Research Humanities and Digital Sciences

Research at the Tilburg School of Humanities and Digital Sciences focuses on transformation processes taking place in contemporary society, related to communication and culture, and analyses the underlying moral and ethical questions.

Fight the root causes of human exodus of Africa, trafficking and ICT experts urge EU

PRESS RELEASE October 7th, 2015 - An Afripol police and African anti-trafficking office should be established which focuses on fighting criminal groups and human trafficking. Working closely with Europol, these could strengthen the African security situation, protect refugees and help combat the root cause of the current exodus to Europe.
In addition, more research is needed into how ICT and telecommunications can facilitate human trafficking in planning routes, communication and (ransom) transactions. These are two recommendations for the EU-Africa Valletta Conference on migration 11-12 November in Malta, drawn up by Tilburg University (Netherlands) experts, Mirjam van Reisen, Conny Rijken and Gerard van Oortmerssen together with senior UN officials, human rights, trafficking and ICT experts.

To raise awareness of the role ICT and telecommunications play in facilitating trafficking, the conference on ‘Phone, Data and Mobile Money: Tracking Human Trafficking’ was held at the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation, on October 7 in London. The fact that many people in Africa depend on their mobile phones to do their banking makes them an easier prey for hostage takers and traffickers. This income stream is funding and incentivizing illegal activities on a colossal scale. More research is needed into the way telecommunications permit criminal networks to acquire resources. The experts gathered in London insist this issue must become an immediate priority for Europol as well as Afripol and the African Anti-trafficking Office, once these organizations are up and running. They also urge that Remittances and ICT access should be promoted among the positive measures that will help address the migration crisis.


The scale of the humanitarian crisis in Africa and Europe and the thousands of refugees dying in their final attempt to reach Europe require ‘fresh thinking’ and ‘new approaches’ that target the root causes of this exodus, according to the experts. Their meeting is a preparation for the Valetta Conference between EU and African countries, which aims to curb human smuggling and trafficking. Pierre Vimont, personal envoy of EU president Donald Tusk and in charge of preparing the Valetta Conference, also provided input. Initiators were Tim Unwin, UNESCO Chair in Information and Communication Technology for Development, and Mirjam van Reisen, Professor of International Relations, Innovations and Care of Tilburg University. Van Reisen has published extensively on trafficking and human rights abuses. The latest report she wrote together with Tilburg University colleague Conny Rijken, The Human Trafficking Cycle: Sinai and Beyond, shows the personal impact on the thousands of migrants who fall into the hands of smugglers and traffickers.  

‘EU must adopt differentiated approach towards African governments’

Of course, the EU should work together with African nations and provide financial support. However, the expert group urges that it is vitally important that the EU adopt a differentiated approach towards African states since these governments differ greatly in their level of democratic governance, human rights, and the rule of law. The EU must act on the basis of some regimes being among the root causes of the refugee crisis.

Click HERE to view the full Outcomes Statement for the Valletta Conference.

Background information on Tilburg University researchers

Professor of International Relations, Innovations and Care Mirjam van Reisen leads the Research Network ‘Globalization, Ageing, Innovation and Care’ (GAIC) of the Tilburg School of Humanities, which focusses on the nexus of health care with ICT and technological innovation, changing global demographics, and mobility of people through migration. She is also Director of the Europe External Policy Advisors (EEPA). Gerard van Oortmerssen is Professor of the Evolution of the Internet, working for the Tilburg center for Cognition and Communication (TiCC) of Tilburg University. Researcher Conny Rijken is an expert on human trafficking, European criminal law and protection of human rights and is a member of the international victimology institute INTERVICT of Tilburg University.

Note to the editors

For an interview, please contact: Mirjam van Reisen, Phone: +32 479 468 690, or e-mail:

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