and opinion of refugees regarding measures
governments could implement to improve their mobilization process
• Although Governments are obligated to protect refugees based on the
convention and Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees from 1951,46
refugees safety requires a major involvement of governments. Therefore,
getting involved in their mobilization processes and implementing
strategies, such as a transportation visa fee for a secure and legal passage
to Europe (cheaper and safer than smuggling fees), procured by state
entities and financed by the refugees themselves could work as a legal
• By providing legal migration solutions, central governments may also have
bigger control about who enters their country. For example, identify who
are legitimate asylum seekers and who may be criminals using the
situation to their benefit will lead to better homeland security and public
opinion on refugee politics.
46 (See Footnote 6)
6 Chapter 3: EMPOWERMENT, A KEY INSTRUMENT TO THE
PREVENTION OF ABUSIVE AND EXPLOITATIVE ENVIRONMENTS
“Wir schaffen das” or as it is known in English “We can do it” was the message
from the chancellor Angela Merkel in 2015, when Germany decided to open their
borders and welcome in new refugees. In 2015 and 2016, Germany became the
European country where more new Asylum applications were received, and
according to the German newspaper Spiegel, in 2016 the German government
spent more than 14 billion Euros to integrate refugees into the country.47
The purpose of this chapter is to analyze and stress the relevance of integration
programs for refugees in order to adapt to recipient countries. Using
empowerment as a key instrument to help asylum seekers move forward and at
the same time preventing exploitative situations of happening to other future
6.2 After arriving at their destination country
Refugee migrants are most likely to endure extreme and difficult conditions before
arriving to their destination countries. However, arriving at the destination country
does not necessarily mean all difficulties are over. Language barriers, cultural
differences, and paperwork are some of the many challenges refugees may face
at their respective recipient countries.
“Thanks to mama Uschi, I have a house and a job now”
47 Djahangard, Susan; Elger, Katrin; Elmer, Christina; Olbrisch, Miriam; Schaible, Jonas; Schlossarek,
Mirjam and Schmidt, Nico (2017.May 12). Integrating refugees in Germany. Spiegel. Retrieved from
Whenever refugees arrive in Germany, they are initially put in reception centers,
where they receive their basic needs (shelter, food, sanitary services, etc.) in time
their registration process is completed, and asylum application forms are
approved. Nevertheless, to get all the paperwork properly done, as well as the
country specific basic information, a system support is necessary. “Hilfenkreise”
in English support organizations, could be defined as volunteers who help
refugees properly settle in Germany, by providing them with advice regarding
integration courses, housing and legal advice for the procurement of their asylum
Refugees in Germany are entitled to visit “integration courses” for free once their
asylum request has been approved. During these courses, refugees not only
learn German, but also learn basic civic and cultural behaviors typical of the
country (to narrow their cultural gap and facilitate their adaptation to their new
surroundings). Integration courses not only provide language and civic courses,
but also prepare refugees to step forward into a working or educational
environment as a fundamental part of their complete integration into the country.
Several low skilled jobs are mostly reserved for migrants, especially for those
without an academic degree recognized in the country of arrival. Nevertheless,
assuring asylum seekers integration, also means that jobs for refugees should
not be limited to low skilled employment opportunities. Just as integration courses
prepare refugees for a working and educational environment, companies and
education centers should provide possibilities for refugees to access them and
enable them to develop their professional potential.
“Before leaving Iraq I was supposed to attend University there, now, here
there are so many options I don’t even know what to choose”
6.3 Feeling safe again
Most of the refugees who arrive in Germany, although noticing the cultural
difference, like the living conditions the country provides. This is mainly because
they feel safe. Nevertheless, due to the difficult and special circumstances
refugees must endure in their home countries, during the migration mobilization
and even after they arrived at their destination, refugees hardly communicate with
people they don’t know.
Although refugees have their own private network which is made up of friends,
families and people who experienced similar situations; getting to open up,
communicate and establish private networks with nationals of the recipient
countries also represents a challenge for many refugees and official agencies.
