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Statelessness increases risk of exploitation and trafficking

Published: 11th February 2015 Last updated: 01st May 2019

PRESS RELEASE 11 February 2015 - Statelessness increases risk factors that influence the likelihood to fall victim to trafficking, such as lack of education and the ability to deal with a sudden crisis. A combination of risk factors may push stateless people to decide to migrate and take risks to be able to do so. These are conclusions from new research by Tilburg University into the relationship between statelessness and human trafficking in Thailand.

Press Release 11 February 2015

Statelessness is believed to put a person at greater risk of becoming a victim of human trafficking. However, the causal link between the two issues had never been decisively demonstrated using empirical data. With funding from the US Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, Tilburg University carried out a two-year project to develop and pilot a research methodology to explore the nexus between statelessness and human trafficking in Northern Thailand among hill tribe people. The research was carried out by various experts in the fields of statelessness, human trafficking,  legal empowerment and gender studies which resulted in an innovative methodology that can be used elsewhere.

Risk factors

The main goal of the research was to find out whether, why and how stateless hill tribe people are at increased risk of exploitation and trafficking. Therefore, the consequences of being stateless and the root causes of trafficking for hill tribe communities were mapped. On the latter the researchers concluded that there are there types of factors are involved:

  • external root causes, such as poverty or lack of education;
  • internal or subjective factors related to a person’s character, state of mind and behavior, such as being adventurous and risk seeking, or dupable, and materialism;
  • the presence of triggers of root causes, such as crisis or sudden dramatic event in one’s life that creates, for instance, an urgent need for money, such as the need for expensive medical treatment for a family member. When such a crisis occurs, the prevalence of root causes makes a person less able to deal with or absorb the situation and make dormant root causes become real risks, potentially ‘triggering’ trafficking.

The three categories of root causes in and of themselves do not necessarily provide for an increased risk for exploitation or human trafficking. It is a combination of the prevalence of risk factors in all three categories that mutually re-influence one another and generate a toxic mix of circumstances in which vulnerability for exploitation and human trafficking increases.

Prevention of exploitation and trafficking

According to the researchers, intervention strategies should be focused on improving the ability to cope with situations of crisis both in the community and outside the community – including so as to prevent a crisis becoming a trigger for trafficking. Ideally such interventions should take place at different levels within the community.


Laura van Waas, Conny Rijken, Martin Gramatikov & Deirdre Brennan, The Nexus between Statelessness and Human Trafficking in Thailand. Wolf Legal Publishers, 2015.

Laura van Waas, Conny Rijken, Martin Gramatikov & Deirdre Brennan, A methodology for exploring the interaction between statelessness and human trafficking. Wolf Legal Publishers, 2015.


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