Human Smuggling vs. Human Trafficking

Human smuggling occurs when a person receives (or attempts to receive) passage or transportation illegally across borders. Those being smuggled travel with the intent of circumventing immigration and/or other laws. Once smuggled, they are free to travel and operate by their own volition.

In contrast, human trafficking does not require travel across borders. It is defined by the presence of force, fraud or coercion by traffickers who exploit their victims for labor or sex. Captors turn a hefty profit by enslaving victims.

Although a person may be smuggled willingly, they put themselves at risk of being trafficked. An absence of government regulation makes those smuggled easy prey for unscrupulous beings. In some cases, victims arrive at their destination to discover smugglers have increased “transport” fees. They become convinced they must perform hard labor to pay off this exorbitant debt. Other victims are lured by the promise of legitimate work and instead forced to perform commercial sex acts. Smugglers often confiscate legal documents to ensure captivity. The loss of freedom in all of these situations indicates an incident of trafficking.