Victims of trafficking and exploitation are the most important resource for the legal
system to trace and prosecute organized criminal groups. Nonetheless, after
experiencing abusive and conflict situations, victims may not be willing to talk as
they may fear retaliation. Becoming one of the biggest difficulties for agencies
and governments to get insightful and meaningful information about smugglers
and the traffickers’ networks. Thus, it is fundamental for them to rebuild the trust
in themselves, in strangers and in the system. Refugees need to be provided with
the tools that empower them not only to feel safe, but to fight for justice against
those who jeopardized their wellbeing.
6.4 Conclusions and Recommendations
The following conclusions and recommendations have been elaborated
considering the opinion of those refugees interviewed in Germany, their
integration experiences in the country and their opinion regarding official entities
and the legal system
• Most of the refugees who have managed to get a place to live (out of the
reception centers), a job and their asylum requests approved, agree that
without the support organizations (or in German “Hilfenkreise”) this would
not have been possible.
• Integration courses are not only designed to learn a language and the
culture of the country, but for refugees to have a normal life. Integration
programs for refugees should bring personal growth opportunities for
migrants, safety and stability for nationals while at the same time
contribute to the sustainable growth and development of the country.
• The undermining of refugees creates the perfect environment for
organized crime to leverage refugee’s poor conditions by offering them
exploitative or illegal jobs which could not only threat their wellbeing but
also their legal status in the country of residence.
• Although integration courses are essential for refugee acclimation, it is
also necessary to create education and training opportunities inside the
companies, where asylum seekers can further develop their careers and
• Traffickers and organized criminal groups, not only leverage refugees’
vulnerability, but cover their tracks by creating environments where they
can instigate fear and reduce the ability of the victims to ever feel safe
again. Therefore, empowerment is a key element to rebuild self-
confidence of victims of abusive environments.
• Victims of violence and exploitation are the best chance for governments
and law enforcement to get inside intelligence on organized criminal
networks. Which can only be achieved through empowering the victims,
teaching them to recognize the rights and the promotion of them within
their communities. In order to prevent similar situations from repeating
without any consequences for the perpetrators.
In a world of millions of people forcibly displaced, an escalating refugee crisis and
Organized Crime Groups willing to exploit the vulnerability of those migrants in
distress. Refugees` vulnerability, starts since the moment they are forced to flee
their homes and does not end with their arrival at the destination country.
In order to be able to reach SDG targets (as target 8.7), provide an effective
protection of refugees and reduce the possibility of operations for OCGs, a bigger
commitment from governments is required. A commitment that goes beyond
asylum status approval and does not limit to those basic standards for the
treatment of refugees established during the Convention and protocol relating to
status of refugees.
Therefore, it is necessary for governments to get involve in every step concerning
the mobilization process of refugees. Starting by offering legal migration
alternatives, to better living conditions at refugees’ camps without prejudice of a
more agile process for their further mobilization. This could lead to reduce hiring
facilitators services and with it the use of illegal migration paths and the reduction
of exploitative and trafficking environments.
Finally, offering comprehensive programs that support refugees in their
integration process and providing empowerment and legal instruments which
help them to feel safe and confident again, could lead to report abusive situations.
Helping international institutions and prosecuting systems to have a better
traceability of OCGs and with it increase their apprehension and prosecution
rates, preventing them from operating again.
8 ANNEX 1: INTERVIEWS WITH REFUGEES
Interviews with two refugees who are currently living in Germany were conducted
within the research purpose of this dissertation. To protect their identity, their
original name has been modified and any evidence, or recording taking place
during the interviews will be destroyed after the thesis has been properly handle
to the University.
25 years old and originally from Iraq, has been living in Germany since 2016. He
was forced to leave his home after ISIS took over his city. He resided in a refugee
camp in Iraq for several months before hiring smugglers services to get to
Europe. He is now looking forward to starting university studies in Germany and
his family is also residing in Germany.
26 years old and originally from Afghanistan, has been living in Germany since
2016. He was forced by the Taliban to flee his country and leave his family behind.
He was 3 months on his way to Europe crossing by foot countries, such as
Pakistan and Iran. Samir is now a trainee and looks forward to developing his
professional career in Germany.
