Human trafficking ≠ smuggling

Human trafficking is the act of exploiting people for financial gain. It is essentially a form of modern slavery. Exploitation can be sexual – prostitution for example – or economic: construction, hospitality, or the domestic sector. Human trafficking is separate from human smuggling. The latter can be defined as the act of helping people to illegally cross a border for one’s own financial gain.

Both human trafficking and migrant smuggling are punishable in Belgium. This has been the law on human trafficking since 13 April 1995. In 2005 a new law on human trafficking was enacted, prompting Belgium’s new international and European mechanisms that had been established in those years to undergo legislative change and adapt to the new law. As a result, human smuggling and trafficking now have clear definitions.

Defining human trafficking

The new article 433d of the Penal Code defines human trafficking as : the act of recruiting, transporting, transferring, habouring, and accommodating someone, putting them under someone else’s control in order to exploit them.

The operating segments are listed exhaustively:

  • prostitution or child pornography exploitation
  • exploitation of begging
  • degrading working conditions
  • organ removal
  • forced crime or other offenses (e.g. some types of theft or drug trafficking)

Defining human smuggling

Human smuggling is defined by the new article 77a of the Act of 15 December 1980 on foreigners as: the act of facilitating, in some way or another, be it directly or by an intermediary, the unauthorized entry, transit, or stay of a non-EU citizen into or through a EU member state, in violation of state law, directly or indirectly, for financial gain.