Trafficking in Human Beings for the Purposes of Labour Exploitation: The Crime of Caporalato

Sara Massimi – 18233169.
LL.M. in International Human Rights
Irish Centre for Human Rights (ICHR), National University of Ireland, Galway.
July 2019.
Supervisor: Professor Mullally Siobhán.


Trafficking in human beings for the purposes of labour exploitation is a phenomenon which is on the rise since the last two decades. This increase is mainly due to the constant fluxes of migrants, who, in an attempt to enter the so-called ‘fortress of Europe’, are forced to rely on the assistance of smugglers and traffickers to trespass the frontiers outside of the pale of the law. In this context, the Italian peninsula has found itself unable to cope with those major fluxes of the last decades. As a matter of fact, its reception mechanism and the employment of migrant workers have suffered a backlog, such that the criminal organisations that operate in the country have found an area of manoeuvre. Indeed, criminal organisations have found a way to intertwine the old practice of caporalato, to the most recent trafficking in human beings. In this way, migrants that traverse the borders find themselves hired by an unscrupulous employer which will exploit their work. This could not be possible without the caporale, i.e. an intermediary between the demand to work and its supply, but also between various streams of the supply chain itself – between the trafficker and the employer which will exploit the workers. This intermediation character, through the efforts of the Italian government, has been effectively criminalised through Law 199/2016. However, the Italian legislator did not take into account the new modes of caporalato, and the link with the trafficking in human beings which through a continuum create practices of trafficking in human beings for the purposes of labour exploitation.

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