A copy of this paper will be provided to both of them and the person who kindly
procured the meetings.
9 ANNEX 2: FIGURES TABLE
Figure 1: Refugees crossing the Mediterranean Sea …………………………………. 28
10 ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY
BBC. BBC Mundo. Vers. 7 preguntas para entender el origen de la guerra
en Siria que lleva años desangrando al país. April 15, 2018. Available at
This article, originally in Spanish, describes the background and development of
the conflict in Syria, which has led to a massive exodus. The article is used as a
support to the Elite theory. Theory that address how political disruptions, lack of
democracy and poor state welfare are all reasons for people to cross borders and
look for protection outside their country of nationality.
Djahangard, Susan; Elger, Katrin; Elmer, Christina; Olbrisch, Miriam;
Schaible, Jonas; Schlossarek, Mirjam and Schmidt, Nico (2017.May 12).
Integrating refugees in Germany. Spiegel. Retrieved from
“Spiegel” is a well-known German newspaper. One of its articles in May 2017,
refers to, the German government spent in 2016 to integrate refugees and some
details regarding the shelter living conditions, etc. The article provides an
overview about what is working well and what is not concerning those projects on
course aiming for a better integration of asylum seekers in the country.
Europol public information. “Migrant Smuggling in the EU.” February 2016
Due to the migration crisis which has significantly escalated since 2015, criminal
networks have exploited the vulnerability of migrants and with it their involvement
in migrant smuggling activities. This is in part due to the profitability of smuggling
and human trafficking. Europol report provides estimates in regards the
percentage of people using facilitators to travel to EU, as well as an estimation of
the profitability and turnover for smuggling services in 2015. This report also
points to criminal networks offering a broad range of facilitation services, and that
the scalation of exploitation for these services could increase in the coming years.
Europol. Serious and organized crime threat assessment (SOCTA). The
Hague, Netherlands: European Police Office, 2017
This report reviews the dynamic that shapes the serious and organized crime in
the European Union. Providing statistical data and information concerning the
drivers of organized crime and its trends. The report also assesses organized
crime in terms of violence and extorsion, document fraud, trafficking in human
beings and migrant smuggling as a daily business.
Moreover, the inform gives several examples on the dismantling of Organized
Crime Groups, involved in the perpetuation of several crimes at the same time,
as it is the case of smuggling and human trafficking.
Human Rights Watch. Smuggling and trafficking human beings. 7 July
2015. Available at www.hrw.org/news/2015/07/07/smuggling-and-
trafficking-human-beings. (Last accessed March 10th, 2018).
Human Rights Watch website, provides in its section News an article that
answers to questions, such as what is smuggling, what is trafficking, the key
difference between both and when both crimes can take place at the same time.
To understand when refugees are victims of trafficking and why they are special
vulnerable to it, is relevant to understand concepts as smuggling, trafficking and
Ihekwoaba D. Onwudiwe, Jonathan Odo, and Emmanuel C. Onyeozili.
Deterrence theory: Severity, certainty, and celerity of punishment.
Available at https://marisluste.files.wordpress.com/2010/11/deterrence-
This document reviews the theory of deterrence which was developed from the
work of Hobbes, Beccaria, and Bentham while exploring its three individual
components Severity, certainty, and celerity of punishment. Moreover, the
document explores the relevance of modern deterrence research in criminology
law and criminal justice systems. Therefore, this document is used as a support
to the criminal theory addressed in this dissertation, on how involvement of
criminal activities including those with migrant mobilization is a rational choice,
where criminals consider and evaluate the risk of punishment.
International Labour Organization. Global Estimates of Modern Slavery:
Forced labour and forced marriage. Geneva: 2017.
The annual report provided by ILO in 2017, provides a global overview in regards
to the number of people who currently live under modern slavery conditions.
According to ILO, this definition includes forced labour and forced marriage.
Additionally, it helps to identify the demographic distribution of the victims, based
on age, gender and countries were cases were reported or detected.
IOM. World migration report 2018. Year Report. International Organization
for Migration. Geneva: 2018.
