The absence of data cripples efforts to combat trafficking. While the clandestine nature of the crime makes data collection difficult, it is not impossible. Governments need to know the extent of the crime, its geographical spread and the many forms it takes. They need to understand how criminal networks function and what truly makes individuals vulnerable to being trafficked. Without such data, it is difficult to assess the impact of the crime, to develop solutions that will meet real needs and to evaluate the effectiveness of anti-trafficking efforts.

Around the world, human trafficking continues because of ignorance. Individuals made vulnerable by need, conflict or social practices may accept a fraudulent offer of employment because they do not know about the potential harm. Once entrapped in such a situation, they have little knowledge of how to seek help. In countries of destination, trafficking is allowed to continue unimpeded because people do not know how to recognize a harmful situation. Where authorities and other stakeholders are uninformed, a victim may be discriminated against, charged as a criminal or deported, while their exploiters remain active, free of investigation or censure.

Global assessment

On February 12 2009, UN.GIFT issued a Global Report on Trafficking in Persons. The report offers an unprecedented view of the available information on the state of the world's response to human trafficking, including near-comprehensive data on national legislative and enforcement activity.Based on data gathered from 155 countries, and compiled by 10 researchers, it offers the first global assessment of the scope of human trafficking and what is being done to fight it. With a few notable exceptions, nearly all of the larger states participated. It includes: an overview of trafficking patterns; legal steps taken in response; and country-specific information on reported cases of trafficking in persons, victims, and prosecutions.