The business of rescue. Political strategy, immigration policy and profit

Master's Thesis, 2015

89 Pages










The global movement of women has created a panic across borders in the 21st century, when it is suspected that they have been forced against their will to engage in sex work, which has manifested in the formation of what has come to be called the Rescue Industry (Augustin, 2007). Governmental agencies and efforts have been directed at ‘rescuing’ victims of trafficking from an assumption of coercion, force and victimhood. However, a closer look at the profiling of these individuals, the process of victim construction and the problematization of trafficking being equated to prostitution reveals that a significant number of so called ‘rescued’ women, do not wish to engage in or have no other choice in employment other than sex work and return to it soon after being released or ‘rescued’. Who are the ‘rescuers’ and what are their motivations to rescue women who do not wish to be rescued? What is their role in immigration policy and law enforcement? Indeed, how does ‘rescue’ serve the purposes of immigration? This thesis aims to explore and question the foundation of humanitarian governance through what has come to be called the ‘rescue industry’ – the plethora of organizations, governmental, non-governmental, international and humanitarian agencies and associated employees who are engaged in activities to rescue and rehabilitate these ‘victims’ of trafficking. An analysis of the reasons behind the activities of these efforts demonstrates that motivations range from curbing female and irregular migration, providing employment for a certain social elite (referred to in Laura Augustin’s work later), to links with capitalism and profit. The visa and residence programs of the USA and the UK targeting victims of trafficking will be analyzed as will the websites of several anti-trafficking organizations, to illustrate the language, content and rationale behind their efforts and whether these ‘efforts’ are indeed as altruistic as they seem. It is hoped that uncovering the role of personal agency and choice in these women’s lives in light of broader structural factors, such as economic and social disadvantage. will demonstrate that a significant proportion of ‘rescue’ efforts are unwarranted, and that a form of self serving humanitarianism is often in operation due to agendas other than the ‘victim’ in mind.

Subsequently, this thesis will also make an original contribution to the body of existing literature, by attempting to investigate links between the ‘rescue industry’ and capitalism – to assess how the machinery of rescue positions women in ‘rehabilitation’ to meet the ends of a capitalist system, whether it is through the production and sale of consumer goods and services or through cheap labor. And finally, alternative modes of sex worker protection are viewed from the perspective of labor law and workers’ rights.


The Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘rescue’ as:

Verb – To save someone from a dangerous or difficult situation Synonyms – save, save the life of, come to the aid of, set free, release, liberate, extricate, redeem, relieve, emancipate. Informal – to keep from being lost or abandoned; retrieve Noun – An act of saving or being saved from danger Synonyms – redemption, deliverance, liberation, extrication, freeing, help, aid, assist, bail out.

Judging from the definitions above, it appears that the word rescue is mostly used in the third person and sounds substantially one sided, as if occurring without the permission or request of the ‘other’. We may ask, was the request for ‘rescue actually solicited or asked for? Take a few moments to reflect on those relationships you have encountered, in which some have found partners in need of rescuing from anything ranging from financial struggle, an abusive past, or depression. Perhaps those partnerships you identified recognized a core vulnerability or neediness in the ‘other’. Some of these people may seek out those in need of rescue in every relationship or context in their lives. Psychology has long touted this ‘disorder’ as the ‘White Knight Syndrome,’ where those who are constantly trying to rescue others are in effect attempting to resolve or repair their own damaged sense of self. The role of the rescuer has immense appeal because it is upheld as carrying out an act of heroism. It is no surprise that we often become the captive audience of any number of individuals who propose to be rescuers in a given danger, instead of trying to eradicate it; yet those who propose to rescue others, possibly face a dilemma – what if the person in danger refuses to cooperate with the signal of alert? How is it possible to rescue someone who is adamant not to contribute to his/her own ‘salvation’? Will the rescuer in that case still be idolized as a hero? Or is the failure to rescue his or her fault? With these questions in mind, this thesis explores the idea of ‘rescue’ in the context of the sex industry, illustrating the hegemonic 19th century discourse of humanitarian governance that is the ground for modern day workings of female migration, immigration, labor law and politics.



