The Human Smuggling and Trafficking Center
FACT SHEET: Distinctions Between Human
Smuggling and Human Trafficking
Table of Contents
Trafficking in Persons
Trafficking and Smuggling Difference Chart
Case Examples and Scenarios
This fact sheet will explain the differences between human smuggling and human trafficking.
Because these are complex crimes, it is not always readily apparent when a “human smuggling”
case crosses into the realm of a “human trafficking” crime. Understanding the basic principals
outlined in this fact sheet will assist the reader in identifying the subtle differences between each
of these crimes. For this discussion, the terms “human trafficking” and “trafficking in persons”
refer strictly to “severe forms of trafficking” as defined in 22 USC 7102i.
As in any other area involving complex crimes, it is important to gather and examine as many
relevant facts as possible, compare the fact pattern against relevant statutes, and when necessary,
seek expert legal advice in making determinations.
Trafficking in persons and human smuggling are some of the fastest growing areas of
international criminal activity, according to the United Nations. It often involves a number of
different crimes, spanning several countries, and involving an increasing number of victims.
Trafficking in persons (TIP) can be compared to a modern day form of slavery. It involves the
exploitation of people through force, coercion, threat, or deception and includes human rights
abuses such as debt bondage, deprivation of liberty, or lack of control over freedom and labor.
Trafficking can be for purposes of sexual exploitation or labor exploitation.
According to U.S. Government estimates, 800,000 to 900,000 victims are trafficked globally