This module is a resource for lecturers




This Module deals with some of the links between cybercrime, trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants. The Module reflects the relevant articles of the United Nations Convention on Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC), the Protocol to Prevent, Supress and Punish Trafficking in Persons (Protocol against Trafficking in Persons), and the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air (Protocol against Smuggling of Migrants). This Module focuses on how technology is used to commit crime in the context of trafficking and smuggling, with a particular focus on the use of the Internet in cybercrime. It also acknowledges that State investigations should not infringe data and privacy rights, particularly of victims.

Perpetrators of trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants may exploit the Internet to facilitate organized crime in numerous ways, such as:

  • Communication between members of a criminal organization
  • Coordinating actions and activities
  • Online grooming
  • Recruiting trafficking victims, including for labour and/or sexual exploitation and organ removal
  • Recruiting would-be migrants for smuggling activities
  • Marketing goods and services that are the product of activities related to trafficking, such as sexual services or labour services involving exploitation, including child trafficking for labour exploitation (child labour)
  • Controlling victims by menace or coercion such as threats to make sexual content public or available to persons particularly important to a victim
  • Trading in child abuse material
  • Live-streaming abusive conduct
  • Taking online payments for services provided by exploited trafficking victims or through smuggling activities
  • Laundering the financial proceeds of trafficking and smuggling, and
  • Jurisdiction shopping such as creating online content in one jurisdiction for dissemination in another jurisdiction to circumvent domestic legislation. This is particularly prevalent in live streaming child sexual abuse.

Trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants offer lucrative business opportunities for organized criminal groups (see Modules 1 and 6). With the development and advancement of modern technologies and the ever-expanding role of the Internet, it is essential that law enforcement agencies, particularly those specializing in cybercrime, maintain an up-to-date understanding of how criminals are using the Internet to commit trafficking and smuggling crimes and how organized criminal groups use increasingly sophisticated technologies to evade detection, particularly through use of the dark web. Cryptocurrencies also present a new challenge to law enforcement, with criminals embracing this technology in order to launder the proceeds of crime. For more information, also see the Teaching Module Series on Cybercrime.

Tackling the linkages between trafficking in persons, smuggling of migrants and cybercrime requires a commitment to the development and adaptation of modern technologies to counteract, detect, investigate and prosecute cyber-based offending (also see Module 13 on Cyber Organized Crime of the Teaching Module Series on Cybercrime). At the same time, State authorities must be mindful that they avoid the practices that violate the rights of migrants and victims. Students should develop an understanding of the investigative techniques used in their domestic jurisdiction and the mechanisms available for international cooperation. This may help identify gaps in countering trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants.


Learning outcomes

  • Identify the links between cybercrime, trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants.
  • Assess ways in which trafficking and smuggling currently intersect with types of cybercrime in practice.
  • Critically evaluate frameworks to counteract cybercrime, trafficking and smuggling.
  • Identify potential cyber innovation, challenges and future trends.
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