From the legislative perspective, there seems to be a lot of confusion regarding the differences between smuggling and human trafficking. I have been reading an article by Dina Francesca Hayes called “Used, Abused, Arrested and Deported: Extending Immigration Benefits to Protect the Victims of Trafficking and to Secure the Prosecution of Traffickers,” in which the author addresses this confusion.
Smuggling is delivering persons to the country they wish to enter, and this process is initiated by the potential migrant. Though smuggling often takes place under horrible and possibly life-threatening conditions, the individuals are left to their own devices after delivery. This is not very lucrative for perpetrators, as they simply gain short-term profits from a one-time deal.
Human trafficking is altogether different, though it also often involves the movement of people across borders. With human trafficking there is an element of force, fraud, or coercion. There are elements of enslavement, in which the victim cannot leave and often has their documentation stripped from them. Traffickers see people as highly profitable, reusable, re-sellable, and expendable commodities. Long term-profits are massive.
Hayes criticizes governments for using the horrifying human trafficking statistics and stories to advance their real agenda: tightening borders, controlling illegal immigration, and fighting terrorism. But if border officers are not trained to understand the difference between smuggling and trafficking, victims are the ones that will suffer. In order for anti-trafficking initiatives to be effective, politicians must make the eradication of human trafficking and protection of trafficked persons into a prioritized goal distinct from the elimination of smuggling or tightening of border controls.
Let’s encourage our governments to look at human trafficking for what it is, not how they can manipulate the emotions of people in order to advance their own agendas.