Human trafficking and forced labour

Kadriye Bakirci (Law Division, Management Faculty, Istanbul Technical University, Istanbul, Turkey)

Journal of Financial Crime

ISSN: 1359-0790

Publication date: 8 May 2009



During the last ten years, the International Labour Organisation (ILO), and some other international organizations, have increasingly addressed human trafficking from a “forced labour” perspective. The purpose of this paper is to clarify the terminology in relation to human trafficking and forced labour, to highlight the links between them, and to provide a critique of the ILO approach. It also aims to make the case for the implementation of a specific international instrument to address the link between trafficking and forced labour.


This paper compares the definitions of human trafficking and forced labour, the link between them in the United Nations, European and ILO instruments.


Although human trafficking is a criminal activity, the ILO identifies it as a form of forced labour. The paper concludes that, no matter what role the trafficking victims have in participating in the criminal activities, they should be viewed as victims and witnesses. They should not be viewed as “workers” or “labourers”. Any minor under the age of 18 years, in accordance with the European and international instruments, has no legal capacity to give consent to being exploited.


This paper argues that the international and European instruments do not specifically address the link between trafficking and forced labour. There is a need for a specific international instrument prescribing the link between trafficking and forced labour. In the absence of such an international instrument, there is a piece meal approach by international bodies and countries toward the regulation of trafficking and forced labour.



Bakirci, K. (2009), "Human trafficking and forced labour", Journal of Financial Crime, Vol. 16 No. 2, pp. 160-165.

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