A Multidisciplinary Exploration of Human Trafficking Solutions



Volume 5, Issue 2                2020

Guest Editor
Dr. Helen McCabe
Guest Assistant Editors
Dr. Ben Brewster
Laoise Ni Bhriain
Hannah Lerigo-Stephens
Dr. Daniel Ogunniyi


Foreword to the COVID-19 Supplemental Issue

Dr. Helen McCabe
Assistant Professor in Political Theory,
University of Nottingham School of Politics and International Relations, and Rights Lab

The global pandemic of COVID-19 represents a large and sudden exogenous shock to the world, and is having a significant impact on almost every single human being’s life in 2020 either in terms of their health, or those of their loved ones, or the consequences of the ensuing economic downturn. Given this, there are likely to have been severe consequences for people experiencing modern slavery; people at risk of modern slavery; survivors of modern slavery; those engaged in, or profiting from, modern slavery; and those working to combat it across the world. At the moment, however, as the pandemic continues to rage, a comprehensive understanding of the economic and social evidence of the effects is not available.

This Special Issue gives us the opportunity to highlight some of the research which is being done across the world to investigate, chart, and analyse the impact of COVID-19 on human trafficking solutions. A wealth of work is being done, both new research and the adaptation of existing projects to respond to this crisis. Researchers share insights into the impact on people vulnerable to modern slavery; those already experiencing it; those perpetrating it; those trying to fight it; and those trying to understand it as researchers and practitioners.

Hanley and Gauci sound an important warning note as to how COVID-19 might push efforts to monitor and address human trafficking down the international political agenda, while Chazal looks at the specific case of the impact of COVID-19 on the abilities of relevant agencies to work on preventing modern slavery in Australia during the pandemic. Mahaffey considers the impact on anti-trafficking efforts in Oklahoma, particularly among indigenous populations.

Several researchers consider the impact of COVID-19 on those already at risk of modern slavery. Byrne, Bradley, Khumallambam and Sahariah explore how COVID-19 has impacted women in India, and how the pandemic highlights how vulnerability and resilience to modern slavery is fluid. Thinyane and Gallo track the impact of COVID-19 on companies in Southeast Asia. Hansen et al consider its impact in the Ready-Made Garment industry in Bangladesh, while Sahai explores the impact on migrant workers from the same country. Niezna, Kurlander and Shamir scrutinise the impact on migrant workers in Israel. Ewan considers the impact on forced sexual exploitation across the world, while Iyer et al consider the specific impact on child sexual exploitation in India.

McGaughey tracks the impact of COVID-19 on increased risk of modern slavery in Australian companies’ supply chains – and the question of whether these were tackled, or whether the pandemic has let some companies off the hook in meeting their obligations to tackle this problem.

Others are exploring the effects of COVID-19 on survivors. Hogan and Roe-Sepowitz explore the impact of COVID-19 on survivor-support services in Arizona, and Chazal and Raby for Australia. Cordisco Tsai and Eleccion report on the impact of survivors in the Philippines. Lastly, Brewster examines the impact on “county-lines” child exploitation for drug-trafficking in the UK.

The research in this special issue also looks at good practice, resilience and adaptation. Valverde-Cano considers good practice by some European states regarding asylum and migration during the pandemic, and what lessons could be learned from this for the future. Thinyane and Gallo explain how changes to their research due to COVID-19 led to the adoption of remote monitoring with modifications to their existing Apprise Audit tool so that working conditions could continue to be scrutinised during the pandemic. Brady, McCabe and Otiende report their methodological adaptations for working remotely with survivors of human trafficking in Kenya

There is no doubt that COVID-19 has had, and will continue to have, a significant, negative effect on modern slavery and efforts to end it, seriously jeopardising our chance of achieving the global goal of ending it by 2030. There are important lessons to be learned from this research in order to try to mitigate these impacts as much as possible. We look forward to sharing more in-depth findings in 2021 when this on-going research has more detail, and more recommendations, to communicate.


