Trafficking in Persons & Transit Countries: A Canada-U.S. Case Study in Global Perspective

Research output: Working paper


International trafficking in persons is often facilitated by the movement of victims through one or more transit countries in order to reach a destination country where the victim will ultimately be subjected to sexual exploitation or forced labour. Despite this recognized pattern, there has been a relative lack of attention paid to the response of transit countries in addressing their role in this transnational criminal activity and systematic human rights abuse. This working paper begins by identifying several characteristics common to transit countries, including: (1) geographic proximity by land, sea, or air to attractive destination countries; (2) insufficient legislation and weak enforcement against trafficking in persons and migrant smuggling; (3) liberal immigration policies; and (4) an operational criminal infrastructure to facilitate illegal entry to, and exit from, a country. The case study of Canada as a transit country to the United States is presented, both to better understand the nature of the problem between these two jurisdictions and to explore the responses that officials have provided to date. Transit countries face heightened challenges compared to origin and destination countries, particularly with respect to distinguishing between trafficked persons and smuggled migrants. By synthesizing the legal obligations in the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children and the Protocol Against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air into terms that are relevant to transit countries, a comprehensive set of standards emerge to enhance their ability to prevent trafficking, prosecute traffickers and protect victims. Policies and programs that have been adopted by some transit countries are then highlighted, demonstrating how these standards can be implemented to engage transit countries in a more comprehensive response to trafficking in persons. While Canada and the United States have undertaken important bilateral efforts to combat trafficking in persons, the following recommendations are proposed to improve their joint response, including: 1. Increase training and capacity of border officials to identify potential trafficking victims in transit; 2. Continue to cooperate in joint enforcement activities to disrupt illegal movement across the shared border; 3. Enhance mutual legal assistance and engage in cross-border human trafficking investigations and prosecutions to dismantle the entire network involved in identified cases; 4. Ensure victims of human trafficking in transit are afforded assistance and protection, including support made increasingly available through enhanced cross-border cooperation between governmental and non-governmental victim support organizations; 5. Build public awareness in border areas about human trafficking, the needs of victims, and information on where to report suspicious activity; and 6. Cooperate with major source countries as well as enhance trilateral cooperation between Canada, the United States, and Mexico to prevent human trafficking. Number of Pages in PDF File: 109

Original languageEnglish
PublisherMetropolis British Columbia - Centre of Excellence for Research on Immigration and Diversity
VolumeNo. 10 - 05
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2010

Publication series

SeriesWorking Paper Series

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