Recent national concern for “victims of trafficking” seems to offer new possibilities for dialogue between government and those lobbying for migrants’ rights. This paper argues that the language of trafficking is anti-political, in that it smuggles in certain politics under an apparently humanitarian agenda. It first considers the implications of trafficking for the politics of citizenship, understood as a process of constructing relations. It goes on to examine the politics of labour implicit in the free/forced labour distinction which is crucial to the definition of trafficking. The paper concludes by emphasising the importance of putting state institutions and the relation between state and labour markets at the centre of an analysis of the exploitation of migrant labour.
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