Victims are often lured and recruited through direct solicitation and word of mouth. Or through (online) advertisements in the country of origin. In many cases, migrant workers find work through employment (or recruitment) agencies. In other cases, the migrant worker already has a relationship with the trafficker. For example, having previously been employed by a trafficker’s family member or being from the same village or even family.

Hidden risk for legitimate businesses

Employment agencies fulfil a legitimate role in a modern economy: they arrange for the temporary recruitment of extra staff for businesses that experience peak periods of demand for their products. In such situations, the urgent need for workers may result in employment agencies not completing their procedures properly, with bad consequences for the workers. This may not be noticed by the end-user, because they are focussed on the need to meet the demand for their product.

Such situations are a breeding ground for deceptive recruitment that enables exploitation of workers. Traffickers may for example recognise that employment agencies need a supply of workers to fulfil the requirements of the end-user. They may seek to exploit that need and send workers to the agency, or accompany them there. Legitimate businesses may thus be infiltrated by workers who are subjected to THB for labour exploitation and in the control of the exploiter.

Deception and debt bondage

Recruiters often deceive the victims, by promising a certain type of work, transportation to the destination country, good wages, a social security number, a bank account, housing and food. High fees are often charged for being recruited and then deducted from the wages. This could lead to victims ending up in debt bondage. Workers are often already in debt before they arrive in the destination country, making them very vulnerable to exploitation.

Awareness among vulnerable groups

Workers therefore need to be given information about the risks they face when they are being recruited, and about the rights they have. Awareness campaigns aimed at potential migrant workers and other vulnerable groups are an important means to prevent deceptive recruitment.

Prevent and stop recruitment for THB

To prevent and counteract recruitment for THB for labour exploitation, the relevant organisations could:

Tackle fraudulent practices of employment agencies

Standards could be developed for employment agencies regarding compliance with labour law and health and safety laws. The system to enforce these standards could take the form of licensing or certification for (temporary) employment agencies with respect to, for example, the payment of taxes and social insurance contributions, payment of the minimum wage, the legitimacy of employment and housing.

A system of licensing or certification can only work if there is a monitoring system in place to ensure continued compliance with these standards through frequent checks. Working without a license or using a company without a license could be made punishable. When the company applying for the license is based in another country, information from that country will be needed to assess the application.

Limit or prohibit the payment of recruitment fees

Since the payment of high recruitment fees may put workers in debt and give the traffickers control over them, consideration could be given to limiting the amount that recruiters are allowed to charge or prohibiting recruitment fees altogether.

The Netherlands, for example, has limited the registration fee for au pairs. After discovering that some employment agencies for au pairs were charging excessive registration fees, the Netherlands determined in 2012 that the maximum registration fee for au pairs would be set at € 34.

Multidisciplinary and cross-border cooperation

To tackle fraudulent recruitment, cross-border cooperation may be necessary since recruitment and work often take place in different countries. To address recruitment for THB for labour exploitation, organisations could:

Exchange information on recruitment agencies

Agencies that recruit workers are not always based in the country where the work is carried out. Cross-border mediation of employment makes enforcement of any system more difficult. To make sure that these agencies are following the necessary laws and regulations, the responsible organisations (for example labour inspectorates) in the source and destination countries of need to share their information on the recruitment agencies involved. For example, inspectorates could share information on the violations committed by recruitment agencies.

Specific information for organisations

The following four organisations have specific information about recruitment: