Migration and Mobility

Migration and Mobility

The movement of large numbers of people, including workers, both internally and across international borders is one of the defining characteristics of modern times. Migration and mobility, both managed and unmanaged, occurs for many purposes, including domestic, military, industrial and agricultural labour. Family reunion, conflict, environmental and geo-political changes, marriage and economic aspiration are among the many factors that drive mobility and provide the legal, illegal and quasi legal frameworks that determine many of the outcomes of mobility and migration.

Mobility linked to commercial sex has increasingly come to attention over the last decade and discussions around it are increasingly framed around the trafficking of unwilling women and young people for forced work in the sex industry. Feeding into wider debates about sex, immigration, labour rights and gender relations, female sex work itself is increasingly conflated with human trafficking while mobility of men as buyers or sellers of sex is largely excluded from the analysis.

PLRI research projects will seek to further understand and articulate the dynamics of economic migration, slavery, people smuggling, debt bondage, unregulated work in informal economies and other factors linked to mobility. We will conduct research into the roles of informal travel agents and people smugglers in processes outside formal contracts, visas and work permits that enable people to migrate, and live and work legally. By increasing accurate rather than emotive understandings of the various advantages, opportunities, risks and vulnerabilities of sex work related mobility the PLRI will elaborate and promote effective, rights-based approaches to reducing the abuses and violence associated with both human trafficking and poorly designed or executed attempts to stop it.


  • Sex work and the 2010 FIFA World Cup: time for public health imperatives to prevail - 2010

    An article in Globalization and Health by Richter M L, Chersich M F, Scorgie F, Luchters S, Temmerman M and Steen R. The authors address the issue of commercial sex in relation to the upcoming football World Cup which will be hosted by South Africa. They argue that laws that criminalise sex work not only compound sex workers’ individual risk for HIV, but also compromise broader public health goals. They suggest that a moratorium on the enforcement of laws that persecute and victimise sex workers during the World Cup period.

  • Thousands of prostitutes for World Cup - 2010

    A news article from www.iol.co.za on the 4th March 2010. This story is from the sports pages and addresses concerns that the World Cup will lead to women entering South Africa to work in the sex industry. It is reported that the Central Drug Authority believe that 40,000 women will enter the country - many from Eastern Europe. UNODC are reported as questioning the source of the 40,000 figure.

  • Beyond Rescue - 2009

    Gary Haugen is cradling the padlocks in his thick hands. A former high school football player--bristly crew cut, broad shoulders squeezed into a dress shirt--Haugen has more the mien of a military man than a lawyer, although his image is in keeping with the muscular work of the organization he founded and heads.

  • Border Thinking on Migration, Trafficking and Commercial Sex - 2009

    A blog by Laura Agustín who writes as a lifelong migrant and sometime worker in both nongovernmental and academic projects about sex, travel and work. Her lively and engaging blog covers issues of migration and sex.

  • Case history, transgender migrant sex worker, Kyrgyz Republic - 2009

    A case study presented by Gulnara Kurmanova at the 24th Program Coordinating Board (UNAIDS) Meeting, Thematic Segment People on the Move, June 2009.

  • Is the number of trafficked call girls a myth? - 2009

    A news story from the BBC's radio programme about mathematics, More or Less, which examined the validity of the data upon which British plans to criminalise paying for sex with a prostitute who has been trafficked or is marketed by a pimp. In this article Ruth Alexander questions how the scope of the current problem is calculated. 

  • Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Slavery - 2009

    A book by Kara S that seeks to provide a business analysis of sex trafficking, focusing on the local drivers and global macroeconomic trends that gave rise to the industry after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Foreign Policy in Focus carried a review of the book by Ann Jordan, of the Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, American University Washington College of Law.

  • Sex Trafficking: The Abolitionist Fallacy - 2009

    An article in Foreign Policy in Focus by Ann Jordan that reviews Siddharth Kara's book Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Slavery (2008). 

  • The Crusade Against Sex Trafficking - 2009

    This news story, by Noy Thrupkaew in The Nation, explores approaches to combatting trafficking with particular reference to the work of the International Justice Mission.

  • Sex at the Margins: Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry - 2008

    This groundbreaking book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work; that migrants who sell sex are passive victims; and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label "trafficked" does not accurately describe migrants' lives and that the "rescue industry" disempowers them.

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