Hughes suggests, “Unless compelled by poverty, past traumas, or substance addiction, few women would voluntarily engage in prostitution and are thus victims of trafficking.” (Hughes, as cited in Aradau, 2008; p.111). While it is acknowledged that sex trafficking is a reality, this thesis focuses on the part of sex trafficking in which women, who refuse to accept the identity of a voiceless victim, are forced into programs of rehabilitation that mimic older forms of incarceration. This thesis focuses on only ‘trafficking’ that has occurred out of ‘consensual migration’, where the women are aware and agree to be taken abroad for the purposes of sex work. This segment of trafficked individuals, who have consented and choose to engage in sex work out of their personal agency, is often overlooked in the current model of raid-rescue-rehabilitate (Soderlund, 2005). Evidence points to the fact that a significant part of ‘rescued’ victims choose to return to sex work on release from rehabilitation programs. What does this say about the dynamics underlying the entire industry of so called ‘helping professions’ and women who demand rights rather than rescue? It is argued that those in the field of humanitarianism operate out of personal agendas, such as employment, financial security, and morality, and enable the continuation of their own ends by labeling certain ‘others’ as a societal problem. Moreover, sex trafficking has been seen as a problem of illegal immigration and not a human rights or an employment based issue. While admitting that sex trafficking is a problem spanning the domains of international migration and crime, this thesis attempts to analyze only that part of the phenomenon where governments and aid agencies use immigration control to ‘force’ rescue, rehabilitation and other agendas on victims. Indeed, it is proposed that the ‘rescue industry’ has been birthed from and is a machinery of the immigration policies of governments.



Recently, there has been a movement towards what is known as global governance – a term that comprises how world affairs ought to be managed in an era of globalization. Because a consensus is difficult to reach on its exact definition, Keohane (2003, as cited in Obokata, 2010) suggests that a good starting point would be to understand the very notion of governance – the formation and implementation of rules and the exercising of power within a certain realm of activity. Governance consists of rule systems and maneuvering mechanisms that enable systems to retain their inherent coherence and movement towards expected goals. Put simply, the essence of governance is the exercise of authority. Authority translates into the recognition power and the total subjugation on the part of the governed. Woods (1999, cited in Obokata, 2010) suggested that good governance consists of the twin principles of participation and accountability. The first involves the right to present one’s views and be heard in decision-making, ranging from those who formally make decisions to those who may not be directly affected by them, such as NGOs and lobby groups. The right to participate in theory should extend to all concerned with a specific issue. The second principle of accountability holds that there needs to be a process whereby the flow of information is relayed to stakeholders and requires transparency for good governance. Therefore in effect, participation is dependent on the flow of information and transparency in any system of governance. However, the extent to which these principles are adhered at the level of global governance is a matter of great debate and concern, but beyond the scope of this thesis. What is essential to note is that there is no centralization of authority in global governance, but rather a fragmentation or “disaggregation of authority” (Rosenau, as cited in Obokata, 2010). There is a complex way in which authority is relocated or reconfigured between different layers of infrastructures of governance – the supra-state (United Nations), the regional (EU, African Union), the transnational (civic society), and the sub-state (local governments, community associations). Between all these are national governments. At the global level, systems are much more disorganized, demonstrating little coordination between all levels.

For this thesis, it is important to understand the relationship between global governance and trafficking laws. Generally transnational organized crime is ascribed to the failure of national governments to address it (Baudin-O’Hayon, as cited in Obokato, 2010). By it’s very nature, trafficking activity is transnational in nature and law enforcement at the domestic level cannot ensure impact. If the concept of global governance is applied to trafficking, it should achieve three main objectives – the prosecution of perpetrators, protection of victims and the prevention of the underlying causes of trafficking. Principles of counter trafficking are found in various sources, the most pertinent being the Trafficking Protocol attached to the Organized Crime Convention. In addition to legal instruments, there are non-state actors, which include International Human Rights Law and other soft law instruments relevant to counter trafficking, such as the Recommended Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights and Human Trafficking (UN Doc. E/2002/68/Add.1, 20 May 2002, as cited in Obokata, 2010).

In his book ‘Managing the Undesirables: Refugee Camps and Humanitarian Government’ Michael Agier (2011) has uncovered how the international humanitarian regime operates as a gatekeeper to those deemed ‘undesirable’, behind a façade of protection and rescue, and manifests policies based on control and policing, in order to keep the ‘undesirables’ out. Agier proposes that there are two tiers to the present world order – the visible and clean, and the hidden and diseased that he refers to as the “residual remnants” of the world’s forgotten (p.4). Complex mechanisms of control therefore exist within what is called ‘humanitarian governance’, where there is a close partnership between the humanitarian world (the hand that cares) and state law enforcement agencies (the hand that strikes) (p.5). According to Agier, the beginning of humanitarian government commenced when the function of control came to support the necessity of protection, as envisaged by the 1951 Geneva Convention; in this mixture, categories that should have been taken for granted (such as refugees), were rejected in favor of an active construction of categories and standards of measurements, which drew upon the partnership of humanitarianism and force (police and military). Agier’s work raises several questions for reflection that we shall return to through the course of this thesis. For example, is an impartial commitment to humanitarianism possible? What transforms humanitarianism into mechanisms of control and why? Does protection and rescue serve any other purpose other than the inherent values of humanitarianism?

From the structure of global governance, the international community is intricately organized to protect, preserve and promote human life, with the underlying notion of paternalism (Barnett, 2012). Ethics of care and concern are underscored to reflect the fostering of greater good. I would like to argue that wherever there is ‘care’, control, as Agier described, is never very far. The global governance of humanity is a phenomenon that gained significant ground in the last century with the development of a managed international humanitarian order, which claimed to alleviate the suffering of others - the world’s most vulnerable and often distant strangers. Its activities include offering food aid, emergency relief, reintegrating refugees, vocational training for child soldiers, giving development assistance, offering psychological counseling to victims of sexual violence and a host of other assistance activities undertaken in the name of “compassion, care and responsibility” (Barnett, 2013). The evolution of humanitarian governance can be first traced back to the need for Western civilizations to civilize poorer societies. Secondly, sociological accounts illustrate the international community’s growing concern for reducing harm in the world (Linklater, 2011). And thirdly, Pinker (2011) identified the rise of disparate economic forces, which rendered some individuals with greater capacity for reason, empathy and resources. Pinker (2011) contends that once a “norm of compassion” was set, every actor in the field began to compete to show the maximum compassion, in case they could be labeled as not being compassionate at all. The role of global ethics therefore, not only dictates compassion, but also the significance of the ‘human’ in humanitarianism, which is more of a social than a biological construct. The concept of ‘humanity’ began to circulate in the late 18th century in Europe and North America, where people subscribed to the idea that all individuals had equal worth and deserve an equal chance to be saved. Ever since, the term ‘human’ has come to signify universal solidarity (Laqueur, 2009 et al., as cited in Barnett, 2013). Put another way, humanity did not exist, but had to be created. For backward populations, humanity was a feasible option only with the proper education, religion and civilization (McCarthy, 2009, cited in Barnett, 2013); and by default, humanitarians are those whose own humanity depends on “creating, protecting or restoring someone else’s humanity”. Geopolitical explanations of the rise of humanitarianism suggest that formation and proliferation of nation states has treated humanitarianism as part of their “foreign policy arsenal” (Chomsky, 2011). Humanitarian governance therefore may be summed up as the organized effort of states to reduce human suffering. However, this claim cannot be said to be unequivocal, as humanitarianism is often not seen as innately good. It may be linked to freedom or domination through power and subordination. Although it claims to help the victims of the world, governance is about rules and regulations and rules derive from power. Therefore, in an academic critique of humanitarianism, it is particularly important not to neglect the presence of power relations in the global governance of managing vulnerable populations.

