Legal Consequences of Trafficking
last updated September 1, 2005


Women who are victims of trafficking may also face legal consequences. Frequently, when victims of trafficking come to the attention of local authorities, they are detained or deported for immigration violations or for violating other local laws. As a result, many victims fear going to the authorities to report abuse. Trafficking victims often do not want to risk being returned to their home country, where they may face continued economic hardship as well as social stigmatization. Victims may also fear retaliation by the traffickers, either against themselves or their families. Traffickers will frequently use threats of retaliation to control women who have been trafficked. 

This situation not only represents a serious danger for the victim but also impedes the ability of law enforcement to address the problem. Victims who are deported are unable to cooperate in the prosecution of the criminals involved in the trafficking. Both the European Union and national governments have recognized the need to grant victims of trafficking special protection because of their crucial role in the investigation and prosecution of trafficking cases.


To address some of these concerns, many countries in Europe are making temporary visas available to the trafficking victims if they are willing to testify against the traffickers. Even if they are willing to testify, the women are often sent back after the trial has ended. Some countries, however, are creating procedures and regulations that would allow women to apply for permanent residency based on their status as trafficking victims. More information on steps being taken to address the legal consequences of trafficking is available in the sections on Legal Protection and Victim Protection and Immigration Law.