Trafficking and the Syrian War

The ICMPD study Targeting Vulnerabilities: The Impact of the Syrian War and Refugee Situation on Trafficking in Persons – A Study of Syria, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq assesses the effects of the Syrian conflict and refugee crisis on trafficking in persons (TIP) in Syria and the surrounding region (see below to download the study). The five countries under study - Syria, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq were selected on the basis of the magnitude of refugee and internal displacement.

This study, the first of this kind, examines situations of vulnerability to trafficking and indications of actual trafficking cases as a result of the conflict and displacement. In order to contextualise the phenomenon, it also analyses the patterns and characteristics of internal and cross-border displacement since the war, as well as reception arrangements in the hosting countries. The study is the result of the project  “Assessment of the Impact of the Syrian War and Refugee Crisis on Trafficking in Persons (AIS-TIP),” implemented by the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD) and financially supported by the United States Department of State Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (J/TIP).

For almost five years, Syrians have been fleeing their homes, moving repeatedly within the country or across its borders. The longer the war continues, the more people’s savings are depleted, and they become increasingly vulnerable to trafficking as they are no longer able to meet their basic needs. The ICMPD study shows that more and more families have no viable alternative for survival other than situations that could be defined as exploitation and trafficking in national and international law. The complexity of their situations is influenced by the war and violence itself, but also by the legal and institutional systems that the children, women and men fleeing war must navigate within Syria and in the four hosting countries.

In addition, refugees intending to seek safety in Europe must pay substantial sums of money, and maybe even go into debt, to migrant smugglers. One major risk is that a situation of migrant smuggling can develop into one of human trafficking.

The focus of national governments, local NGOs, international organisations, aid agencies, the EU and others must be to ameliorate people’s vulnerabilities and increase their resilience, giving them alternatives that are not merely the ‘least bad option’, and providing them with what they need in order to better cope with the ravages of violence and displacement. This must be combined with investment in the hosting countries neighbouring Syria and safe legal avenues for resettlement in countries outside the region.

The Targeting Vulnerabilities study was published in December 2015. The research findings and recommendations are presented in three versions of the study: 1. Full Study (approx. 250 pages); 2. Briefing Paper (approx. 35 pages); and 3. Policy Brief (approx. 6 pages). All three versions are available to download in Arabic, English, Iraqi Kurdish and Turkish. (Please follow the links in the Downloads Section)