The humanitarian community may believe that their efforts contribute to a better world order, but closer analysis reveals issues that warrant greater attention, such as the effect of depoliticizing conflicts that makes it difficult to ascertain where the actual causes of conflicts lie (Feldman, 2009); it creates the illusion that a part of the world is political while another is ethical (Kennedy, 2005); it creates a world of saviors and victims, giving the impression that anyone who faces a disaster or humanitarian emergency must be voiceless, helpless, powerless, and without individual agency. Depoliticizing conflict created an entire discourse of victimhood and obscured the possibility that these populations may be exploited and robbed of their autonomy through the dictates of external interventions. It also gave rise to a gendered-driven distinction of who is a legitimate victim and thus deserving of protection (Carpenter, 2003, cited in Barnett, 2013).

Set within the backdrop of the discourse of this modern day humanitarianism, we have the image of the third world sex worker enslaved in shady brothels that has captured global emotion and imagination and unleashed the contemporary western crusaders battle against what they call ‘modern slavery’. Lesser-developed nations feature prominently in the ‘landscape of sexual humanitarianism’ (Mai, 2014, as cited in Kotiswaran, 2014). Some refer to this time as one of ‘global sexual panic’ (Doezema, 2010). In fact, as we shall see later in this thesis, the work of the journalist Nicholos Kristof, exhibits the conflations between trafficking, trafficking for sex work, and sex work, all coming under the notion of modern day slavery. This moral urgency seen explicitly in raid and rescue strategies is symbolic of the current state of most anti-trafficking interventions today. In fact, Galusca (2012) has observed the emergence of a certain anti-trafficking humanitarianism that focuses on 19th century cultural journalism of exposing ‘the regime of truth’, which is grounded in modern-day governmental policies and discourses. We would like to propose that there may be little correlation between the sex trade and humanitarianism, yet the phenomenon of sex trafficking is somehow forced to find a place within current humanitarian discourse; very simply, it could be reduced to an accusation of the failure of international migration policies and labor frameworks. We later debate how the mainstream discourse on trafficking is little more than a severe attempt to curtail or reduce the international migration of women, rather than a humanitarian emergency.

‘The business of rescue’ as the title of this thesis suggests, is nowhere more pronounced than in what is termed “consumer humanitarianism” (Wilkins, 2008, as cited in Bernstein, 2010, p.63). It is a political engagement that is consumer and media friendly, in which depictions of a sexual culture that is supposedly opposed, is brought to the fore by opposition. Wilkins argues that the juxtaposition of the ‘rescuer’ and ‘rescued’ in images of activists pictured with sex workers, or first world social workers with ‘victims’ of trafficking are all representations of “a feminine consumptive counterpart to the masculine politics of militaristic rescue” (Wilkins, 2008, as cited in Bernstein, 2010, p.63). Wilkins also contends that consumer humanitarianism is evident when missionary visits to brothels are set against a backdrop of adventure tourism in exotic settings such as Thailand, which serve to reinforce a sense of freedom and adventure for Westerners. These social justice ‘reality tours’ are sponsored by Christian and secular groups, such as ‘Global Exchange’ and the ‘Not for Sale Campaign’, which involve a sex trafficking tour of Cambodian red light zones. The concept of business as mission, draws links between rescue and global capital, in which women are first ‘rescued’ and then brought into the labor market in some capacity, either through vocational training or domestic labor. Ethnographic research by Shih (2009) shows that in several ‘rescue’ projects in China and Thailand, most of the rescued women chose to engage in sex work as the highest paid employment option available to them, and were non-Christian. Yet, the Christian based rescue projects, encouraged them to participate in Christian religious activities, such as ‘prayer work’ that was considered to be part of their job description, including disciplinary action taken by employers for under performance, which ironically created a life in ‘rescue’ that was characterized by significantly less freedom than their former live choices (Shih, 2009). Evidently, the coalition between the feminist movement and various faith based ideologies reinforced the formation and continuation of the ‘rescue industry’ that served the agendas of each party involved, but did not contribute to addressing the underlying structural factors.

