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Video introduction by Professor Michel Veuthey, President of CUHD.

Reasons to follow this course

The online course “Understanding And Counteracting Trafficking In Persons – A Training Course For Helpers” is built to meet the expectations of an audience at different levels:

  • people who are active and responsible for projects in the field of human trafficking,

  • experts looking for a genuine reference library on traffickinglegislation and action plans by country, guides and research on trafficking in human beings from the most important legal and operational actors,

  • all who wish to understand the issue of human trafficking.

This course strives to offer professional and practical tools for counteracting trafficking and supporting victims. It does so by promoting three fields of action: 

  1. Prevention of conditions (poverty, inequality, familial abuse) favoring trafficking;

  2. Assistance to victims and survivors, supporting their physical and psychological rehabilitation and assisting their social reintegration;

  3. Coordination of activities with already existing support networks. 

Navigate freely through the course and quickly reach the topic you are interested in.

Access the best practices: the course can be used as a library to find documents, examples, etc.

 It is free of charge in order to make it available to a wide audience. 


This course has been designed

  • to share best practices on combating and preventing trafficking in human beings in sharing documents, videos and handbooks on protecting, rehabilitating and reinserting victims, as well as on the psychological impact on helpers (helping the helpers to avoid burnout and to remain effective).
  • to make available the important material for reflection and action developed by international organisations (UNODC, OHCHR, IOM, UNHCR, UNICEF), regional organisations (in particular the Council of Europe and European Union as well as OSCE), NGOs (in particular ICMC), research and training centres, foundations, the media (ARTE, BBC, etc.), religious communities, in particular the Catholic Church, not forgetting organisations run by survivors of this form of contemporary slavery”.

The course is illustrated with a large number of videos, reports, guide-lines, manuals and testimonies; it provides you with the most recognized reports and data.


Access to the course materials

Note that you can find the course materials and its appendices by clicking on the material menu at the top of each chapter, lesson, as shown below:

Please navigate to the top of this introductory page to find the introductory course materials. You can easily navigate from the Courses page to the Course Materials by clicking on any of the menus.

SOURCES: all data below are from studies and reports prepared by www.globalslaveryindex.org. The Global Slavery Index notes about DATA LIMITATIONS – PREVALENCE: While regional estimates of prevalence of modern slavery were presented in the Global Estimates of Modern Slavery, critical gaps in available data were noted. These are particularly problematic in the Arab States where only two national surveys were undertaken, neither of which was a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) country, despite the incidence of forced labour reported by various sources in such sectors as domestic work and construction in the GCC. Further, measurement of forced marriage among residents of countries within the region is particularly problematic where there are no surveys. Taken together, these gaps point to a significant underestimate of the extent of modern slavery in this region.

Similarly, it is typically not possible to survey in countries that are experiencing profound and current conflict, such as Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, South Sudan, and parts of Nigeria and Pakistan. Yet it is known that conflict is a significant risk factor – the breakdown of the rule of law, the loss of social supports, and the disruption that occurs with conflict all increase risk of both forced labour and forced marriage. The lack of data from countries experiencing conflict means that modern slavery estimates in regions where conflict countries are situated will understate the problem. Drawing on vulnerability data goes some way towards mitigating the impact of this gap; however, the need for better data in conflict countries remains an urgent research priority.

2010 Total slaves estimation in Million

2018 Total slaves estimation in Million

2018 Total slaves estimation in Million in Europe and Central Asia

2018 Total slaves estimation in Million in Americas

2018 Total slaves estimation in Million in Asia and the Pacific

2018 Total slaves estimation in Million in Africa

2018 Total slaves estimation in Million in Arab States

See above the Note about DATA LIMITATIONS – PREVALENCE

The desire to remember the slaves of the past should be applauded, without falling into triumphalism and complacency.  There is indeed an urgent need to make a concrete commitment to the liberation of modern slaves and to the abolition of all contemporary forms of trafficking.

Slavery is developing today at levels that go beyond what we have known in previous centuries: in 2010, there were an estimated 27 million slaves in the world. This figure represents double the number of all African slaves who were forced to emigrate from Africa to the Americas.  In 2019, the latest estimates produced by international organizations put the number of people deprived of freedoms at over 45 million worldwide, with strong growth between 2010 and 2019. The profits of modern slavery in the world, according to the same sources, exceed 150 billion dollars.

Contemporary resurgence

Slavery has not disappeared. Although it is prohibited by a series of national and international legal instruments, slavery is on the rise throughout the world, including in Europe, even if it is often invisible.

According to the Global Slavery Index (www.globalslaveryindex.org/findings), 58% of victims are in 5 countries: India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Uzbekistan. Women and girls account for 71% of slaves, or nearly 29 million people. One in four victims of modern slavery is a child, or about 10 million. In Europe, estimates are estimated at more than one million, most of them from Romania, Bulgaria and Slovakia, and from Nigeria, China and Brazil. Forced labour and sexual exploitation are the most widespread forms of slavery in Europe.

% of slavery victims today in labor slavery

% of slavery victims today in forced marriage slavery

% of slavery victims today in sex slavery

You can find more data per country on the GLOBAL SLAVERY INDEX.

  • In 2010, there were an estimated 27 million modern slaves in the world (twice as many as African slaves forced to migrate to the Americas).
  • In 2018, the latest estimates are of over 45 million.
  • The profits of modern slavery exceed $150 billion.
  • In 2018, in Europe and Central Asia,[1]according to the Global Slavery Index[2], the total number of victims of slavery was 3.6 million (1.3 million for the European Union).
  • 58% of the victims are in 5 countries: India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Uzbekistan. Women and girls represent 71%. One in four victims is a child. Forced labour and sexual exploitation are the most widespread forms in Europe.