Abstracted Articles in this issue…
(Click/tap the article title to read/download in a new browser window/tab)


Forward to the COVID-19 Supplemental Issue
Dr. Helen McCabe

COVID-19’s Impact on Anti-Trafficking Efforts: What do we know?
Idel Hanley, Jean-Pierre Gauci

The Impact of COVID-19 on the Identification of Victims of Trafficking and Their Access to Support Services in Australia
Dr. Nerida Chazal, Ms Kyla Raby

Critiquing America’s Response to Human Trafficking: Race, Gender, and Colonialism Narratives in a COVID-19 Context
Lucy Mahaffey

Fluid Vulnerabilities: Narratives of Modern Slavery in India during Lockdown
Dr. George Byrne, Professor Tamsin Bradley, Elizabeth Khumallambam, Dr. Sutirtha Sahariah

Ready Made Garment (RMG) Study: Bangladesh and India
Christopher Hansen, Jafar Iqbal, Maansi Parpiani, Michelle Davis, Ridhi Sahai, Vaiddehi Bansal, Mithila Iyer, Kareem Kysia

Overseas Labor Recruitment (OLR) Study – Bangladesh
Ridhi Sahai, Vaiddehi Bansal, Muhammad Jalal Uddin Sikder, Kareem Kysia

Underlying conditions: The Commodification of Migrant Workers Under COVID-19
Maayan Niezna, Dr. Yahel Kurlander, Hila Shamir

The Finance of Sex Trafficking and Impact of COVID-19
Phoebe Ewen

Commercial Sexual Exploitation (CSE) Study – India
Erika Keaveney, Mithila Iyer, Xiran Liu, Kareem Kysia

Pivoting technology: understanding working conditions in the time of COVID-19
Hannah Thinyane, Michael Gallo

Australia’s Modern Slavery Act and COVID-19: a get out of jail free card?
Fiona McGaughey

Services and Safety for Survivors of Human Trafficking: A Social Service Agency Statewide Survey on the Impact of COVID-19
Kimberly A. Hogan

Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on survivors of human trafficking in the Philippines
Laura Cordisco Tsai, PhD, and Jonna Eleccion

COVID-19 and Child Criminal Exploitation: Implications of the Pandemic for County Lines
Ben Brewster, Grace Robinson

Assessing the impact of ad-hoc migratory and asylum regulations on the vulnerability to human trafficking and forced labour in Spain, Germany, and Italy: identifying good practices during the COVID-19 pandemic
Dr. Ana B. Valverde-Cano, Juan J. Ruiz-Ramos, Paola Cavanna

The Impact of COVID-19 on Survivors of Modern Slavery in Kenya
Emily Brady, Dr. Helen McCabe, Sophie Otiende, Aisha Ali Haji, Rehema Maya, Yasmin Manji, Ruth Sorby


TAP/CLICK to read/download all article abstracts in a single PDF document

Journal of Modern Slavery

A Multidisciplinary Exploration
of Human Trafficking Solutions

Dedicated to research, theory, and practical application in eradicating slavery. It is a nexus of critical thought for all fields relating to understanding and combating modern slavery and is unique in its focus on the issues of slavery and human trafficking.

All issues of Journal of Modern Slavery are available free-of-charge.


Click/tap the article title to read/download the article

Sentinel Surveillance and Centring Prevention in Anti-Trafficking Policy and Response

Michael Gallo
Hannah Thinyane

United Nations University, Institute in Macao


There are more people today living and working in slavery-like conditions than ever before, highlighting limitations in the current anti-trafficking policy paradigm, characterised by its focus on prosecution and falling short on investment in prevention. This paper echoes the call made by other scholars for a prevention-centric, public health approach towards eradicating human trafficking and forced labour. Through a discussion of conceptual and practical advantages, it supports the use of sentinel surveillance for the proactive monitoring of at-risk populations to better understand changing patterns of exploitation over time. Centring prevention at the heart of anti-trafficking efforts is a long-term strategic investment in developing effective policy and addressing the root causes of why trafficking occurs in the first place.

