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Mobile phones and mobile money play major role in fighting human trafficking

PRESS RELEASE 9 November 2015 - To fight human trafficking, EU and African crime prevention agencies should work together with mobile telephone operators to counter the use of mobile devices for smuggling, trafficking and illegal financial transactions. This recommendation for the EU-Africa Valletta Conference on Migration on the 11th and 12th of November in Malta, is drawn up in a report by Professor of International Relations, Innovation and Care, Mirjam van Reisen (Tilburg University) and Professor Tim Unwin (Unesco Chair in ICTs for Development), together with senior UN officials and human rights, trafficking and ICT experts.

Creating better access and use of new technologies and mobile devices as well as facilitating cheaper international money transfers, can play a key role in supporting and empowering (possible) refugees, they state. This is stated in the report ‘Phones, Mobile Money and Human Trafficking’ which has been accepted by Pierre Vimont, personal envoy of EU president Donald Tusk, as input for the Valetta Conference.

Prof. dr. Mirjam van Reisen: ‘Both the EU and African negotiators in Valletta should recognize that Information and Communications Technologies have immense significance for human mobility. These can be used for good or evil.’ She urges that more research and criminal investigation is needed into how ICT and telecommunications facilitate human trafficking in planning routes, communication and transactions involving ransom. ‘And on the positive side: when searching for ways to enhance development in countries from which migrants leave, negotiators should take into account the importance of new technologies to help relieve poverty and exclusion.’

This policy advice document was agreed upon during two expert meetings of representatives from government, the private sector, civil society and academia. The first was held at the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation in London on 7 October. The second was the Conference on “Remittances for Care as Mediator of the Destiny of Refugees” held at Tilburg University on 6 November.  Professors Mirjam van Reisen and Tim Urwin were initiators of these two conferences, as members of the Research Network ‘Globalization, Ageing, Innovation and Care’ (GAIC) of the Tilburg School of Humanities.

Note to editors

For an interview, please contact: Mirjam van Reisen, Phone: +32 479 468 690, or e-mail: Or contact press officer Ingrid Ramaan: +31 13 466 3481, or e-mail: The YouTube video with interview may be used on websites. For the full recommendations for the Valletta Conference by the expert group, see the Outcomes Document.