Travel Agency: A Critique of Anti-Trafficking Campaigns

Sharma, Nadita (2003): Travel Agency: A Critique of Anti-Trafficking Campaigns, in: Refuge. Vol 21, No 3 (2003).

Full article available here.

This paper offers a critical evaluation of anti-trafficking campaigns spearheaded by some in the feminist movement in an attempt to deal with the issues of unsafe migrations and labour exploitation. I discuss how calls to “end trafficking, especially in women and children” are influenced by – and go on to legitimate – governmental practices to criminalize the self-willed migration of people moving without official permission. I discuss how the ideological frame of anti-trafficking works to reinforce restrictive immigration practices, shore up a nationalized consciousness of space and home, and criminalize those rendered illegal within national territories. Anti-trafficking campaigns also fail to take into account migrants’ limited agency in the migration process. I provide alternative routes to anti-trafficking campaigns by arguing for an analytical framework in which the related worldwide crises of displacement and migration are foregrounded. I argue that by centering the standpoint of undocumented migrants a more transformative politics emerges, one that demands that people be able to “stay” and to “move” in a self-determined manner.

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