To learn more about our library of past issues, and read/download them,
go to the Journal Home page.


Forced migration and modern slavery: unplanned journeys of exploitation and survival

Response Guest editor: Professor Brad Blitz, UCL Institute of Education

The concept of modern slavery covers many forms of abuse. In addition to customary understandings of slavery, the term has been used to describe unfree practices including: servitude and forced or compulsory labour; sexual exploitation; organ removal; securing services by force, threats or deception; and securing services from children and vulnerable persons.

The relationship between forced migration and modern slavery is frequently assumed, yet rarely examined. We note that the dislocation of people during periods of conflict, political upheaval, organised violence and as a result of targeted policies and campaigns often gives rise to conditions which foster vulnerability and encourage extreme exploitation. Equally, we note that the creation of exploitative conditions which deny people the opportunity to establish secure livelihoods may encourage outflows, giving rise to situations of what Alexander Betts has termed, ‘survival migration’.

Yet, displacement is not a necessary condition for modern slavery like practices. Millions of displaced people may seek refugee protection without experiencing extreme exploitation or other abuses associated with modern slavery. Equally, the prevalence unfree and unfair labour practices does not require victims to be mobile. Throughout the world people may endure conditions of modern slavery without ever having migrated.

While forced migration and modern slavery are ontologically distinct, all too often situations of forced displacement and extreme exploitation are the product of weak political systems where in the absence of effective governance or as the result of corrupt systems people’s rights to state protection from expulsion and abuse are endangered.

This special issue seeks to explore the relationship between forced displacement and modern slavery, understood broadly. Articles may focus on the following suggested themes:

  • Adoption trafficking
  • Displacement in Central America and exploitation along the ‘vertical border’ Fear of deportation and recruitment into exploitative work in the USA
  • Forced labour among refugees and asylum seekers in the Mediterranean Labour exploitation among recent refugees and Palestinians in the Middle East Modern slavery, dangerous work in construction and agriculture in Libya
  • New realities: modern slavery in Syria and neighbouring host states Offshoring, humanitarian protection, and extreme exploitation in remote locations
  • Precarious journeys and exploitation in refugee camps and collective centres Race, caste, and class: displacement and exploitation in South Asia
  • State collapse and modern slavery
  • The Rohingya – stateless refugees and unwelcome guests
  • The Venezuela crisis

Articles should be 4,000-7,500 words

Deadline for submission: 15 December 2020

Submission guidelines available HERE

For more information on these important new issues and submitting an article CLICK/TAP HERE.

The Journal of Modern Slavery and its mother organization, SlaveFree Today, are launching a new blog platform. The blog will feature a multitude of perspectives on current and emerging actions and ideas from around the world to tackle and eliminate modern slavery and related exploitative practices in accordance with SDG 8.7. In the long term, the blog will be a platform that invites new and young voices to participate in the conversation. However, short term, the blog will be a platform that takes a deeper look at the impact of COVID-19 and its repercussion on modern slavery, human trafficking, forced labour, and child labour (SDG 8.7).


Covid-19 and Forced Labour

Supriya Awasthi is a true pioneer in the field of modern slavery, having been the South Asia Director for the Free the Slaves organization since its inception.

“Innovative economic project provides exit opportunities for women exploited by the commercial sex industry”

Ashley Kibiger is a Project Leader at El Pozo de Vida, a nonprofit based out of México City that works to eradicate human trafficking and exploitation.

The Role of Plea Bargaining in Human Trafficking Cases

Jamie Bergin is a graduate of the MAIS programme of the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna and currently works as a political risk analyst. He previously worked for the Office of the OSCE Special Representative and Co-ordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings, based in Vienna.

