Subscribe to our Newsletter

Human Trafficking 101: Migrant Smuggling and Human Trafficking


Ashley Allen



Three invigorating and informative weeks have whirled by since I began my internship at the United Nations in Vienna with UN.GIFT. The energy and motivation of the team has impressed upon me the significance of the work that is being done. I was pleased to be included in a meeting/brainstorming session with the team, which provided me with some helpful background on UN.GIFT and its vision for the future.


I share an office with two affable interns from Spain and Colombia who are working with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. The office has a stunning view of Vienna, as does every office at the United Nations because of the innovative architectural design of the building, which allows for as much natural light as possible. The striking view makes up for the complex building navigation, which had me walking in zigzags my first few days.


The magnitude of human trafficking has become more apparent in my mind as I work with the topic every day. I was particularly moved when I recently watched the music video, Its Not My Fault, available in multiple languages. The combination of the music and the message is very effective.


The newly redesigned UN.GIFT hub, which you are reading this blog from is an excellent resource to learn more about human trafficking through reports, publications, news articles, videos, events and discussions. The Around the World section is a particularly useful resource where you can click on a region and learn more about  human trafficking in that area of the world. The Networks section is also useful and lists organizations that are working on the topic of human trafficking.


In conclusion, let me clarify the difference between migrant smuggling and human trafficking, which are sometimes confused.


Migrant smuggling is the smuggling of persons, but with their consent and across international borders, most often by illegal means. Smuggled persons may become victims of human trafficking at any point in the smuggling process.


Human trafficking occurs when another persons basic human rights are violated. Threat, force, coercion or deception can be used with the purpose of exploitation. Human trafficking sometimes crosses international borders, but can also occur domestically. Forced labour, sexual exploitation, child soldiers, removal of organs or forced marriages are some of the areas where human trafficking has been known to occur. If you would like a more detailed definition, click here.

Ashley Allen started her internship with UN.GIFT in September 2010. She is an American student at the University of Stavanger in Norway. She is working on a Master's in Migration and Intercultural Relations and recently attended the 2010 International Summer School in Forced Migration at the University of Oxford, and conducted research on protracted refugee situations at the Refugee Studies Centre at the University of Oxford.



The Intern's blog section is an open space for discussions on human trafficking offered by the UN.GIFT.HUB.

UN.GIFT does not guarantee the truthfulness, accuracy, or validity of any comments posted to its social media outlets (blogs, social networks, message boards/forums, etc.). Users must not post any content that is obscene, defamatory, profane, libelous, threatening, harassing, abusive, hateful or embarrassing to any person or entity. UN.GIFT reserves the right to delete or edit any comments that it considers inappropriate or unacceptable.