Can You Tell the Difference Between Smugglers and Human Traffickers?

Posted: July 6, 2015 in Getting Involved, Human Trafficking Is...
Tags: , , , , ,
Think human smuggling and human trafficking are the same thing? They are not. Read on to learn the differences and how you can become a voice for the voiceless.

Human Trafficking Defined

The term “human trafficking” is not quite accurate in its description. By definition, a victim of human trafficking is one who has been forced, through fraud or coercion, into labor or sexual exploitation for commercial purposes.  A trafficking victim doesn’t need to be brought across state lines to be trafficked. For example, a parent could traffic a child or a husband could traffic his wife right in the home they’re living in.

Human Smuggling Defined

“Human smuggling is the facilitation, transportation, attempted transportation or illegal entry of a person(s) across an international border, in violation of one or more countries laws, either clandestinely or through deception, such as the use of fraudulent documents,” according to the U.S. Department of State.

Smuggling, simply put, is the movement of people illegally across international borders. (18 U.S.C. § 545)

The person(s) being smuggled usually has given full consent and paid the smuggler large sums of money to be transported across borders and is allowed to leave once fees have been paid.

A smuggler, sometimes called a coyote, is just a middleman.

Can a Smuggled Person Become a Trafficked Person?


Here is an example:

Rosa is invited to come to the United States by her aunt and uncle and offered $150 a week as a nanny. She is provided false documents and smuggled into the country. She knows that smuggling is illegal but needs the money to help support her family.

Was Rosa smuggled or trafficked?

Rosa was smuggled. She left willingly and with full consent.

When Rosa arrives at the home where she is to live and work, her employer takes her documents, forces her to work long hours with no pay, starves, beats, and threatens her. She is told to sleep in the basement and to not speak to anyone.

Is Rosa a victim of smuggling or trafficking?

Rosa is now a victim of trafficking. She came into the country willingly but arrived under false pretenses. She would not have come if she had known what awaited her.

Here is another example:

Loretta and her friend Alice, both 16 years old, pay to be smuggled across an international border. Upon arrival, secure employment with a local brothel. They are paid wages, free to come and go from the premises, and are not beaten or threatened by their employer.

Are Loretta and Alice victims of smuggling or trafficking?

Even though Loretta and Alice willingly crossed international borders and obtained illegal work at a brothel, they are both victims of human trafficking. Minors involved in sex work are automatically considered to be trafficked victims. (18 U.S.C. § 2423(a))

How to Raise Awareness of These Two Crimes and Their Differences

Smuggling is a crime, though perceived as less violent than human trafficking. It is also less lucrative, which is why some smugglers are crossing over into trafficking where they can exploit their victim repeatedly.

Smugglers and traffickers are very different kinds of criminals. Smugglers are like the naughty teenager trying to get away with sneaking beer behind their parents back while traffickers are the drunk, abusive dad who doesn’t know when to stop.

Help law enforcement by signing a petition to increase training and help officers to recognize the signs of human trafficking and to differentiate it from smuggling.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s