Difference Between Smuggling and Trafficking

Smuggling vs Trafficking

Smuggling and trafficking may appear to mean the same to you if you do not know the difference between smuggling and trafficking. Though, smuggling and trafficking are illegal activities that can take place in drugs, gold, arms, or even humans, it is human smuggling and trafficking that have been a cause of grave concern for the authorities of late. Whereas, smuggling is the facilitation, transportation or illegal entry of persons across an international border, trafficking does not necessarily involve movement of humans across borders. Though, there are cases of trafficking where human beings are illegally sent to other countries, human trafficking is a much more severe crime than human smuggling. There are some similarities yet many differences that will be highlighted in this article.

What does Trafficking mean?

Talking about US in particular, as it is one nation that is considered by millions to be a land of dreams, hundreds of thousands of migrants are sent across borders to enter the boundaries of the country without any legal papers. Yet, put of so many, only about 20000 per year are termed by the authorities as cases of human trafficking. This fact is enough to tell us that trafficking is a crime. So, while smuggling is mainly a crime against the state, trafficking is a crime against persons as they are victims of coercion and exploitation. When fighting against human trafficking it is actually a fight against violation of human rights. The consent of the person is not important in human trafficking. It is exploitative in nature. Trafficking is said to have taken place even inside borders; people are duped and sold or bought for purposes that are not dignified.

Difference Between Smuggling and Trafficking

Actress and UNICEF Ambassador Lucy Liu spoke out against human trafficking at the USAID Human Trafficking Symposium, Sept. 16, 2009.

What does Smuggling mean?

Human trafficking though included in human smuggling, is a special type where there is exploitation of the rights of the persons smuggled. Smuggling is mainly a crime against the state. Nations, and before them international organizations, fight in unison against both human smuggling and human trafficking. In fighting against human smuggling, it is the sovereignty of nations that is sought to be protected by these people. Human smuggling involves the consent of the migrant and is purely commercial in nature. Crossing of borders is a prerequisite in human smuggling. People in poor countries are attracted to rich nations as they believe they can earn better money, and lead a better life in a foreign country than their own country. This is why, they are ready to pay huge sums of money to smugglers who promise to deport them and get them entry onto the country they desire illegally. Sometimes, such aliens become subject of other crimes in their illegal journey and suffer from physical and sexual violence. It is when they pay the fees of the smugglers in full do they become free. Sometimes, some of the smuggled humans become victims of human trafficking.

What is the difference between Smuggling and Trafficking?

• Human smuggling refers to illegal entry of human beings into the country they desire to live, upon payment of money to smugglers.

• Human trafficking does not necessarily involve crossing of borders.

• Out of hundreds of thousands that are illegally transported to US, only a few thousand suffer from human trafficking.


Images Courtesy:

  1. USAID Human Trafficking Symposium, Sept. 16, 2009 by Bethany (CC BY 2.0)