“Do ut des”: An anthropological study on the agendas of ’anti’-trafficking measures in Italy

Johansson, Isabelle (21013): “Do ut des”: An anthropological study on the agendas of  ’anti’-trafficking measures in Italy.

Full paper available here.  

Trafficking in human beings is a topic that has received a lot of attention the last ten years. It
has been referred to as a modern form of slavery and a crime against humanity. There is a
flood of actors working to fight trafficking and save its victims, occupied with different forms
of victim assistance. At the same time the European Union is augmenting restrictions on visas
and asylum legislation, border controls and deportations, which makes migrants from certain
countries who wish to travel to Europe despite these restrictions vulnerable to exploitation.
Italy has been acknowledged for providing the best practice of protection for ‘victim of
trafficking’, since it offers a residence permit developed especially for identified ‘trafficking
victims’. Claiming victimhood is often the only way for irregular migrant women in the sex
industry to obtain a legal status in contemporary Italy. However, the category and its legal and
social benefits are out of reach to many. It is not possible to just claim to be a victim but one
must do so by surrendering to certain ideas about what constitutes a ‘victim of trafficking’ and
provide what it expected. This study will examine the interconnection between migration
management and trafficking anthropologically, with a focus on ‘anti’-trafficking measures in
Italy and the concept of victimhood in the practices who take on the women who are in the
process of obtaining the legal status of ‘victims of trafficking’ and the following residence
permit. By looking at trafficking from a structural perspective I will show how the ‘victim of
trafficking’ is created, and how it is connected to the state and its migration policies.

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