Migration, human trafficking and labour exploitation

We live in an increasingly globalised world. The latest figures suggest that there are approximately one billion people on the move – 258 million international migrants and about 750 million people who have migrated within their own country.  While migration can bring many benefits for individuals, their families and communities of origin and destination, it can also put migrants at risk of abuse, exploitation and adverse health outcomes. GVHC leads pioneering research into the health and well-being of vulnerable mobile groups, including trafficked persons, low-wage migrant workers, refugees and asylum-seekers.

GVHC has been a key player in highlighting the links between trafficking and health. European based studies led by Cathy Zimmerman, a founding member of GVHC, generated the first data on the health risks and outcomes associated with trafficking, while the STEAM study in the Mekong region remains the largest study to date on human trafficking and health.

Our research goes beyond highlighting risks – it is tailored to influence programming and policy and to ultimately improve the lives of migrants. To this end, we have conducted a major evaluation of a multi-country programme to prevent forced labour (SWIFTE), developed a migration policy-making framework, engaged heavily with policy makers to ensure effective research uptake, and produced guidance for health care providers on responding to the health needs of trafficked persons.

GVHC work focuses on all stages of the migration process, identifying both the risks and intervention opportunities that can occur at each stage – from pre-departure planning and travel, through to arrival and life at destination, and (in some instances) return to the country of origin. We use mixed methods, quantitative and qualitative, to help understand the complexity of the migration process and diversity of migrants’ experiences.

GVHC has led projects in Asia, Africa, South America and Europe (including the UK). Many of these are multi-country studies, reflecting regional migration flows and challenges.

Our work focuses on the gendered aspects of migration, trafficking and exploitation, recognising the particular vulnerability of women and children to sexual abuse and exploitation, and the experiences of men and boys in situations of hazardous and forced labour.

Browse GVHC projects on human trafficking and labour exploitation.

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