Belgium has been a pioneer in tackling trafficking in human beings since the mid-1990s, when Europe became increasingly aware of this wide-spread phenomenon on its soil. Belgium was one of the first European countries to adopt counter-trafficking legislation, and in 1999 a multi-disciplinary committee was established to monitor and discuss the issue. Belgium also firmly placed the prevention and fight against human trafficking on the EU political agenda during its Presidency in 2001. Following the Belgian EU Presidency Conclusions, and with active participation from the Belgian Government and NGOs, IOM and the EU jointly organized the “European Conference on Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Human Beings: A Global Challenge for the 21st Century” in September 2002 at the European Parliament in Brussels. The conference brought together over 1,100 participants representing European Institutions, EU member states, Candidate Countries and relevant third countries, international organizations, regional and national organizations, NGOs, universities and research institutes, media and other relevant counterparts from 59 countries. The core result of the conference was the Brussels Declaration on Prevention and Fight against Trafficking in Human Beings which outlined a set of recommendations for European policy, as well as an operational framework to address the phenomena.

Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, IOM implemented a number of counter-trafficking projects at the EU level that primarily focused on co-operation and networking between relevant officials. IOM aimed to increase knowledge of the phenomena, and promote best practices, many of which were pioneered by the Belgian counter trafficking practitioners.

Today, IOM and Belgium work in a variety of contexts to ensure that vulnerable populations are better informed of the faces and forms of human trafficking and to improve the socio-economic inclusion of marginalized communities who are at a high risk of being trafficked. In parallel, efforts are ongoing to ensure that communities and officials are more knowledgeable and capable of identifying and assisting victims, and that national institutions are equipped with legislation and well trained officials to tackle the many facets of human-trafficking.

Trafficking of persons is defined in article 3 of the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, Supplementing the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime as “The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of threat, use of force or other means of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the receiving or giving of payment to a person having control over another person for the purpose of exploitation."

IOM counter-trafficking website

Migrant smuggling is defined by the UN Convention on Transnational Organized Crime and its protocol against the smuggling of migrants, as "The intentional organization or facilitation of the irregular movement of persons across state borders, which is provided in return for financial or other gain by the migrants to the smugglers. Smuggling of migrants generally takes place with the consent of the person willing to move. However, the act of smuggling itself is often dangerous and violent, forcing people to unsafe and inhumane travelling conditions."

IOM fact-sheet on smuggling

For more information, contact Ms. Leila Bougrine (, tel: +32 491 71 78 77).



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Projects & Activities

Foster and Improve Integration of Trafficked persons (FIIT)

The Foster and Improve Integration of Trafficked persons (FIIT) project was implemented in 5 EU Member states (Belgium, France, Hungary, Italy and the United Kingdom) from January 2012 to June 2013. It was funded by the EC fund for the integration of third-country nationals, the Italian Ministry of the Interior and the British NGO Migrant Helpline.

Based on more than 100 interviews with service providers, policy makers and former victims of trafficking (VoT), the FIIT study analyses the integration of VoTs in the 5 case countries. It also provides recommendations to enhance the integration of VoTs in host countries.

The FIIT toolkit is designed as a practical booklet for practitioners. More information.

18 October celebrates EU Anti-Trafficking Day

The EU Anti-Trafficking Day was established by the European Commission in 2007 and is celebrated on 18 October every year since. It is a great occasion to raise awareness on trafficking in human beings and increase the exchange of information, knowledge and best practices among the different actors working in this field.

Download our latest IOM flyer with resources and tools in the field of counter-trafficking and check our Regional Office's page on the subject.

Study Visits on Counter-Trafficking organized by IOM in Belgium

IOM Belgium organizes study visits on the topic of Trafficking in Human Beings on a regular basis. These visits allow for other IOM missions and/or their governmental/NGO counterparts to learn from the referral and protection mechanisms in Belgium.

Key IOM Initiatives

  • IOM X: Campaign to encourage safe migration and public action to stop exploitation and human trafficking
  • TACT Project: Transnational Referral Mechanism. Safe and sustainable return and reintegration for Victims of Trafficking.
  • Global Data Hub on Human Trafficking: The Counter Trafficking Data Collaborative (CTDC) is the first global data hub on human trafficking, with data contributed by organizations from around the world.
  • GloAct: Joint initiative (2015-2019) by the EU and UNODC, implemented in partnership with IOM and UNICEF.

Useful Links