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Human trafficking for labour exploitation: the results of a two-phase systematic review mapping the European evidence base and synthesising key scientific research evidence

Cockbain, EP; Bowers, K; Dimitrova, G; (2018) Human trafficking for labour exploitation: the results of a two-phase systematic review mapping the European evidence base and synthesising key scientific research evidence. Journal of Experimental Criminology , 14 (3) pp. 319-360. 10.1007/s11292-017-9321-3. Green open access

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Abstract

OBJECTIVES: Our objectives were (1) to systematically map the contours of the European evidence base on labour trafficking, identifying its key characteristics, coverage, gaps, strengths and weaknesses and (2) to synthesise key scientific research. METHODS: We took a two-phase approach: a systematic map followed by a detailed synthesis of key scientific research evidence. Our search strategy included 15 databases, hand searches of additional journals, backwards searches, snowball searches and expert recommendations. We identified and screened 6106 records, mapped 152 and synthesised eight. RESULTS: Overall, the literature was limited and fragmented. Reports produced by official agencies dominated; academic authorship and peer-reviewed outputs were comparatively rare. Few publications met minimum scientific standards. Qualitative designs outweighed quantitative ones. Publications typically described trafficking’s problem profile and/or discussed interventions; they rarely assessed trafficking’s impacts or evaluated interventions. Even among the key scientific research, the quality of evidence was variable and often low. Particular weaknesses included poor methods reporting, unclear or imprecise results and conclusions not properly grounded in the data. The synthesised studies were all exploratory, also sharing other design features. Common themes identified included: poor treatment of victims; diversity of sectors affected and commonalities among victims; inadequacies of current responses; and barriers to interventions. CONCLUSIONS: There is a lack of high-quality studies into European labour trafficking. Methodological opacity, insufficient rigour and publication in non-indexed locations impede the identification, assessment and synthesis of evidence. Adherence to higher reporting standards would further the field’s development and particular research gaps should be addressed.

Type: Article
Title: Human trafficking for labour exploitation: the results of a two-phase systematic review mapping the European evidence base and synthesising key scientific research evidence
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1007/s11292-017-9321-3
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11292-017-9321-3
Language: English
Additional information: © The Author(s) 2018 Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.
Keywords: Exploitation, Forced labour, Human trafficking, Immigration, Migration, Organised crime, Modern slavery, Servitude, Systematic review, Systematic map
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science > Dept of Security and Crime Science
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10041056
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