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NEW YORK (March 18, 2024) — Today, the Human Rights Foundation (HRF) published a new report, “Authoritarianism and Trafficking in Persons: Authoritarian Partnerships,” as part of its ongoing series exploring the links between human trafficking and authoritarianism.


There are an estimated 50 million people worldwide trapped in either forced labor or forced marriage. While human trafficking exists in every country, HRF’s research suggests authoritarian regimes are more likely to encourage and perpetuate human trafficking than democracies. Authoritarian regimes are more likely to create unfavorable conditions, pushing individuals to seek better opportunities elsewhere and, thus, increasing their exposure and vulnerability to exploitation. These regimes are also less likely to engage in effective anti-trafficking efforts, such as supporting victims or prosecuting traffickers. In some cases, the regime itself is the trafficker.

HRF’s latest report explores the connection between authoritarianism and human trafficking, with a focus on regimes that collude in trafficking their citizens. Countries like North Korea and Cuba contract their citizens to work in other authoritarian regimes like China and Venezuela. These individuals are subjected to poor working conditions, restricted movement, confiscation of their passports, and other abuses. Meanwhile, the source countries pocket the majority of the workers’ pay, allowing them to continue funding their repressive regimes.

The report analyzes data from the US Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons reports and includes case studies to better understand authoritarianism as a root cause of human trafficking. 

The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies. HRF’s Human Trafficking & Authoritarianism program explores the global state of human trafficking and its connection with authoritarianism.

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