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Project News: New study on “Resilience and Vulnerability to Trafficking and Other Abuses among People Travelling along Migration Routes to Europe” presented during international conference

7 March 2019


On the occasion of the publishing of the new study on 6th March, ICMPD hosted an international Conference in Athens, Greece. The conference hosted over 70 participants, and was opened by ICMPD’s Director General Michael Spindelegger. The new research looks how to protect refugees and migrants from human trafficking and other abuses on the Balkan- and Mediterranean route.

ICMPD Director General, Dr Michael Spindelegger opened the conference in presence of the Deputy Chief of Mission of the US Embassy in Athens, Ms Kate Byrnes, and the Secretary General for Human Rights at the Greek Ministry of Justice, Transparency, and Human Rights, Ms Maria Giannakaki.

What makes people travelling along migration routes to Europe vulnerable to human trafficking and other abuses? The study, funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, answers the initial question through an analysis of human trafficking among people travelling along the Eastern Mediterranean, Balkan, and Central Mediterranean migration routes to Europe over the last four years. 

The research identifies factors of resilience and vulnerability to human trafficking and other abuses before, during, and after the migration journey.  The field research was conducted in 2018 in seven countries: Greece, Bulgaria, North Macedonia, Serbia, Hungary, Germany, and Italy.  Ninety-one people from over 20 different countries who travelled the routes were interviewed for the research. Over two hundred people working at NGOs, government agencies, and international organisations in these seven countries were also interviewed. Study author Dr Claire Healy presented the key findings of the study during the opening event.

Key findings

  • Few of the human trafficking cases described in the research were officially identified, leaving victims without protection and resulting in impunity for traffickers.  The study identified 69 potential human trafficking cases including sex trafficking and forced labour.  The research shows that teenage boys on the move are often the least likely to be identified, but are particularly vulnerable to human trafficking.
  • The study revealed human trafficking and other abuses within the migration routes are almost always related to migrant smuggling, either because people are susceptible to exploitation due to the debts owed to smugglers, or because smugglers directly exploit or abuse them.
  • The research findings also show that refugees’ and migrants’ experiences are determined by the geography of the migration routes, the duration of their journeys, the obstacles they encounter along the way, and the policies and practices applied by government authorities. 

Over 70 government representatives, NGOs, regional and international organisations, and researchers from across Europe discussed the study’s findings and recommendations at the Athens conference. They will use this significant evidence base to talk about the real situations on the ground, about ways of preventing human trafficking and other abuses, how to improve victim identification and protection, as well as strategies to bring traffickers to justice.


Download the study here.

More information on the STRIVE project can be found here