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Victim Naming and Blaming in Rights-Based Distinctions between Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling

image of International Human Rights Law Review

This article explores the challenges involved in differentiating between human trafficking and migrant smuggling, and their implications for human rights protection. Exploitation is dismissed as a hallmark of trafficking, with reference to situations of trafficking that occur without exploitation, and migrant smuggling that involves exploitation. The consent of smuggled migrants is similarly rejected as a signifier of smuggling, given the irrelevance of consent in human trafficking. Discussion of stigmatisation of migrants willing to migrant irregularly, and the simplification of their plight, leads to consideration of rights-based distinctions between the two phenomena. Assumptions made about the types of abuses that occur in trafficking and smuggling scenarios are explained as detracting from human rights protections of rights-holders. Ultimately, it is asserted that the labels of ‘trafficked’ and ‘smuggled’ should not be determined on the basis of human rights abuses, but should be confronted irrespective of which label has been allocated.

Affiliations: 1: International independent legal consultant on human trafficking, migrant smuggling and migration issues,


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