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Migration & Human Trafficking
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The Solidarity Center is using its expertise in securing and protecting worker rights to attack the nightmare of human trafficking head-on — working with unions, businesses, and communities to open migrant workers’ eyes to trafficking traps, encourage them to speak up about their experiences, and help push for better migration policies.

In today’s global economy, poverty and unemployment drive men, women, and children to leave their homes in search of work and a better life. More and more workers are on the move—from country to city and from poorer to richer nations all over the world. The International Labor Organization estimates the migrant worker population at 120 million.

Migration and trafficking are points along a labor spectrum. The same factors that push workers to migrate also leave them vulnerable to exploitation. The most egregious worker rights abuse is trafficking — using fraud or coercion to recruit, transport, buy, and sell human beings into a life of sweatshop labor, domestic servitude, or prostitution. At any given time, says the ILO, more than 12 million men, women, and children worldwide are deceived or coerced into forced and bonded labor, involuntary servitude, and sexual slavery.  The U.S. Department of State estimates that in 2003, nearly a million persons fell victim to this modern-day form of slavery.

Photo courtesy of International Organization for Migration

In May 2007 the ITUC established a first-of-its-kind Global Trade Union Alliance against Forced Labor and Trafficking, with support from the ILO Special Action Program to Combat Forced Labor. In January 2008, the ITUC and the European Trade Union Confederation hailed the entry into force of the Council of Europe Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings.  ITUC General Secretary Guy Ryder said that as part of the Global Trade Union Alliance initiative, the ITUC is encouraging its member organizations in Europe to push their governments to ratify the Convention and to make sure it is fully enforced. "The criminal gangs and the recruiters who organize this trade in human beings must be stopped and punished," said Ryder, "and the factors which make people vulnerable to this exploitation must be dealt with."

Since its founding, the Solidarity Center has worked around the world to eliminate all forms of worker exploitation and to build support for worker rights. Our partnerships with workers, trade unions, governments, and civil society coalitions uniquely position us to create community and workplace-based safe migration and counter-trafficking strategies that emphasize prevention, prosecution, and protection.


Solidarity Center Counter-Trafficking Strategies
  • Educating intending migrant workers about labor laws and workplace rights in their own and foreign countries
  • Helping to draft and pass improved anti-trafficking and safe migration legislation
  • Training teachers to run school-based awareness programs
  • Promoting union-run legal aid, counseling, and information centers
  • Researching local, regional, and national trafficking trends and demographics
  • Supporting common counter-trafficking initiatives between stakeholders
    in sending and receiving countries
  • Creating standardized reporting forms for use in police stations


July 30: First-Ever World Day against Human Trafficking. July 30, 2014—The United Nations today marks the first-ever World Day against Trafficking in Persons, created to raise awareness and highlight the plight of the millions of women, men and children who are trafficked and exploited, as well as to encourage people to take action to end the scourge.

'End Worker Exploitation to End Human Trafficking.'
July 24, 2014—‘Understanding the link between worker rights violations and human trafficking “is key to eradicating this horrific human rights abuse globally,” said Neha Misra, Solidarity Center senior specialist for migration and human trafficking, today at a crowded hearing on Capitol Hill.

Forced Labor: Panel Spotlights Migrant Worker Plight in Mideast.
 July 10, 2014—Migrant workers to the Arabian Gulf states are rarely covered by labor law and generally denied the ability to exercise fundamental human rights, including freedom of association, which makes them vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, said panelists at a standing-room-only Capitol Hill briefing Tuesday.

Human Trafficking Fueled by Migrant Workers’ Vulnerability
. July 10, 2014—Migrant workers’ high vulnerability to human trafficking is one of three main factors involved in labor trafficking in Thailand, Malaysia and Cambodia, said Neha Misra,  Solidarity Center senior specialist for Migration and Human Trafficking in testimony on Capitol Hill July 7.

Trafficking in Persons Report Wake-Up Call to Governments. June 23, 2014—The U.S. State Department’s decision to downgrade Thailand, Malaysia and Venezuela in its 2014 Trafficking in Persons report “should compel (those governments) and other countries with serious human trafficking problems to step up their efforts to fight this horrific human rights crime,” says Melysa Sperber, director of the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking (ATEST). 