Since 2000, IOM has been producing world migration reports to contribute to an
increased understanding of migration throughout the world. The world migration
report in 2018, includes topics, such as how migration is changing, the worldwide
overview of number and trends of migration, etc. For this dissertation, it is
relevant, that the reports recognize that collecting global-level-data regarding
smuggling and trafficking of people on the move is limited and therefore a
Jacob, Anupama. “Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment”
Ed. LLC Taylor ; Francis Group. School of Social Welfare, University of
California at Berkley: 2011. Available at
The author reviews economic models of crime and how these theories of crime
are based on a rational model. The author utilizes previous theories proposed by
classical philosophers, such as Bentham and Beccaria. In essence, the author
studies concepts, such as “opportunity cost” of crime within the context of making
King, Russell. Theories and Typologies of Migration: an overview and a
primer. Willy Brandt Series of Working Papers in International Migration
and Ethnic Relations 3/12 . Ed. Erica Righard. Malmö: Malmö Institute for
Studies of Migration, Diversity and Welfare (MIM) Malmö University: March
Russell king analyses in his working paper concepts and theories, such as the
system and networks and their relation to the migration processes. Russell refers
to other authors as Boyd to explain that networks have a different grade of
relevance and that they may have a positive function. This approach is highly
relevant in a world that is extremely interconnected, where technological
advances enable a fast and simultaneous flow of information between all actors
involved in mobilization process of migrants.
López, Matias 2013. Elite theory, Editorial Arrangement of Sociopedia.isa.
Network for Studies of Social Inequality. NIED at the Federal University of
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. DOI: 10.1177/2056846013112Interdisciplinary.
Avaiable at www.sagepub.net/isa/resources/pdf/elitetheory.pdf.
This article explores comtemporary elite theory. Presenting classical concepts,
contemporary challenges and trends of it. Moreover it also adresses topics as
elite origins of democracy and elite origins of the welfare state, within others.
Parliament, European. European Parliament. Vers. News European
Parlament. 30 06 2017. Available at
The european parliament website, provides statistics concerning the flow of
refugees migrants into Europe from 2015 until early 2017. This Data provides an
overview in regards to the EU budget established for the migration crisis, the
number of asylum request positive respond and number of illegal migrants
present in Europe. This information is relevant to establish a statistical base of
the potential number of asylum seekers inEurope that are vulnerable to
exploitative and trafficking situations.
Piché, Victor and Dutreuilh, Catriona. “Contemporary Migration Theories as
Reflected in their Founding Texts” (English Edition, 2002-). Vol. 68, No. 1
(January-March 2013). Institut National d’Etudes Démographiques.
Available at http://www.jstor.org/stable/42778388. Pp. 144 – 148.
The authors explore the contemporary migration theories and analize the origin
and causes of migration. From a micro individual approach, the authors refer to
Everett Lee and his theory as to how personal motivations are drivers for
migration. They also take into consideration macro structural approaches to
expalin migration patterns in terms of a systmen of multiple flows. Moreover, the
paper also reviews a gender approach, migration networks, migration effects,
migration policies etc. Each of these aspects helps to understand why people
leave their countries and the consequences this may have not only for migrants
but also for receipients and origin countries economically, socially and politically.
Studies, Migration. Migration Studies. Studies Blog. Vers. Migrant Network
Theory. September 9th 2016. Available at
This article, refers to Castles to explain how networks could reduce the economic
costs of migration, which at the same time could increase the probability of
migration processes. Moreover the article points out, that network theory could
help to explain patterns in migration flows, which can not be explained by other
already existing theories.
Thozama, Mandisa Lutya and Mark, Lanier (2012). An Integrated Theoretical
Framework to Describe Human Trafficking of Young Women and Girls for
Involuntary Prostitution, Public Health – Social and Behavioral Health. Prof.
Jay Maddock (Ed.), ISBN: 978-953-51-0620-3, InTech, Available at
This paper reviews different theoretic perspectives which once integrated, could
help to explain human trafficking scenarios. By approaching rational, demand and
economic theories, the paper evaluates behaviors, such as the purchase of sex,
prostitution and the relationship between the victim and the criminal.
