Human Smuggling or Human Trafficking? Why the Difference Matters

Borders & Belonging

Nov 22 2022 • 29 mins

Politicians sometimes talk about human smuggling and trafficking as if they were the same thing. It’s not always because of ignorance: they want to gain support for blocking the flows of all migrants and refugees.

In this episode we hear from Luca Stevenson of European Sex Workers Rights Alliance, who explains that, even with sex workers, we have to look at what drives them to the trade in the first place and recognise that laws to prevent trafficking can cause vulnerable women even more harm. Host Maggie Prezyna speaks with Kamala Kempadoo (York University) and Gabriella Sanchez (University of Massachusetts), who argue that we need to look deeper at the systemic injustices behind smuggling, at what drives people to risk everything for a chance of a better life.

Maggie is a researcher with the Canada Excellence Research Chair (CERC) in Migration & Integration program at Toronto Metropolitan University and this new podcast is Borders & Belonging. Maggie will talk to leading experts from around the world and people with on-the-ground experience to explore the individual experiences of migrants: the difficult decisions and many challenges they face on their journeys.

She and her guests will also think through the global dimensions of migrants’ movement: the national policies, international agreements, trends of war, climate change, employment and more.

Borders & Belonging brings together hard evidence with stories of human experience to kindle new thinking in advocacy, policy and research.

Top researchers contribute articles that complement each podcast with a deeper dive into the themes discussed.

Borders & Belonging is a co-production between the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Migration & Integration at Toronto Metropolitan University and openDemocracy. The podcast was produced by LEAD Podcasting, Toronto, Ontario.

Show notes

Below, you will find links to all of the research referenced by our guests, as well as other resources you may find useful.

Donate or get involved!

European Sex Workers Rights Alliance

Butterfly: Asian and Migrant Sex Workers Support Network

Derechos Humanos Integrales en Acción (DHIA)


OECS: Cuban medical brigade shouldn't be compared to human trafficking’ Dionne Baptiste, D. , Loop Carribean News (21 June 2020)

Trump Administration ups pressure on Cuban medical programmes’ by the Carribean Council (2022)

Cuba’s Shameful Trafficking of Its Doctors’ by Jonathan Cuneo & Samuel Dubbin, The Wall Street Journal (21 June 2020)

The violent, hopeful world of children who smuggle people’ by Gabriella Sanchez & Cameron Thibos, openDemocracy (3 May 2022)