COVID-19 and the Right to be Human

Anna Moore is a multilingual policy advisor currently working as an external consultant for Anti-Slavery International. She holds an MSc in social psychology from the University of Liverpool and has expertise in modern slavery, socially excluded populations, corporate social responsibility, and human rights. Follow Anna on Twitter @mooreanna01.

COVID-19 and a Path Forward for Homeworkers

Camila Gómez Wills is a Colombian attorney with experience in program management, stakeholder engagement, and international research. She recently finished a Master’s in Public Policy focused on best practices to address modern slavery in global supply chains.


We are seeking voices from all parts of the world and from all sectors, from practitioners, front-liners and service providers, survivors, academics, students, policymakers, journalists, and social entrepreneurs. And we are looking for different angles including health, migration, economics, employment, poverty, gender, livelihood, access to justice, youth, policy, conflict, social unrest, innovation and other areas linked to the intersection of this pandemic with modern slavery, human trafficking, forced labour and child labour (SDG 8.7).


The SlaveFree Today Podcast is an extension of the work of SlaveFree Today and the Journal of Modern Slavery with our focus on practical solutions in the struggle to end modern slavery. It is a part of our work to transcend disciplinary boundaries by fostering collaboration, encouraging conversation, and igniting action. The mission of our podcast is to illuminate practical steps toward a slavefree world. We invite you to join us and be part of the solution.

Our episodes are now available here on our website, and through Apple Podcasts, Spotify, SoundCloud, Stitcher, and GooglePlay Music. Each episode posted on this site will be accompanied by show notes and a transcript. To learn more about the SlaveFree Today Podcast and listen to all episodes, GO TO THE PODCAST HOME PAGE


Dr. Tina Davis and Giulia Laganà discuss the situation for migrant farm workers in Europe. Migrant workers in the agriculture sector are particularly vulnerable and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic has only worsened their conditions.

Giulia leads the Open Society Foundation’s European Policy Institute, analysis and advocacy on EU policies on migration and asylum. A migration expert with 15 years of experience, Laganà was a senior adviser on migration, human rights, EU and international affairs to the president of the Italian Chamber of Deputies in Rome from 2013 to 2016. Previously, she spent four years with the United Nations, working for UNHCR and UNDP in Italy and Brussels, respectively. While she was with the United Nations Development Programme, Laganà oversaw migration and development projects in Western and North Africa. Her work experience also includes stints with NGOs such as SOLIDAR and with the European Commission.



Dr. Tina Davis and Tomoya Obokata discuss the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on human trafficking and modern slavery. Mr. Obokata is a Japanese scholar of international law and human rights, specialising in transnational organised crime, human trafficking and modern slavery. He was appointed as the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences in March 2020, and embarked on his mandate in May 2020.  He currently serves as Professor of International Law and Human Rights at Keele University.



Dr. Tina Davis and Brynn O’Brien discuss climate change, and how climate change is linked to human rights issues, such as modern forms of slavery and severe exploitation, and what shareholder activism is, and how this can influence better performance on environmental, social and governance issues. Brynn is a lawyer and strategist, and the Executive Director of the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR). ACCR promotes better performance of Australian and global companies on climate, environmental and governance issues. As an ‘activist shareholder’ organisation, ACCR engages with companies and their investors on these issues, including through filing shareholder resolutions.



Dr. Tina Davis and Terry Collingsworth of International Rights Advocates discuss the landmark lawsuit filed against the big tech companies Apple, Alphabet (Google), Microsoft, Dell and Tesla on behalf of children and families of children who have been killed or maimed while working in cobalt mines in Congo DRC. The lawsuit claims that the children extracted cobalt for re-chargeable batteries used in the products sold by these big tech companies, and that the companies have known that children have been working in the hazardous conditions of the mines. The lawsuit is filed under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) by the International Rights Advocates based in Washington DC on behalf of the plaintiffs in Congo DRC.



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