Statelessness is believed to put a person at greater risk of becoming a victim of human trafficking. However, the causal link between the two issues had never been decisively demonstrated using empirical data. With funding from the US Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, Tilburg University carried out a two-year project to develop and pilot a research methodology to explore the nexus between statelessness and human trafficking in Northern Thailand among hill tribe people. The research was carried out by various experts in the fields of statelessness, human trafficking, legal empowerment and gender studies which resulted in an innovative methodology that can be used elsewhere. According to the researchers, intervention strategies should be focused on improving the ability to cope with situations of crisis both in the community and outside the community – so as to prevent a crisis becoming a trigger for trafficking. Ideally such interventions should take place at different levels within the community.


  • Adapt an established research methodology to assess the impact of statelessness on the legal empowerment and vulnerability to trafficking of women in Thailand;
  • Develop and implement survey methodology to capture data on subjective legal empowerment for specific problems relevant to the vulnerability of stateless women to trafficking;
  • Develop a framework for further assessment of the impact of statelessness on women in Southeast Asia, with a view to expanding this research to Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam.


  • Many of the consequences of being stateless are found to be known external root causes for human trafficking (i.e. Poverty, lack of job opportunities, lack of education, discrimination, corruption and lack of access to health care);
  • Stateless hill tribe people seem to be more affected by triggers, not necessarily because detrimental events or crises more often happen to them, but because they have less options and therefore are less able to deal with such an event;
  • The presence of internal root causes is not necessarily influenced by being stateless although there are indications that they are more at risk because of a higher willingness to migrate;
  • The lack of confidence in the police seems to be compensated by reliance on the community leader;
  • In a number of areas, stateless women are more affected by the consequences of statelessness and find themselves in a more vulnerable position than men.


  • NGOs, in close cooperation with community leaders, could establish a crisis fund within the community which is equally accessible to citizen and stateless inhabitants in times of need;
  • NGOs could initiate or enhance projects for stateless young women in the hill tribe communities to utilize micro credit opportunities to secure a position in which they are able to generate a higher and more reliable income;
  • Interventions can be targeted at creating a safe and familiar environment when outside the village e.g. awareness raising on the risks, the role of brokers, the importance that family members and community members know where a person is going;
  • Gaining confidence in the police is of pivotal importance when people have got into trouble e.g. an exploitative situation;
  • It is important to create avenues for safe migration. The abolition of travel restrictions should be part of a safe migration procedure;
  • Ending statelessness by acquiring citizenship is, in fact, the best option for alleviating the increased vulnerability to exploitative practices experiences by those who are stateless.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future