United Nations. Sustainable development goals. 2015. Available at
https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg8. (Last accessed May 15, 2018)
United Nations established through its 2030 Agenda 17 Sustainable development
goals (SDG’s) and 169 targets. Target 8.7 is of great relevance as it addresses
measures to reduce forced labour and end of human trafficking. The 2030 agenda
also recognizes that the involvement and participation of all countries,
stakeholders and people is necessary to achieve the established goals. In the
context of this paper, it is important that the international agenda recognizes the
imperative need to tackle topics, such as trafficking, exploitation, and implement
strategies to limit its scope.
UNHCR. “Convention and protocol relating to status of refugees.”
December 2010. Ed. UNHCR. Available at http://www.unhcr.org/3b66c2aa10
(Last accessed May 7, 2018)
The Convention and Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees in 1951, not only
defines who is a refugee, it also consolidates instruments and provides a
codification relating to refugees’ rights and protection at an international level. For
the reader it is important to understand who a refugee is, who is not a refugee,
and what rights they are entitled to indifferent of the established basic standards
for the treatment of refugees. However, this does not prejudice states to provide
them a better treatment and instruments for refugee protection.
UNHCR. GLOBAL TRENDS – Forced Displacement in 2016. Annual Report.
Geneva: UNHCR, 2017. Document. www.unhcr.org/statistics
This report does a review regarding the trends and flow of the number of people
which is believed to be forcibly displaced by end of 2016. It also provides data
regarding the number of asylum seekers, internally displaced people and
countries which registered the most number of refugees, or receptions of asylum
applications, etc. The report allows to have a comprehensive overview as how
statistics has changed over the years, and the current situation the world face in
regards the number of people forcibly displaced. It is necessary to understand
the challenges the situation represent for each affected country and for the
UNHCR. Vers. Millions of refugees at risk in the Middle East as winter funds
dwindle. 03 de Octubre de 2017.
This article discusses those challenges that refugee’ camps in middle east face
and the critical living conditions of refugees there. Moreover, it also exposed how
budgets are not totally provided, which compromises the situation even more. Is
important to refer to this article, as one of the reason for refugees to leave UNHCR
camps is the difficult living conditions there, driving them to use help of
intermediaries to continue their journeys regardless of being in an official and safe
UNODC. “Annex I: Methodology and data coverage”. Data and analysis
2016. Available at http://www.unodc.org/documents/data-and
UNODC web page data and analysis, provides access to documents, which
contains detailed information regarding the methodology implemented in several
of their reports. As for example where and how the data is collected, the factors
and variables considered in their questionnaires and what was not possible to
allocated due to the lack of information or access to it.
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Global report on trafficking in
Persons 2016. UNODC. Vienna, 2016. Available at
This report provides a global overview in regards the trends and flow of human
trafficking and including statistical data of it. The report also addresses trafficking
in persons in the context of migration, the overlaps and differences between
victims of trafficking, international migrants, refugees and smuggled migrants.
Differences and overlaps that are discussed in different chapters of this thesis in
order to understand how refugee’s vulnerability place them at potential risk of
becoming victims of human trafficking during her or his mobilization process.
UNODC. Handbook on Children Recruited and Exploited by Terrorist and
Violent Extremist Groups. Vienna: United Nations Office on Drugs and
This handbook offers a comprehensive and consistence guidance on children
exploited and recruited by terrorist groups, such as ISIS and Boko Haram. The
handbook answers frequent asked questions, such as why and how children are
recruited. Moreover, it analyzes the role of the justice system and strategies to
prevent recruitment of children by terrorist and violent groups. Due to the large
number of unaccompanied minors crossing borders, referring to this text is of
great relevance to recognize and explain how terrorist groups may take
advantage of smuggling of children and persons.
UNODC. n.d. http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/human-trafficking/what-is-
human-trafficking.html. 22 March 2018.
UNODC human trafficking website, according to the Protocol to Prevent,
Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons provides a definition as what is
human trafficking, the elements that constitute there has been a case of human
trafficking, criminalization of human trafficking and moreover UNODC’s response
to human trafficking in terms of prevention, protection and prosecution.
