03 December 2018
The approach of states to managing immigration and asylum relies to a significant extent on the assignment of categories to people entering from abroad and residing in the country. Among these categories are regular migrant, labour migrant, irregular migrant, asylum seeker, refugee, unaccompanied child, smuggled migrant and trafficked person. Each of these categories has a specific definition in national law, and so every person migrating into a country fits into one of these categories – or at least that is how we understand migration and migration policies.
There are indeed many reasons why this categorisation is necessary – each category has specific rights attached to it, and describes the situation that each person is in. Those of us working on migration policy also apply these categories in order to guide the scope of our work. However, in responding to mixed migration flows to Europe during the past few years, this has been a challenge. Some people are experts on human trafficking, while others are experts on asylum and refugees. Other people are experts on irregular migration or migrant smuggling, while still others are experts on children in a migration context.
This paper considers migrant smuggling and asylum as they relate to the phenomenon of human trafficking, from a legal and theoretical perspective. It looks specifically at how “labelling” and the “language of migration” play out in relation to human trafficking in the context of migrant smuggling and asylum at the international level. The paper concludes by examining the implications of these considerations and suggesting some possible ways forward.