Fact Sheet #2: Trafficking in Persons and Human Smuggling

Trafficking in persons vs. human smuggling

Trafficking in persons (TIP) and human smuggling cases can sometimes be confused. They are, however, different crimes involving different conduct. Understanding the differences between the two is critically important, both from an investigatory and prosecutorial perspective.

Four (4) main differences

  1. Human smuggling is, by definition, a transnational crime whereas trafficking in persons is not. Human smuggling focuses on arranging the illegal entry of a person into a country which they do not have a right to enter. Trafficking in persons can occur within or across borders; a person does not need to be moved from one country to the next or even to be displaced from one city to another.
  2. Human smuggling generally involves the consent of the person smuggled. Trafficked victims have either never consented or their consent has been rendered meaningless by the trafficker’s exploitative conduct. The Criminal Code expressly provides that consent to the activity that forms the subject-matter of a trafficking in persons charge or a child trafficking charge is not valid and, therefore, can never be used as a defence (see subsections 279.01(2) & 279.011(2) of the Criminal Code).
  3. Smuggled persons are generally free to do what they want once they arrive at their country of destination. In contrast, trafficked persons have their liberty curtailed and are compelled to provide their labour and/or services. Trafficking victims are often deprived of their freedom and autonomy through repeated acts of physical, sexual and psychological abuse.
  4. The source of profit for human smuggling is the fee associated with the smuggling act. In trafficking cases, profits are made through the ongoing exploitation of the victim. Trafficking in persons is often characterized as a “low risk, high-reward” activity because of the practical difficulties of investigating and prosecuting cases and the enormous profits available to those who commit this crime. The United Nations has estimated that trafficking in persons generates approximately $32 billion annually in illicit revenue.

Despite these differences, it is important to keep in mind that smuggled persons may become trafficking victims.

For more information on TIP, please consult Chapter 1.4 of the Handbook for Criminal Justice Practitioners on Trafficking in Persons.