Road to Recovery - assessing statutory compensation schemes for survivors of human trafficking

Human trafficking is the procurement of individuals by improper means, such as force, fraud, coercion, abuse of power, for the purpose of exploitation. Individuals may be trafficked for sexual exploitation, forced labour, slavery, domestic servitude, forced marriage and organ removal among other reasons. It is a serious breach of human rights and can have devastating long term effects on victims and their families.

The problem of human trafficking is global: according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), between 2010 and 2012 victims with 152 different citizenships were identified in 124 countries across the globe. Most victims are trafficked within the one region or sub-region, generally from poorer to more affluent countries, while trans-regional trafficking is usually towards rich countries in the Middle East, Western Europe and North America and generally stem from East and South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.1

There is no agreed upon methodology for estimating the number of trafficking victims worldwide and so the scale of the issue is unknown. As a guide, the United States reports that in 2014 over 44,000 victims were identified, representing only a small fraction of the number of people who are currently in trafficked situations.2 The International Labour Organization estimates that 21 million people are victims of forced labour and of those, 4.5 million are victims of forced sexual exploitation.3

Until 2000, no one international instrument covered all aspects of human trafficking. The United Nations, recognising this gap, drafted the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (Palermo Protocol).4. The Palermo Protocol contains rules and practical measures to prevent trafficking, punish traffickers and protect victims, including by protecting their human rights.

The obligations to provide protection to victims are a recognition of the incredible vulnerability and injury suffered by victims of human trafficking, many of whom are displaced and suffered significant damage, physically, psychologically and financially. Under Article 6 of the Palermo Protocol, countries are specifically called upon to ensure victims have access to compensation for damage suffered. This report reviews the compensation scheme in twenty jurisdictions globally, providing an analysis of their accessibility and acceptability for victims of human trafficking.

The jurisdictions reviewed in this report are Australia (New South Wales and Victoria), Belgium, Canada (British Columbia and Ontario), China (Hong Kong, SAR), France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Romania, South Africa, Thailand, the United Kingdom and the United States of America (California and New York). The twenty jurisdictions cover origin, transit and destination countries and a wide variety of compensation schemes.

1 UNODC Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2014 accessed 17 March 2016, p7
2 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report July 2015 accessed 17 March 2016, p48
3 International Labour Organization, ‘Forced labour, human trafficking and slavery’ accessed 17 March 2016
4 UN General Assembly, Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons,Especially Women and Children, Supplementing the United Nations Convention againstTransnational Organized Crime, 15 November 2000 accessed 18 March 2016