Bernstein (2010), asks whether the call for the downsizing of prisons is one of the reasons for the over reliance on the so called ‘rescue industry’, which employs different forms of ‘treatment’ programs – whether it be the compulsory psychological rehabilitation and counseling, trauma interventions or feminist and faith based ‘humanitarian’ programs. One thing however is clear – the alliances between ‘rescue’ actors and the state “ensure that only those humanitarian issues that advance a larger set of ‘geopolitical interests’, such as border control, controlling ‘illegal’ migration, or using restrictions on the domestic underclass, are more likely to gain momentum in the realm of policy making” (p.67).

Aradau (2008) has argued that trafficking is a product of illegal migration, prostitution and organized crime, or a combination of all three variables with women being viewed as ‘victims’ of human rights abuses that warrant ‘rescue’ and ‘rehabilitation’ and ‘return’ to their countries of origin. Euphemisms and distortions in the terms of reference abound, from ‘voluntary return’ (deportation), rehabilitation centers (detention) and the construction of the term ‘victim’ itself. If trafficking is an outcome of the locus of prostitution, illegal migration and organized crime that give rise to connotations of threat and its associated security discourse, the contemporary anti-trafficking discourse obliterates the plethora of other social and structural phenomena that account for its incidence. As Foucalt (2006, as cited in Aradau, 2008) contends, the regulation of the truth about human trafficking is often ‘obscured’. As Huysmans (1998a, as cited in Aradau, 2008) suggests, it is portrayed as a part of the larger ‘domain of insecurity’. Aradau (2008) offers a compelling account of the myriad contradictions, inconsistencies and ‘silences’ that surround the subject of trafficking, with an emphasis on the construction of trafficking as a problem of security, that is, how trafficking is problematized. The aim of this thesis is to examine the reasons leading to the formation of the ‘rescue industry’ and the rationale behind the various actors and organizations involved in the realm of trafficking, mainly in ‘rescue’ and ‘rehabilitation’ initiatives; a look at their processes of problematization, and what ends these ‘reasons’ aim to achieve politically. As Coward (2003, p.15) puts it, a simple explanation of human rights abuses fails to “arouse crusading zeal”. Hence, trafficking as a problem of human rights does not suffice as an explanation of the zeal of the ‘rescue industry’.

