THB for labour exploitation is a complex issue and does not necessarily stop at the border. A multidisciplinary, integrated approach at both the national level and in cross-border cases is needed for an effective fight against THB for labour exploitation.

It is widely agreed by the experts involved in writing the manual that is the basis for this website: multidisciplinary cooperation has added value in most, possibly all, cases of THB for labour exploitation. Multidisciplinary cooperation means that a wide range of powers is available to counteract THB for labour exploitation. In each case of THB for labour exploitation, the organisations involved can decide together - where appropriate in consultation with the victim - what will be the most efficient and effective way to tackle it.

Benefits of multidisciplinary cooperation

When all relevant organisations are working together in an integrated way, the amount of available intelligence and information may well increase. This means that a more complete picture of the scale and nature of the problem can be built.

Combining the knowledge and information from several organisations may mean that cases of THB for labour exploitation can be identified quicker, and that the evidence against the traffickers is more complete. For the victim, it may mean leaving the exploitative situation sooner, and getting earlier access to support.

This cooperation may involve not just those organisations for whom dealing with THB for labour exploitation is one of their main duties. Many organisations with responsibilities of a different nature can come into contact with possible signs of THB for labour exploitation.


When working together, the organisations involved need to accept the fact that different organisations have different roles, responsibilities and organisational cultures. Differences may make cooperation challenging. But these same differences can also have the advantage that they can be used to complement each other.

An example of how organisations with different competences may complement each other is found in the cooperation between labour inspectorates and the police forces. Labour inspectorates are often able to enter premises without a warrant, whereas the police need to have a warrant. Similarly, in most countries the police have investigative powers that labour inspectorates do not have. By working together in an integrated way, these organisations may be able to do much more than they can on their own.

Fields of law

It is not possible to counteract THB for labour exploitation with investigations and prosecutions alone. In addition to criminal law, other fields of law can be used, such as administrative, labour, fiscal or human rights law. For example, when there is not enough evidence to prove THB for labour exploitation, or when another field of law is more appropriate to a specific case of exploitation.

It may also be useful to include all levels of government when addressing THB for labour exploitation: not just the national government, but also regional and local governments. This depends of course on their authority and responsibilities. Municipalities may for example have administrative instruments they can use, that can make it more difficult for criminals to commit THB for labour exploitation.


Prevention is also key. Effective regulation of labour supply and worker rights can discourage criminal enterprises from entering the labour supply chain. This is also where the support of businesses and other private organisations is important. They need to be able to work with the relevant authorities to identify and tackle THB for labour exploitation. For example, supermarkets can help to deal with exploitation in agriculture by insisting on clean, trafficking-free supply chains for the food that they sell.

Rantsev Decision (ECHR)

The need for multidisciplinary and cross-border cooperation was underlined in the Rantsev decision* of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). In this decision, the Court stated that member states have several positive obligations when it comes to counteracting trafficking in human beings. Member states need to put in place a comprehensive approach against THB. This approach should go beyond investigation and prosecution and should include prevention of trafficking and protection of victims. It should be based on human rights and put victims at the centre.

States also have an obligation to cooperate effectively in THB investigations with the relevant authorities in other states. They should ensure a comprehensive international approach in countries of origin, transit and destination.

* See: European Court of Human Rights, Rantsev v. Cyprus and Russia, Application no. 25965/04, Strasbourg.