Call for Papers: Traffickers


Guest Editor: Marika McAdam

Deadline for submissions: 1 June 2021

The Anti-Trafficking Review calls for papers for a special issue themed 'Traffickers'. 


Counter-trafficking practitioners and scholars point to the need to put trafficked persons at the centre of counter-trafficking efforts. Much has been written about who trafficked people are, what factors may have led them to be trafficked, and the need for gender-sensitive and rights-based approaches in supporting them. Notwithstanding that the international legal framework is oriented towards identifying and prosecuting the conduct of traffickers, thus far, the literature largely overlooks them. Counter-trafficking stakeholders have an incomplete picture of who the actors involved in trafficking are and how they operate in different settings and in different forms of exploitation. As a result, a robust evidence-base from which to design interventions to prevent and address criminal conduct is lacking.  


Pathways that lead people to become traffickers may involve the absence of livelihood opportunities and the presence of criminal opportunities, weak rule of law, labour migration processes that are open to abuse, experiences of violence and victimisation, or a complex combination of these and other determinants. The stereotype of traffickers as high-level criminal actors living lavish lifestyles built on the profits of organised crime with far-reaching influence into state and private realms dominate the public imagination. But in reality, it is very often low-level actors - who may come from marginalised groups themselves - who are prosecuted for trafficking offences, with organised criminal recruiters carrying on with impunity. Indeed some actors may be involved downstream in a trafficking process, whether as transporters, recruiters or fraudulent document providers, yet not know a person is bound for exploitation upstream.


In response to the abysmally low rate of trafficking prosecutions, there is significant pressure to increase their number. This, combined with the broad interpretation of ‘trafficking in persons’ and its conflation with ‘modern slavery’, means that the counter-trafficking framework can make ‘traffickers’ of people who provide support to people in the sex industry, or of uneducated and impoverished parents who place their child into a financially advantageous marriage. At the same time - and notwithstanding that the Trafficking in Persons Protocol sets out the liability of legal as well as natural persons - comparatively less attention is given to the role of formal, informal, public and private labour migration and recruitment agencies and employers who profit from the labour of trafficked persons as ‘traffickers.’  


Against this backdrop, this Special Issue of Anti-Trafficking Review invites scholars, activists, criminologists, practitioners, survivors of trafficking, and people who have been charged with human trafficking offences, to share their insights on ‘traffickers’. It will aim to understand who traffickers are, and who may and may not be considered as traffickers, their motivations, the factors that lead them to become criminal actors, their experiences in criminal justice processes and systems, the sentences imposed on them, their rehabilitation - or indeed their recidivism - and more.


We invite submissions that critically consider whether the actors being investigated, prosecuted and convicted for trafficking are the ‘traffickers’ who are targeted by the international legal framework. We welcome insights into whether the significant efforts and resources invested into increasing State capacity to prosecute traffickers have had disruptive and preventative impact. In keeping with the Anti-Trafficking Review’s rights-based approach to anti-trafficking, we also encourage consideration of the treatment of suspected and convicted traffickers and the extent to which investigations, prosecutions and adjudications are gender-sensitive, fair, just and uphold due process rights, including in cases where traffickers are migrants or juveniles. In this context, we further welcome discussion of how States have reconciled their efforts to end impunity for traffickers with the principle of non-punishment of victims of trafficking in cases where victims have become traffickers to escape their situation.


It is hoped that by focusing on traffickers, the contributions that will comprise this issue of Anti-Trafficking Review will provide valuable thinking around the meaning of a human rights-based and gender-sensitive approach to counter-trafficking and contribute to efforts to prevent people - both natural and legal and persons - from becoming traffickers.


Contributors are invited to engage with, but need not limit themselves to, the following questions:

  • Who are traffickers and what factors lead them to engage in human trafficking? What are the economic, social, cultural, gender and other dimensions of that journey?
  • Who falls within the understanding of a ‘trafficker’? Is there a clear threshold for determining when a recruiter or a smuggler becomes a trafficker? When a hostel owner becomes a harbourer for the purposes of trafficking? Or when a company is a trafficker? Do representations of traffickers in media, cinema and TV influence who is considered a trafficker, and who is not?
  • When traffickers are former victims, how to balance the need to bring traffickers to justice, with the principle of non-punishment of victims of trafficking from crimes that directly relate to being trafficked? Should former victims of trafficking who become traffickers ever be prosecuted as ‘traffickers’? Under what circumstances? What role should the extent and duration of their victimisation and perpetration play in making this determination? Should a person’s past experience of victimisation be taken into account during their trial and sentencing, and if so, how and to what extent?
  • To what extent are the human rights of traffickers, as suspects and defendants in the criminal justice process, respected, protected and fulfilled as part of rights-based responses to counter-trafficking? Should efforts to build capacity to prosecute traffickers come with commensurate effort to ensure suspects are defended in accordance with their due process rights?
  • When trafficking occurs as part of corporate supply chains, what legal and natural persons should be prosecuted as traffickers? What are the legal grounds for this? What mitigating circumstances, if any, should apply? 
  • What role does the gender, nationality, migration status, ethnicity, class, legal status, or other characteristic of a suspected trafficker play in their treatment in criminal justice processes and in sentencing?
  • What are some examples of appropriate sentences for traffickers? When are out of court settlements, mandatory minimums, corporal punishments and labour law sanctions justified vis-à-vis the actual conduct? 
  • What happens to traffickers after serving their sentences – do they reoffend or move to other criminal activities, or do they integrate into the formal economy?
  • What alternatives to criminalisation are there? Can restorative justice approaches be applied in trafficking cases? Under what circumstances?

Deadline for submissions: 1 June 2021.


Word count for full article submissions: 5,000 - 7,000 words, including footnotes, author bio, and abstract.


In addition to full-length conceptual, research-based, or case study thematic papers, we invite short, blog-style articles related to the issue’s theme. We particularly encourage those with direct experience in human trafficking, as well as those involved in prosecuting or defending traffickers, and supporting victims. 


Word count for short article submissions: 1,200 - 1,500 words, including footnotes and author bio.


We advise those interested in submitting to follow the Review's style guide and submission procedures available at Manuscripts should be submitted in line with the issue's theme. Email the editorial team at with any queries. 


Special Issue to be published in April 2022.

  Thematic Issue Guest Editor: Marika McAdam Editor: Borislav Gerasimov