For the purposes of this thesis, the ‘rescue industry’ will be taken to mean the plethora of non-governmental and international non-governmental organizations that direct efforts towards assisting in trafficking based issues, with the dual aims of prevention and rehabilitation. Anti-trafficking discourse is replete with a wide range of activists, organizations and institutions that have translated trafficking to being equated to prostitution, which in turn illustrates global crusades and struggles against it, as Lindquist (2013, p.321) puts it, “everyone is trying to make a difference”. Laura Augustin (2007, p.4) declares, “the urge to help or even save migrant women has spawned a veritable Rescue industry”. Augustin calls this the ‘social sector’ where various actors claim to be working to help others improve their circumstances, providing services to this end and even encouraging those in need of rescue, to live their lives in ways other than they were before being’ rescued’. Social agents include social workers, policy makers, funding professionals, counselors, religious personnel and NGO staff. Augustin argues that this demarcation between themselves, as the rescuers against the ‘rescued,’ automatically reinforces the very same marginalization they claim to condemn and that this separation is false once the inner dynamics of it are revealed. If we look at the historical antecedents of the ‘rescue industry’, it may be suitable to start with Augustin’s account of how the middle classes of the 19th century in Europe, saw themselves as particularly suited to assist, advise, control and discipline the ‘unruly poor’ with regard to their sexual behavior. Parallels are evident from this line of thought to what we are witnessing today in the realm of rescuing and social programming. The category of the ‘prostitute’ is forever perpetuated through the activities of the phenomenon of what Augustin refers to as the “Rise of the Social, a newly empowered bourgeoisie set out to define how society ought to be constituted and how citizens should live” (p.96). Therefore the construction of ‘prostitution’ found its roots in what became an effort at reformation, management and philanthropy; however, inconsistencies are detected in this milieu, where the needs and desires of these ‘helpers’ were entwined with those they were attempting to ‘help’. For instance, Augustin’s work illustrates accounts of how charitable activities united middle and upper classes in their pursuit of autonomy and the desire for financial independence, aside from the ‘charitable impulse’. The desire to ‘manage human life’ was metamorphosed into an ‘art of government,’ where the population was seen to have problems that warranted solving. The new missionary duty of the middle classes was manifested in their ‘duty’ to civilize the working class. Towards the latter part of the 19th century, a complex combination of demographic and social factors led to more educated women with time to spare, or the need to find a livelihood, with emphasis on what kind of work was considered respectable. Social work was seen as having prestige and being a suitable career option for middle class women. Therefore, middle class women were seen as superior to ‘poor’ women with a natural duty “to care for the incapable poor” (Augustin, p.116), “reclaiming, restoring, rehabilitating, redeeming and reintegrating them into society” (p.117). Rescue projects at the time, were called ‘homes’, and ‘therapeutic communities’, while rescue work was also justified along the religious ideology of the ‘parable of lost sheep’; new professional vocations included the matron, adult education teacher, probation officer, fundraiser, rent collector, settlement house worker, social investigator and Poor law guardian. Augustin shows that these professional categories rose with the proliferation of social causes – and charity work was a means for social mobility. Both the French and English response to prostitution was incarceration. Efforts to combine the activities of the brothel (where sex was sold), hospital (where venereal diseases were treated), prison (for prosecuting perpetrators) and the refuge (for rehabilitating repentant women) were undertaken, with the rationale that incarceration would improve working class women, with reformers establishing relationships based on “constraint and coercion” with ‘wrongdoers’, but escape attempts were common among those being ‘rescued’. Augustin calls the category of ‘prostitute’ a ‘slippery’ one, which undoubtedly provided wide scale employment for all those intending to eradicate it. Social agents were compelled to ignore those who did not see themselves as victims and did not want to be rescued and since the ‘prostitute’ of the middle class imagination did not really exist, the center of the discourse was themselves – the middle classes believed they were better able to help, due to their education, social position and sex; but like other law enforcers, such as the police and courts, their employment was dependent on constructing ‘others’ as wrong, deviant and vulnerable. The refusal to admit that they were not needed to rescue others is what Augustin has accused as completely self-serving – “after all, without people to rescue, they could be out of a job” (p. 127). Therefore, our argument is that the modern Rescue Industry relies on an image of an uncivilized, barbaric ‘other’.

Doezema (2001), has argued that the construction of the third world prostitute by the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW) is part of the agenda of western feminism to construct a damaged ‘other’ as a reason to further certain feminist interests, which cannot be those of the sex workers themselves. Brown (1995, as cited in Doezema, 2001) has coined the term ‘ ressentiment ’ to describe how feminism, being a ‘politicized identity’, tends to “reproach power with moral arguments rather than to seek out power for itself” (Brown, 1995, as cited in Doezema, 2001, p.20). Brown (1995, as cited in Doezema, 2001) states that Nietzsche purports the cause of ressentiment is suffering and that this suffering searches for scapegoats to blame for the hurt, as well as to “revenge itself upon the hurter” (Brown, 1995, as cited in Doezema, 2001, p.20). Therefore, ressentiment is effect an “investment in powerlessness”. In this context, the ‘suffering body’ was female, with which feminists were able to identify and therefore to represent politically. While the ‘suffering body’ was usually working class, black or colonial, the ‘saving body’ was, in contrast, white and middle class. Prostitution is seen as an injury to women, where ‘pain’ becomes the foundation of female identity, which makes all women vulnerable. At its most fundamental level, women become an identity that is constructed as the result of the ‘injury’ of male sexual power. Brown (1995, as cited in Doezema, 2001) argues that claiming protection for injured identities, also leads to “collusion with an intensification of disciplinary regimes of power”. The process of identity formation is not a simple one – it is the result of both identifying with the ‘suffering body’ of the ‘prostitute’ as well as through the “neo-imperial opposition” to the ‘backward’ third world sex worker (Brown, 1995, as cited in Doezema, 2011). Doezema states the stance of many governments today sympathize with the feminist position. It is with regret she notes that at the time her thesis was written, there were indications that the UN would “opt for an approach that aims to ‘protect’ women from prostitution by limiting their freedom” (p.33).

