People smuggling, migration and human trafficking in Italy


Many human trafficking victims in Italy are migrants and asylum seekers. These individuals are particularly vulnerable to trafficking for a multitude of reasons and unaccompanied minors are most at risk.

Reception centres and facilities for migrants in Italy are often lacking in security. As a result, it is easy for traffickers to gain access to the facilities and force people into exploitative situations. On top of this, overcrowding also makes it less likely that their absence will be noticed. Women and girls, in particular, are being removed at night and forced into prostitution. 

All of this demonstrates that Italy and Europe are not the safe havens that they are believed to be. Unfortunately, false stories of success and a better life in Italy are often sent back to family and friends propagating the notion that travel to Europe is safe and living there is full of opportunities.  Traffickers use these methods to deceive more victims and subject more people to exploitation and abuse.  

Forms of Exploitation

In Italy, there are three main forms of trafficking.

  1. Forced prostitution, in which people are forced to enter the sex industry. Frequently, these victims are underage girls.
  2. Labour exploitation, which is particularly prevalent in the agricultural sector.
  3. Domestic servitude

People Smuggling Vs Human Trafficking

Both people smuggling and human trafficking are evident in Italy so it is important to distinguish between the two.

People Smuggling:

  • involves migrants being facilitated entry into a country through illegal means
  • a smuggled person agrees to travel

Human Trafficking:

  • involves the threat or use of force, coercion or deception against a person for the purpose of exploitation
  • a trafficked person has either not consented or has been deceived into giving consent

It is common for people to start their journey as migrants and asylum seekers only to become victims of human trafficking. 


  • The reception centres in Italy are substantially overcrowded.
  • Arrivals are often sent to unprotected facilities from which they disappear.
  • Women and girls are being removed at night and forced into prostitution.
  • Unaccompanied minors are particularly at risk.
  • Traffickers sometimes wait until asylum has been granted to victims and then traffik them within Italy and across Europe.
  • False stories of success and a better life in Italy are sent back to family and friends.


  • Physical, emotional and sexual abuse
  • Confiscation of identity documents and restriction of movement
  • Debt bondage
  • Threats of violence to family members
  • Juju oaths
  • Unfounded threats of being deported by immigration agencies


If you are concerned you have witnessed trafficking activity it is important you report it to the appropriate organisation, so long as you feel that it is safe to do so.

Osservatorio Interventi Tratta

If you suspect human trafficking in Italy, please contact Osservatorio Interventi Tratta

800 290 290

[email protected]



For further information, contact our Centre for Intelligence Led Prevention

[email protected]


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