On the key distinction between trafficking and smuggling

The trafficking and smuggling of humans across international borders have often been treated as two sides of the same coin. Nevertheless, this article argues that the relationships and contexts from which trafficking in persons and migrant smuggling emerge are themselves different. Drawing from ethnographies on smuggling of migrants in the Horn of Africa and southern Africa, we show that smuggling practices, unlike trafficking ones, are characterized by significant ties between smugglers and the communities in which they operate. This article builds on a growing number of studies that highlight the community dimension of smuggling to suggest that anti-smuggling policies may end up being not only unsuccessful, but also harmful, as smugglers tend to be replaced by traffickers.

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