Thailand among Countries Failing to Address Human Trafficking. June 20, 2014—Thailand was among six countries that failed to comply with the minimum standards to address human trafficking over the past year, according to the State Department in its annual Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP) released today.

Migrant Workers, Unions Fight for Decent Work in Latin America. March 27, 2014—This week, eight construction union federation from six South and Central American countries came together in Costa Rica to focus on migrant workers in construction.

Dominican Citizenship Ruling Creates Stateless Underclass. March 25, 2014—A new AFL-CIO and Solidarity Center report describes the potential consequences of a September 2014 Dominican Republic court ruling that retroactively strips individuals who are unable to prove their parents’ regular migration status of their citizenship.

Migrant Workers Vulnerable, Exploited Across the Globe. December 18, 2013—Yani is one of 400,000 workers from the Indonesian archipelago who leave their homes every year in search of jobs to support themselves and their families. Many, like Yani, also are exploited by unscrupulous labor agents.

Panel to Congress: Hold Companies Responsible for Forced Labor. August 12, 2013—A panel of Human Trafficking experts on Capitol Hill said the lack of corporate or governmental oversight of supply chains, especially subcontractors, is a major problem allowing trafficking for forced labor to grow on a global scale.

Human Trafficking Thrives under Worker Exploitation. November 28, 2012—The most effective way to address human trafficking, says Neha Misra, Solidarity Center senior specialist on migration and human trafficking, is by empowering workers to have a voice in their workplace and supporting their right to organize and join unions.

Take Part in World Day for Decent Work Oct. 7. October 5, 2012—Being employed in “decent work” sounds basic. But for millions of people around the world, it is not a reality.

U.S. Steps Up Efforts to Address Human Trafficking. September 26, 2012—In the Congo, Marie Godet Niyonyota was kidnapped by rebels and turned into a slave.

Nicaragua the Third Nation to Adopt Domestic Work Standard. October 18, 2012—Nicaragua this week became the third country to ratify the International Labor Organization (ILO) convention on domestic workers.

Global Activists Gather Against Child Labor in Agriculture. July 27, 2012—Globally, more than 129 million children are agriculture workers, the majority of them unpaid and involved in hazardous and age-inappropriate jobs, according to the International Labor Organization.

21 Million People Worldwide Are in Forced Labor: ILO Report. June 4, 2012—Around the world, approximately 20.9 million women, men, and children are trapped in jobs into which they were coerced or deceived and which they cannot leave, according to a new report by the International Labor Organization (ILO).

Democracy Activist Aung San Suu Kyi Meets with Burmese Migrant Workers and Solidarity Center Partner Organizations in Thailand. June 1, 2012—In her first visit outside her home country since 1988, Burmese democracy activist and member of parliament Aung San Suu Kyi visited migrant worker communities in Samut Sakhon Province, where 300,000 of Thailand’s estimated 2.5 million Burmese migrant workers live and work.

Burmese Migrant Workers Double Their Wages after Strike. May 23, 2012—More than 500 migrant workers on the Thai-Burmese border took collective action to demand that their employer improve wages and working conditions in a garment factory where they were earning less than 25 cents per hour for an 11-hour shift, according to reports.

Kuwait and Bahrain Unions Become First in the Gulf to Forge an Official Trade Union Relationship with Nepal. January 20, 2012—Gulf States are relying on as many as 15 million migrant workers from Asia to grow their economies.

Solidarity Center Publications

Learn More

Visit These Sites 

  • NO to Trafficking, a joint Solidarity Center-USAID-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines website aimed at combating trafficking of women and children in the Philippines.
  • Global Workers Justice Alliance, which promotes transnational access to justice through a cross-border network of worker advocates and resources.   
  • HumanTrafficking.org, a website aimed at combating human trafficking in East Asia and the Pacific.
  • Free2Work.org, a joint project of the Not For Sale Campaign and the International Labor Rights Forum that rates products and companies based on their policies related to forced and child labor.
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