Human trafficking, the trade in human beings to exploit them and their labour, is primarily treated as a policing issue, to be addressed through policing of borders and workplaces, restrictions on mobility, and criminal investigations and prosecutions. But what impacts do these measures really have? Do they prevent further human trafficking? And do they provide support and protection to the victims?
Human trafficking is both a cause and consequence of violations of human rights, as well as global inequality, gender discrimination, exclusion, poverty. It happens in a context of globalisation, de-regulation of labour and normalisation of poor working conditions in some sectors, in particular, but not only, for migrants. Exploitation of workers happens on a continuum, with decent work on one end of the spectrum and forced labour or trafficking on the other end. Focusing on policing does little to address these issues, which require a broader social agenda. Some of the measures justified as contributing to combatting human trafficking can even be counterproductive and extremely harmful.
Learning from the experiences of our members working with undocumented migrants, we take an approach to human trafficking that a) tackles the structural reasons – in particular government policies and practices – which increase risks for people with an insecure or irregular status and b) focuses on providing person-centred and rights-based services, support and justice to victims.
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