Child trafficking
in the world

Globally countries are detecting and reporting more victims of human trafficking, and they are also convicting more traffickers. This can be the result of increased capacity to identify victims and/or an increased number of trafficked victims.

From a global perspective most trafficking victims are detected in their countries of citizenship, but from a regional perspective wealthy countries are more likely to be destinations for detected victims trafficked from more distant origins. Western and Southern Europe and countries in the Middle East, for example, record sizable shares of victims trafficked from other regions; whereas such detections are relatively rare in most other parts of the world. For example in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia 99% of detected victims origin from the region while in Western and Southern Europe only 25% origin from the region where they are detected. Most of the victims who are trafficked out of their region of origin comes from Sub-Saharan Africa or East Asia.


”In total 49% of the detected victims of trafficking are women and 23% are girls. 21% are men and 7% are boys.”

Most of the human trafficking victims detected across the world are female; mainly adult women, but also increasingly underage girls. In total 49% of the detected victims of trafficking are women and 23% are girls. 21% are men and 7% are boys. Approximately 30% av all detected trafficking victims are therefore children. But there are regional differences and in Sub-Saharan Africa child victims accounted for the majority (55 %) of the victims detected. The vast majority (94%) of the detected victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation are female.

The last few years there has been several reports of minor girls trafficked to Europe with false identity documents showing that they are adults. The increased surveillance of children crossing the borders to Europe gives an incentive to pass minors off as adults, who then disappear and continue be trafficked and exploited towards their destination country.  This likely affect the numbers of reported child victims.

Research suggests connections exist between migration and criminal exploitation of human beings such as human trafficking, forced labour and modern slavery. It is however not known how many of the world’s estimated 70 million human trafficking victims, and 1.2 million children, are also migrants. Child and adolescent migrants are highly vulnerable to trafficking. While an estimated 31 million children are migrants globally, legal routes of migration are typically closed to children. Children and adolescents are particularly vulnerable when travelling alone or having been separated from their families.

Migrants are most vulnerable to abuse and exploitation in situations and places where the local authority and society is unable to protect them, either due to lack of capacity, lack of sufficient legal protection or simple neglect. For example, migrants are highly vulnerable when fleeing situations of violence and conflict, where the State has effectively broken down and society itself is in crisis.

The risk is further increased when migrants move or work through irregular channels, where their irregular status puts them entirely at the mercy of opportunists who may seek to take advantage of their desperate circumstances.


”During the last years social media has provided loverboys with new ways to establish contact with victims and create a relation that persuade young girls and boys to leave their community.”

With limited access to their networks, information or resources, migrants frequently need to look to third party sources for help. If verified information is not readily available through obvious, official channels, then local agents, intermediaries and employers will be able to leverage their superior control of resources to exploit migrant workers with relatively low cost and risk.

Armed conflicts can increase the vulnerability to trafficking in different ways. Boys and girls are targeted by armed groups to be exploited as child soldiers or through forced labor. There is also an increase of abduction of women and girls for sexual slavery which has been reported in many conflicts in Central and West Africa, as well as in the conflicts in the Middle East. It has furthermore been reported that women and girls are trafficked for forced marriage in the same areas. Armed groups, however, are not the only actors engaging in trafficking in persons in the context of armed conflicts. Criminal groups and individual traffickers target civilians, as well as refugees and internally displaced populations in both formal and informal camps.

The “Loverboy” method is another form of recruitment used by traffickers, in particular when it comes to sex trafficking of minor girls. The traffickers operate by trying to make vulnerable young girls or boys fall in love with them. Once they have the victims under their influence, they exploit them, for instance in the sex industry. During the last years, social media has provided loverboys with new ways to establish contacts and create relationships with young girls and boys and persuade them to leave their communities. The Loverboy method is mainly reported in Eastern European countries, such as Romania, Bulgaria and Albania but also in Nigeria.

Religions threats and curses are also used to force children to obey their traffickers. For example, in Nigeria, many girls are sex trafficked to Europe under the threat of “Juju” a religious witchcraft ritual which will harm or kill the victim and/or her family is she does not do as her trafficker tells her.

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