% of slavery victims today are women and girls

% of slavery victims today are men and boys

% of slaves today are children under age 18

Slavery is often invisible. This causes an inadequate awareness of the authorities and aid structures, public or private. 

  • One in four victims of contemporary forms of slavery in 2016 was thought to be a child. Women and girls were disproportionately affected, with over 71 per cent of victims being female. Of 24.9 million people experiencing forced labour, 4.1 million people were subject to State-imposed forced labour, 4.8 million people experienced forced sexual exploitation of adults and/or commercial sexual exploitation of children and 16 million people experienced forced labour exploitation in the private economy. [3]

To help you better understand the scale and depth of the problem, we would like to mention below:

The main points of the 2019 report of the UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery – (A/HRC/42/44)




The future of work

  • Vulnerability to slavery is closely related to labour market regulation and dynamics.
  • Informality, including casualization, and other forms of precariousness in employment are risk factors for vulnerability to slavery.
  • If technological and social changes in the world of work are not human-centred and trends towards decent work deficits are not tackled,22 precariousness in the labour markets could increase,23 and slavery risks will likely rise with it. Lower-skilled jobs will be susceptible to disruption by automation, resulting in displaced workers competing with other low-skill workers for a smaller number of jobs for lower wages.


Demographic trends and migration

  • Limited access to jobs is also a main driver of migration, itself a major source of vulnerability to slavery.
  • Migration will likely continue to increase due to push factors such as conflict, income inequality, lack of economic opportunity and climate change, and pull factors such as demand for labour.
  • Economic shifts will also impact the geography of slavery. Asia, already burdened with the highest absolute prevalence of slavery according to the Global Estimates, is undergoing an economic boom that may heighten the risk of slavery in certain economic sectors, notably construction and infrastructure development.


Environmental change

  • The geography of contemporary forms of slavery will also be heavily impacted by climate and environmental change.
  • By 2050, approximately 5 billion people may live in areas where the climate “will exceed historical bounds of variability”, 31 and 143 million people in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Latin America will face internal migration due to climate change,32 which will increase vulnerability for these populations.
  • There is also evidence of covariance between the likelihood of contemporary forms of slavery and the likelihood of violations of environmental laws and standards, whether in the fishing industry, in forestry or in agriculture.


Other emerging trends

  • New technologies are leading to new forms of exploitation, such as forcing children to participate in online sexual exploitation.
  • There are also disturbing signs suggesting that a resurgence of enslavement in armed conflict contexts, not only as a method of recruitment but increasingly also as an open tactic of ideological subjugation and conflict financing.
  • Conflict-induced displacement is at historic highs, further limiting people’s access to decent work, disrupting social networks and increasing their vulnerability to debt bondage, forced labour, commercial sexual exploitation, child labour and servile forms of marriage as a means of survival and coping.
  • Finally, there will be a heightened risk of forced and servile marriage and sexual slavery in societies where there is a persistent gender imbalance, a phenomenon often resulting from the practice of sex-selective abortion.


There is a general need for awareness, information and training. A comprehensive effort at national, regional and international levels is needed to address this massive global denial of fundamental human rights.

In everyday reality, the victims of slavery living alongside us need reception, protection and reintegration structures. The victims are invisible, unlike other periods in the history of slavery. This real invisibility contributes to an inadequate awareness of our authorities and our aid structures, whether public or private.

The most urgent and necessary activity is to promote knowledge of the facts and development processes of modern slavery. Governments and civil society must also take measures to help and rehabilitate the victims of modern slavery. Finally, prevention through education and other economic, social and political measures that restore the rule of law, ensure the protection and rehabilitation of survivors and the prosecution of criminals are needed.



Structure of the course


The approach taken in this course could be characterized as “holistic”, as it seeks to consider trafficking in its entirety, taking the complex implications of trafficking into account. This approach analyzes relevant economic factors and migration policies, considering the profound evolution of gender roles and relationships. From this perspective, exploitation, sexual or otherwise, is at the center of trafficking.

This course strives to offer the reader a professional and practical instrument for counteracting trafficking and supporting victims. It does so by promoting three fields of action:

  1. Prevention of conditions favoring trafficking (poverty, inequality, familial abuse);
  2. Assistance to victims, supporting their physical and psychological rehabilitation and assisting them in social reintegration;
  3. Coordination of activities with already existing support networks.

The course explains the phenomenon of trafficking in persons and its corollaries by first defining the subject, and then looking further into its various implications. The main topics related to trafficking are divided into seven chapters, each one presenting a basic explanation as a launching pad for further exploration. Chapters 1-3 are closely linked to migration, therefore, they begin with discussion of migrants or migration before moving on to trafficking and its victims.

The division of themes and the consistent arrangement of each chapter makes it possible for the student to consult specific sections according to interest or need, as well as level of knowledge.



Editorial Note


We would like to especially thank Mrs. Kelly Ryan for her essential support and commitment and for bringing to our attention Stefano Volpicelli’s very interesting publication of December 2004 “Understanding and Counteracting Trafficking in Persons – The Acts of the Seminar for Women Religious” prepared for IOM Italy, Rome, in December 2004, which served as inspiration and structure for this course to which we have added many documents and illustrations, examples, including updates. This document was published in the framework of the project “Counter-Trafficking Training Programme for Religious Personnel” in cooperation with the Embassy of the United States of America to the Holy See and with funding from the Bureau of Population Refugees and Migration of the U.S. Department of State. It is thanks to Mrs.Kelly Ryan that this course was set up. 

For English speakers, Michel Veuthey provides a brief introduction to international humanitarian law.

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