ICMPD: New Research Looks at how to Protect Refugees and Migrants from Human Trafficking and other Abuses on the Balkan and Mediterranean Routes

VIENNA, April 4, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — What makes people travelling along migration routes to Europe vulnerable to human trafficking and other abuses?

The International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD) has launched a major research study: The Strength to Carry On: Resilience and Vulnerability to Trafficking and Other Abuses among People Travelling along Migration Routes to Europe.

The study, funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, answers the question above 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 twenty different countries who travelled the routes were interviewed for the research. Over 240 people working at NGOs, government agencies and international organisations in these seven countries were also interviewed.

The research identified three 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 on the migration routes are almost always related to migrant smuggling, either because people are susceptible to exploitation due to 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

According to the author of the study, Dr Claire Healy:

The Strength to Carry On marks the first time that we at ICMPD conducted research on resilience to human trafficking. This study gives us an insight into how we can protect people from becoming victims of human trafficking or from being abused while making these dangerous journeys. By building upon people’s own sources of resilience, such as psychological strength, access to information, family support and the desire to swiftly enter the labour market, we can not only prevent human trafficking and abuse but also improve these peoples’ situations in general.”

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

Opening remarks were given at the conference by the ICMPD Director General, Dr Michael Spindelegger, 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.

The full research study is available to download at:


Requests for interviews and additional information can be addressed to the study author:

Dr. Claire Healy – claire.healy@icmpd.org

For more information, please contact:

Anti-trafficking Programme, ICMPD

Claire Healy 

Tel: +43-676-715-7005

Fax: +43-1-504-4677-2375

ICMPD – Communication and Media Coordinator
Bernhard Schragl

Tel: +43-1-504-4677-2444

Fax: +43-1-504-4677-2375

About The International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD)

The International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD) is an international organisation with 17 Member States and about 300 staff members. Active in more than 90 countries worldwide, it takes a regional approach in its work to create efficient cooperation and partnerships along migration routes. Priority regions include Africa, Central and South Asia, Europe and the Middle East. Its three-pillar approach to migration management – structurally linking research, migration dialogues and capacity building – contributes to better migration policy development worldwide. The Vienna-based organisation has a mission in Brussels, a regional office in Malta and project offices in several countries. ICMPD receives funding from its Member States, the European Commission, the UN and other multilateral institutions, as well as bilateral donors. Founded in 1993, ICMPD holds UN observer status and cooperates with more than 200 partners including EU institutions and UN agencies.

For more information about ICMPD visit: www.icmpd.org

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SOURCE International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD)