Skip to navigation

Skip to main content

Rural Migration News

contact us

January 2010, Volume 16, Number 1

OSCE: Trafficking in Ag

The Vienna, Austria-based Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which has 56-member states, held a meeting in April 2009 that dealt with the trafficking of persons to work in agriculture. The discussion drew on US experience; the Coalition of Immokalee Workers apparently asserted that "workers being held against their will?[are] a significant percentage of the overall farm workforce." (p2). No evidence is offered to support this statement; some 2.5 million workers are employed for wages on US farms sometime during a typical year.

The OSCE report suggests that trafficking of farm workers is common in both the US and Europe. Case studies can provide useful experiences to identify and prosecute traffickers, but an understanding of the farm labor market may be more useful to identify systemic features of the labor market that can slide into smuggling and trafficking. (

The International Labour Organization in 2005 estimated that there were 12.3 million victims of "forced labor" worldwide, including 2.4 million in forced labor as a result of trafficking. The OSCE cited Peter Hurst's estimate that 450 million wage workers were 40 percent of the global farm workforce of 1.1 billion, including 173 million children under 18? the 450 million number is from Piggott, Box 11 (p35), with no date or sources, although a table on the same page refers to 1997.

The OSCE identifies contracting out? when farmers use intermediaries to obtain seasonal workers? as a fundamental contributor to trafficking (p31). Many of the cases in the OSCE report involved EU workers employed in another EU country, such as Polish tomato pickers in Puglia, Italy and Greek workers in Cornwall, UK (p 36). Two of the cases were in the US, involving Jamaicans in New Hampshire and Mexicans in South Carolina (p37).

The OSCE concludes that enforcing labor laws and prosecuting traffickers is the best way to curb their activities. It also calls for unions and NGOs to have easier access to workers so that they can be advised of their rights and cases of trafficking can be detected.

OSCE. 2009. A Summary of Challenges on Addressing Human Trafficking for Labor Exploitation in the Agricultural Sector in the OSCE Region. Hurst, Peter. 2005. Agricultural Workers and their Contribution to Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development. FAO-ILO-IUF. Piggot, Marilyn. 2003. Decent Work in Agriculture.

Subscribe via Email

Click here to subscribe to Rural Migration News via email.