Tag Archives: Human trafficking for labour exploitation

O’Connell Davidson, Julia (2010): New slavery, old binaries: human trafficking and the borders of ‘freedom, Global Networks Volume 10, Issue 2, pages 244–261, April 2010


This article explores dominant discourse on ‘trafficking as modern slavery’ in relation to the many legal and social fetters that have historically been and are today imposed upon individuals who are socially imagined as ‘free’. It argues that discourse on ‘trafficking as modern slavery’ revitalizes the liberal understandings of freedom and restriction that have historically allowed vigorous moral condemnation of slavery to coexist with the continued imposition of extensive, forcible restrictions on individuals deemed to be ‘free’. In place of efforts to build political alliances between different groups of migrants, as well as between migrants and non-migrants, who share a common interest in transforming existing social and political relations, ‘trafficking as modern slavery’ discourse inspires and legitimates efforts to divide a small number of ‘deserving victims’ from the masses that remain ‘undeserving’ of rights and freedoms.


A paper by Prof. O’Connell Davidson on Tackling the ‘Demand Side’ of Trafficking? is freely available here.

Brennan, Denise. “Key Issues in the Resettlement of Formerly Trafficked Persons in the United States.” University of Pennsylvania Law Review. Special Edition: “Trafficking in Sex and Labor: Domestic and International Responses. 158.6 (2010): 1581-1608.

Full article available here. 

The article presents a study of how individuals who worked under forced labor in the U.S. have rebuilt their lives. It focuses on the struggles within the resettlement process among person whom recognized by the U.S. government as being trafficked. It details on how individuals who were controlled under threats and violence have regained from oppression. Moreover, it emphasized the labor exploitation structure and process not just limited to forced laborers but also to low-waged migrant workers.

Author: Sarah Hunt, Kwakwaka’wakw First Nation, 2010

Citation (MLA): Hunt, S. “Colonial Roots, Contemporary Risk Factors: A Cautionary Exploration of the Domestic Trafficking of Aboriginal Girls and Women in British Columbia, Canada.” Alliance News. July, 2010. 15 August 2013. Web.

Introductory Paragraph:

In recent years, scholars have taken up the issue of domestic trafficking of Aboriginal girls and women in Canada, asserting that this is an issue of pressing concern in our communities. Indeed, one study reported that Aboriginal women and children make up the majority of people trafficked within Canada. 6 With a lack of available data to clarify the extent and nature of human trafficking in Aboriginal communities, the authors have largely conflated domestic trafficking with youth sexual exploitation, intergenerational violence, and disappearance or abduction, resulting in a muddling of trafficking with other forms of violence and abuse. In order to better inform prevention and education efforts in Aboriginal communities, a more nuanced exploration of the trafficking of Aboriginal girls and women in Canada is needed. Adult sex work, often conflated with sexual exploitation in literature on domestic trafficking of Indigenous women, must also be approached within a rights-based framework rather than throwing it into the mix of exploitation. In this paper, I will draw on my 10years of experience as a community-based researcher, program coordinator and educator on issues of youth sexual exploitation, intergenerational violence and related issues stemming from the colonisation of Indigenous communities in British Columbia (BC), Canada. I will also draw on available research to argue that while Indigenous girls and women in Canada are at heightened risk of human trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation, little evidence is available to support the claim that trafficking is a growing issue in our communities. Rather, as others have argued, human trafficking is one of many forms of sexualised violence perpetrated against Aboriginal women, and efforts to address trafficking must simultaneously distinguish between trafficking, youth sexual exploitation, adult sex work, and a range of violent offences while seeing the colonial roots which link various forms of abuse and marginalisation.

Read the full article here:

Abramo, C.W., & Madej, J. (2013): A Thing of the Present: Contemporary Challenges in Battling
Slavery and Human Trafficking. An Interview with Dr Aidan McQuade; Director of Anti-Slavery International, in: Merkourios : Utrecht Journal of International and European Law, vol. 29, iss. 77, pp. 76 – 80.

This work has been licensed by the Creative Commons Attribution License (3.0)

Full interview:

In an increasingly globalized society, many individuals travel outside of their home countries to find employment–what are the greatest challenges to ensuring that states respect the rights and particular vulnerabilities of migrant workers?How are these challenges particular to the vulnerabilities of female migrant workers?

There are a number of vulnerabilities for migrant workers. First there are limited options for safe migration and these options are even more limited for poor people from socially excluded
communities. Second many countries maintain rather xenophobic migration regimes. These
can be exploited by unscrupulous employers to exclude migrants from the basic protections of
rule of law. Third many poor countries don’t take the welfare of their migrating citizens seriously
and don’t, for example, assign labour attaches to the embassies of countries to which their citizens travel for work, to assist with standing up for their rights.

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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.

Ildikó Pallmann und Anne Pawletta (2011) Menschenhandel zum Zweck der Arbeitsausbeutung – ein Thema für Gewerkschaften?

Full article available here (pp. 177).

Human trafficking for forced labor purposes is receiving more and more attention in the public discourse on human trafficking. In this article, we will address a number of questions regarding the work done by trade unions to counteract human trafficking for forced labor purposes, beginning with some thoughts on why unions are active in this field. What examples exist for successful union involvement?
And what difficulties might prevent a stronger and more substantial commitment by unions? Many cases of human trafficking occur in sectors with a low rate of unionization, or areas like domestic services, which are generally difficult for unions to reach. The gap between unions and the sectors that are especially important is increased by a number of unions clinging to “old” traditional industries. Also, many of the people in question are migratory workers. In this article, we will analyze the innovative approaches used by unions to overcome these difficulties – for instance, by organizing migratory workers in unions or union-affiliated associations, and offering low-threshold advice for people who could be potentially affected.

Pande, Amrita (2013): “The Paper that You Have in Your Hand is My Freedom”: Migrant Domestic Work and the Sponsorship (Kafala) System in Lebanon, in: International Migration Review Volume 47, Issue 2, pages 414–441, June 2013

A recent report on migrant domestic work in Lebanon has cited psychological disorder among Lebanese “Madams” as the leading cause of violence against their migrant maids (Jureidini, 2011, This report typifies much of the existing scholarship on the experiences of migrant domestic workers (MDWs) in the Middle East, where the focus is on employer–employee relationships, especially the abusive Arab “Madam.” In this paper, I argue that the portrayal of violations of MDW rights as abuse of one set of women by another is inherently problematic on several fronts. It privatizes the structural problem of workers’ and immigrant rights violations, delegates it to the household, and absolves the state of its responsibility. Moreover, the focus on abusive employers takes attention away from the root of the problem – the inherently exploitative system of migration and recruitment in the region, the sponsorship system. The sponsorship system not only creates conditions for much of these violations, but also systematically produces a new population of readily exploitable worker – the category of “illegal workers.” Oral histories and interviews with individual workers are employed to analyze the process by which illegal workers are “produced” in Lebanon. Finally, focus group discussions highlight critical policy recommendations made by the workers themselves, which address the systemic bases of their exploitation in Lebanon.