How human trafficking
spans the world

Illustrations by Michelle Thompson
Cover photo by Steve McCurry/ILO


Human beings should not be bought or sold. But each year, tens of thousands are, in a booming trade fuelled by desperation, organised crime and the ever greater number of vulnerable people on the move.

In these stories, FT reporters investigate the true scope of trafficking, from modern-day slaves making their way from Africa to Europe to kidnapped children in China.


Dora and her traffickers set out to cross the Sahara desert in a pick up truck with just 4 litres of water, some milk, and garri — a tapioca flour. Soon, the bag carrying the garri burst.

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“Even at work, I am consumed with the thought of my son. I think to myself: ‘How could he have disappeared from the village?’”

Chen Shengkuan, searching for his 20-month-old son since the boy's suspected kidnapping in January 2015
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“This is a country still struggling to break with its past of slavery, a past still present in our society”

Ubiratan Cazetta, public prosecutor for the state of Pará
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Without their passports, Nepali housemaids are at the mercy of sometimes violent and abusive employers in the Gulf. Sunita Tamang could not even call her husband to see if she had been paid — she never was.

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United Kingdom

The number of trafficking victims in the UK system has shot up. Guaranteed 45 days in a safe house, such people too often end up on the streets or back in traffickers’ hands.

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