Wherever there is a survivor, there invariably is a community and for many individuals that community is more-often-than-not family. 

“You can kiss your family and friend’s goodbye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world, but a world lives in you.  – Frederick Buechner

In researching this blog, I was looking forward to breaking down the concept of reintegration and being able to more clearly define what this rather blurry concept looks like!  Unfortunately, what I discovered was that the definition of the word ‘reintegration,’ although universally the same, differs in meaning quite significantly from organization to organization, individual to individual and from region to region. In fact, it became apparent that even the perception of reintegration for survivors of trafficking (primary beneficiary’s) differed significantly, not only from mine as a practitioner, but equally significantly from one beneficiary to another.

The goal of any aftercare or human trafficking survivor service program is the successful reintegration of the trafficking survivor. Achieving this goal however, is not quite so easy – while survivors of trafficking face the daunting task of rebuilding their lives, those providing them with this support, encounter an array of other challenges including the needs of secondary beneficiaries, in ensuring that their assistance empowers survivors to live healthy, independent lives.

Reintegration is loosely defined as “the process of economic and social inclusion following a trafficking experience” and it includes:

  •      Settlement in a safe and secure environment,
  •      Access to a reasonable standard of living,
  •      Mental and physical well-being,
  •      Opportunities for personal, social and economic development,
  •      Access to social and emotional support.

Realistically, the process of reintegration is a complex, unpredictable and long-term problem, which is often impacted by:

  • Individual contexts including the management of the physical, psychological and social effects of exploitation.
  • The family, community and cultural context
  • Pre-existing vulnerabilities

Addressing the root causes and impact of trafficking requires a full and diverse package of services for beneficiary’s both from an individual perspective as well as from a collective perspective which would include secondary beneficiaries (family).


“Secondary beneficiaries” fall into three main categories:

  • Children of trafficked parents;
  • Parents of trafficked children and
  • The husband or wife of a trafficked spouse.


“When I ask for help the shelters can help me but not my children – what must I do? Lleave them behind?”

“When I was at home with my parents, we did not have enough to eat and I used to look out on the street and think of the choices I had.  And the street looked like a way to make money”

“I think I will be happy to see my family … I remember with my joy to see my family I am forgetting the many hard things we have live with in my family’s village”

The family environment for a returning trafficking survivor is crucial to the reintegration process.  Unfortunately, it is often overlooked and under-appreciated and situations where families blame unreached social and economic needs and expectations on a returning survivor, or where families refuse to welcome the survivor home, pose a serious stumbling block to a survivor’s healthy reintegration.

In many cases, assisting the family as part of a secondary beneficiaries’ reintegration process is vital in addressing the needs of the primary beneficiary, as well as creating an environment which is conducive for long-term reintegration.  If a beneficiary is anxious or concerned about family who are not being fed, assist the family as this will lessen the beneficiary’s anxiety and assist with better recovery and reintegration.  Alternatively, if a beneficiary is anxious about what could happen to her because of an abusive family dynamic then this too needs to be addressed and looked at and evaluated as to whether it is even a viable environment for reintegration.

Including the family, relatives and communities more systematically in the return and reintegration projects is critical to fostering the sustainability of the process.

Keys to success:

  • A tailor-made approach: Consider designing a program based on the needs of the individual rather than designing a program and then imposing the program upon the beneficiary.
  • Flexibility: Start educating and advising donors and supporters that funding/grants need to be available for any aspect of reintegration work – services, staff, office costs as well as secondary beneficiaries. Such flexibility is invaluable where precise needs and numbers of potential victims are unpredictable and varied.
  • Long-term is key: Adopt a long-term strategy that will achieve comprehensive sustainable reintegration success by addressing the needs of the primary beneficiary along with her secondary beneficiaries.

Secondary beneficiaries matter! Whether good or bad, they play a crucial role in the recovery and reintegration of trafficking survivors and need to be considered when looking at a healthy and holistic reintegration program for primary beneficiary’s.


  • Surtees, Rebecca, Beyond Trafficking. The re/integration of trafficking victims in the Balkans, 2007 to 2014. Final report, Brussels: KBF, Washington DC: NEXUS Institute, 2015
  • Lessons learnt from the CARE and TACT projects. Enhancing the safety and sustainability of the return and reintegration of victims of trafficking, IOM 2015
Peta-Ann Small is Co-Founder and Operations Director of Set Free Foundation in Bulgaria an anti-trafficking organization focused on prevention, reintegration and community transformation. She has a background in education and is passionate about helping people find joy, strength and dignity in Jesus so they can face their future without fear.