The Difference Between Human Trafficking and Human Smuggling

smuggling trafficking human

There seems to be confusion by some, when it comes to the differences between human trafficking and human smuggling. This isn’t just semantics  either. This translates into law enforcement and government regulations.

Here are the basic differences between the two:

Trafficking vs. Smuggling

Trafficking: Must contain an element of force, fraud or coercion (actual, perceived or implied), unless the person is under 18 years of age involved in commercial sex acts.
Smuggling: The person being smuggled is generally cooperating.

Trafficking: Forced labor and/or exploitation.
Smuggling: There is no actual or implied coercion.

Trafficking: Persons trafficked are victims.
Smuggling: Persons smuggled are violating the law. They are not victims.

Trafficking: Enslaved, subjected to limited movement or isolation, or had documents confiscated.
Smuggling: Persons are free to leave, change jobs, etc.

Trafficking: Need not involve the actual movement of the victim.
Smuggling: Facilitates the illegal entry of person(s) from one country into another.

Trafficking: No requirement to cross an international border.
Smuggling: Smuggling always crosses an international border.

Trafficking: Personal must be involved in labor/services or commercial sex acts, i.e., must be “working.”
Smuggling: Person must only be in country or attempting entry illegally.

As you can see, it’s important to understand the differences, as one is a victim and the other is not!

SOURCE: Case Act | IMAGE: lanuiop via Compfight cc


  1. Gene Rumley says

    Great info/article Eric–really explains the difference. Great to see your org being a voice in the world to make changes and bring awareness for this cause.
    Keep up the great work.


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