UNODC. Migrant Smuggling. s.f. available at:
migrants.html. 22 de March de 2018.
UNODC smuggling of migrants’ website, not only provides a definition for what is
migrant’ smuggling, but also a short overview of why is considered a shortly
business. Therefore, UNODC promote that all countries to adhere and implement
Smuggling of migrants’ protocol while providing a comprehensive response to the
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Smuggling of Migrants A Global
Review and Annotated Bibliography. Report. Vienna: United Nations Office
on Drugs and Crime, 2011. UNOV/dm/cms/epls, 2011
This report explains the smuggling and incursion of criminal activities during the
mobilization of migrants using an economic theory approach. UNODC refers to
John Salt and Jeremy Stein, and the book “Migration as a business: the case of
trafficking”, International Migration, vol. 35, No. 4 (1997) to explain migration as
an economic business model. Moreover, this report discusses topics, such as
profile of smuggled migrants, organizational structure of smuggling networks,
modus operandi and smuggling fees among other matters.
BBC. BBC Mundo. Vers. 7 preguntas para entender el origen de la guerra en Siria que lleva años
desangrando al país. 15 de Abril de 2018. .
Europol. “Migrant Smuggling in the EU.” 2016.
—. Serious and organized crime threat assessment (SOCTA). Europol. The Hague: Europol, 2017.
HRW. Smuggling and trafficking human beings. 7 July 2015. Web. 2018 March 10.
Ihekwoaba D. Onwudiwe, Jonathan Odo,. n.d.
ILO. Global Estimates of Modern Slavery: Forced labor and forced marriage. Geneva, 2017.
IOM. World migration report 2018. Year Report. Geneva: International Organization for
Migration, 2018. Web Document.
Jacob, Anupama. “Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment,.” Ed. LLC Taylor &
Francis Group. School of Social Welfare, University of California at Berkley, 2011. 271 –
275. Documento. 10 March 2018.
King, Russell. «Theories and Typologies of Migration: an overview and a primer.» Willy Brandt
Series of Working Papers in International Migration and Ethnic Relations 3/12 . Ed. Erica
Righard. Malmö: Malmö Institute for Studies of Migration, Diversity and Welfare (MIM)
Malmö University, March de 2012.
Parliament, European. European Parliament. Vers. News European Parlament. 30 06 2017.
Pichè, Victor. “Jstor.” Vers. Vol. 68. MArch 2013. Institut National d’Etudes Démographiques.
Web. Document. 02 16 2018. .
Studies, Migration. Migration Studies. Studies Blog. Vers. Migrant Network Theory. 9 de
Septiembre de 2016. 3 de March de 2018.
UN. Sustainable Development Goals. Ed. United Nations. 2015. United Nations. Web. 15
february 2018. .
UNHCR. “Convention and Protocol Relating to Status of Refugees.” December 2010. Ed. UNHCR.
Web. 20 February 2018. .
—. GLOBAL TRENDS – Forced Displacement in 2016. Anual Report. Geneva: UNHCR, 2017.
Documento. December 6 2017. .
—. Internally Displaced People. 2017. .
—. UNHCR. Vers. Millions of refugees at risk in the Middle East as winter funds dwindle. 03 de
Octubre de 2017. .
UNODC. Migrant Smuggling. s.f. http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/human-
trafficking/smuggling-of-migrants.html. 22 de March de 2018.
—. Global report on trafficking in Persons 2016. Annual Report. UNODC. Vienna: UNODC, 2016.
november 2017. .
—. Handbook on Children Recruited and Exploited by Terrorist and Violent Extremist Groups.
Handbook on Children. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Vienna: United
Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 2017. Document.
—. «http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/data-and-analysis/glotip.html.» 2016.
http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/data-and-analysis/glotip.html. Document. 08 de 05
de 2018. .
—. Human Trafficking. Vers. Human Trafficking. n.d. Document. 22 March 2018.
—. Smuggling of Migrants A Global Review and Annotated Bibliography. Report. Vienna:
UNOV/dm/cms/epls, 2011. Document. 10 February 2018.