Read the most frequent questions about compensation for trafficked persons


Most European countries have legal provisions for victims of crime to claim compensation or to otherwise be compensated for material and non-material damages.

In general crime victims  – including trafficked persons – in the European Union (EU) can obtain compensation for the injuries and/or damages they have suffered, regardless of where in the territory of the EU the crime was committed. Each EU country has its own system for compensating victims for the damage they have suffered because of being a victim of a crime. As a victim of crime, you have two channels of compensation: you can claim compensation from the offender during criminal or civil proceedings or you can claim compensation from the state (from the compensation authority or any other relevant body in the country).


There are different ways of claiming compensation. It is important to know the different routes, available in the country and when to apply one or the other. Via the E-Justice Portal of the European Union you can find more information about the compensation schemes available in each EU country.


There are two types of damages that can be claimed, non-material and material damages.


Non-material are the physical and psychological damages caused by human trafficking.

This can include trauma as a result of abuse and offences committed against the person. You can also think about compensation for the stigmatisation of a trafficked woman exploited in the sex industry, who might suffer if it comes out she has been trafficked, either by her community or her family. Sometimes it leads to social exclusion. Or there might be damages caused by not being able to continue an education or by having quit a job to take up the offer by the trafficker.


Some of the non-material damages and losses which a trafficked person may seek to recover through criminal and or civil proceedings include:

  • Abuse and offences committed against the individual (i.e. physical or mental harm including pain, suffering and emotional distress);
  • Lost opportunities, including education and loss of earnings potential;
  • Harm to the reputation or dignity of the individual, including harm that is likely to continue in the future (e.g. as a result of stigmatisation);


Material damages can be twofold:

Damages (of monetary value) that are a direct consequence of trafficking: These may include money the victim had to pay to the trafficker for e.g. travel expenses, expenses for housing and food (some traffickers demand the victim to pay a high sum of money for housing and costs of living etc.). But you can also think of costs for legal aid, for shelters and housing and medical or psychological care.

Unpaid wages: Cost of services and labour that the victim has rendered for the trafficker, but for which she/he was not paid (or only partially paid). Also if the person was trafficked into the sex industry money was earned by the trafficked person providing an income, profit for the trafficker. This applies also in countries where prostitution is not seen as a form of labour.


Some of the material damages and losses which a trafficked person may seek to recover through criminal and or civil proceedings include:

  • Money taken from the individual which he or she earned legitimately;
  • Money taken from the individual which was acquired in the course of activities that he or she was instructed to carry out and worked to earn, even if the activities were not legal (e.g. through prostitution);
  • Unpaid or underpaid wages or their equivalent in terms of the time which the individual was obliged to spend earning money for a trafficker or exploiter;
  • Earnings or other property to which the individual was entitled but that were held by the traffickers or exploiters and not given back when the individual left their control;
  • Medical and professional services related to physical, psychiatric or psychological care, including psycho-social counselling;
  • Physical and occupational therapy or rehabilitation;
  • Costs of transportation and residential care or temporary housing;
  • Fees and other costs for a legal representative and expenses incurred in relation to legal proceedings by the legal representative, the individual or his or her family;
  • and Costs incurred by the individual and members of her or his family in the course of finding out what has happened to him or her or in making suitable arrangements upon leaving the trafficking situation.


There are no harmonized procedures yet for the calculation of compensation claims. The assessment of Justice at Last identified some of the factors and reasoning followed by prosecutors and judges in the calculation of moral and material damage.

Factors considered by courts in calculating non-material damages may include:

  • Medical report on consequences of physical and or psychological injury
  • Expert reports on the psychosocial condition of the person
  • Expert reports on the risks involved in the continued exercise of prostitution,
  • Duration of the exploitative situation
  • Age of the person
  • Use of violence or threats, restriction of freedom, other aggravating circumstances
  • Guidelines on measuring pain and suffering
  • Principle of prohibiting unjust enrichment through compensation for non-material damage
  • Background of the victim and circumstances of the exploitative situation
  • Type of exploitation

Factors considered by courts in calculating material damages may include:

  • Calculation of unpaid wages based on minimum wage or collective bargaining agreement in relevant occupational sector
  • Period of employment (number of working days, number of working hours per day, annual leave)
  • Lost income
  • Property damage
  • Costs of medical, physical, psychological or psychiatric treatment required by the victim
  • Costs of physical and occupational therapy or rehabilitation required by the victim
  • Legal fees and other costs or expenses related to the victim participation in criminal proceedings


However, even when the legal framework is in place, the rights of people who were victim of trafficking or other crime to actually seek and obtain compensation remains difficult or impossible to exercise in practice. Evidence shows that very few victims have the information and the means to seek compensation, as result few victims seek compensation, and that among those who do, even fewer receive a compensation payment.

Obstacles to accessing and obtaining compensation include a lack of awareness among police and the judicial system, lack of access to legal aid and adequate information for victims, and the postponement of trials and long duration of criminal and civil proceedings. Another obstacle, in the case of foreign victims, is the return or deportation to their country of origin before a verdict is reached.

Access to State compensation funds may be hindered as well, for instance due to a lack of residence status, lack of information, lack of means, and lack of access to legal aid. In short, many barriers prevent victims from claiming and obtaining their rights, including the right to compensation.


Even when compensation has been ordered, barriers exist that leave victims without payment. These barriers include that victims rarely have the means to ensure the compensation order is enforced. But also that the perpetrators are not found, are not prosecuted, have moved their assets abroad, or have declared themselves bankrupt to avoid confiscation of their assets and having to pay compensation.