Who is Most at Risk for Human Trafficking?

19 Dec, 2023

Human trafficking is a heinous crime that affects millions of people worldwide. It is a major violation of human rights where individuals are forced or tricked into exploitation through coercion, deception, or outright force and involves the recruitment, transportation, harbouring, or receipt of individuals. While human trafficking can happen to anyone, certain populations are more vulnerable to falling victim to this crime. In this blog, we will explore who is most likely to become a victim of human trafficking and why.

Please note: this is a short explanation for each vulnerable sector. These are NOT all of the reasons each demographic is at risk.

Who Are the Most Vulnerable Populations?
Kids and Teens
Kids and teens are particularly susceptible to human trafficking. They can be manipulated or forced into various forms of exploitation, such as child labour, forced begging, or sexual exploitation. Sadly, based on information from Aura Freedom, both traffickers and victims are continuing to get younger. As hard as it is to believe, it has been reported that high school students are working with traffickers and exploiting peers often during school hours.

Migrant Workers
Migrant workers often leave their home countries in search of better job opportunities. This quest for a better life can make them targets for traffickers who promise great jobs but instead trap them in forced labour or sexual exploitation. Language barriers and lack of legal status can isolate them further, making it harder for them to seek help.

Runaway and Homeless Youth
Runaway and homeless youth are at high risk for trafficking. They are often disconnected from their families, lack stable housing, and may resort to activities that make them vulnerable to exploitation. Traffickers prey on their vulnerability, offering shelter and support before exploiting them.

Women and LGBTQ+ Individuals
96% of detected victims of human trafficking are women and girls with one in four being under the age of 18. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Women and LGBTQ+ individuals face a heightened risk of human trafficking due to gender inequality and patriarchal views. Gender-based discrimination and violence can push them into situations where they are coerced or forced into the sex trade. Additionally, societal stigma and discrimination can make it harder for them to seek help.

It’s important to note Indigenous and racialized girls are targeted at higher rates due to gender and race inequities. Gender-diverse and trans youth are also at risk of sexual exploitation due to a lack of community and family support and an increase in homelessness.

Refugees and Displaced Persons
Refugees and displaced persons are vulnerable due to the upheaval and instability in their lives. A lack of legal protections, limited access to resources, and the breakdown of social support systems can make them easy targets for traffickers who promise safe passage or employment opportunities.

What Makes Them Vulnerable?
Economic hardship is a major factor driving vulnerability to human trafficking. People in poverty are more likely to accept risky job offers or fall for deceptive recruitment tactics, as they are desperate for income.

Lack of Education
A lack of access to quality education limits one’s opportunities and human trafficking awareness of the risks associated with human trafficking. Those with limited education may not recognize the signs or understand their rights.

Social Isolation
Isolation from family, friends, and community support systems can increase vulnerability. When individuals lack a safety net, they are more likely to become dependent on traffickers for their basic needs.

Conflict and Instability
Regions affected by conflict and political instability often see an increase in human trafficking. Displacement, insecurity, and a breakdown in law and order create conditions conducive to exploitation.

Human trafficking is a crime that can happen to anyone, but certain populations are at a higher risk due to their vulnerabilities. Recognizing these vulnerabilities and addressing the root causes, such as poverty, lack of education, and social isolation is essential in preventing human trafficking. Governments, organizations, and individuals must work together to raise awareness, provide support to vulnerable populations, and strengthen laws and law enforcement efforts to combat this grave violation of human rights. By doing so, we can move closer to a world where no one is at risk of becoming a victim of human trafficking.