Accounts abound with reports of how the master narrative of trafficking fails to address key points in the trafficking debate, such as the engaging in prostitution voluntarily and the indebtedness to family or friends (Blanchette & da Silva, 2012). Horning (as cited in Lindquist, 2013), states that general anti-trafficking policy may be detrimental to those it seeks to protect, by not focusing and addressing underlying factors, such as freedom of mobility and labor rights within employment practices. A focus on victims and their rehabilitation draws attention away from the more pertinent issues at stake. Lindquist (2013) coined an interesting term ‘ anti anti-trafficking,’ which illustrates the point that though trafficking may be seen as a ‘problem’, it nevertheless needs to be addressed from an angle other than that with which current anti-trafficking discourse engages; indeed the word ‘trafficking’ itself may be problematic as it shifts attention away from personal agency.

It is only by an analysis of the portrayal of human trafficking as a risk, that we can begin to conceptualize how initiatives directed at prevention, intervention and management that is, for our purposes, the rescue industry, come into being. The concept of risk is also imperative in understanding how practices of security are manifested. It is appropriate at this point to consider the concept of risk as proposed by Dean (1999), and Ewald (1986, as cited in Aradau, 2008). They argue, that ‘risk’ allows a certain level of objective calculation regarding the governance and management of societal ills. It adds a dimension of prevention, a promise to prevent “dangerous irruptions”. Building on Aradau’s dispositif of security, it is expedient at this point to document the notion that the entire concept of prevention rests on the representation of certain individuals as ‘dangerous’ or ‘risky’, and that the disciplines of psychology and psychiatry play a crucial role in transforming social, economic and political problems, by leading to new ways of comprehending these issues and finally to new forms of governance pertaining to them (Rose, 1989). It has also been mentioned that the foundation of preventative strategies is the assumption that a certain amount of ‘risk’ and danger exist and that this perception is attached to certain groups and individuals, believed to be ‘high risk’, which is usually manifested in cases where the danger is perceived rather than actual. In response, Aradau (2008) is vehement in underscoring that risk technologies therefore, have a double function of ‘individualizing and categorizing.’ and is most clearly operationalized through the practice of clinical risk management, which is based on psychological expertise to create risk profiles. These risk profiles are nothing but the product of “therapeutic interventions, pathological categorizations and statistical calculation of the incidence of certain factors in a population group” (p.105). Accordingly, the judgment of clinical risk largely depends upon abstract variables that are thought to determine certain patterns of behavior. Those thought to be ‘at risk’ to the wider community are subjected to therapeutic interventions (counseling, support groups) or disciplinary practices (training, retraining) with the eventual aim of lessening the dangers presented by their risk or ostracizing them completely from shared spaces (detention, confinement) (Dean, 1999). Aradau argues that in the field of security, knowledge acquisition and sharing is not similar to other fields where change occurs through the interactions between different actors. Instead, the “institutional knowledge” held by security professionals is the standard to which all other actors in the field must comply. Therefore, non-governmental organizations, associations, faith based humanitarian institutions and spokespeople, are compelled to engage in this aforementioned script if they wish to enter the field. They can only enter the field by proposing the kind of knowledge that is productive to law enforcement and the management of trafficking.

Of paramount importance in the workings of the rescue industry is how victim construction takes place – the victimization approach in governing human trafficking. Currently, trafficking is moving away from state securitization towards a more humanitarian approach, however in the context of the security dispositif, this phenomenon is not without pragmatic implications. By enmeshing pity with the prevention of risk, trafficked women are seen as risky, rather than being exposed to risk. Humanitarian efforts then become a vehicle for managing social problems. This means of victim construction illustrates the abuses suffered due to vulnerability, which in turn mobilizes what Aradau refers to as “technologies of prevention” (p.98). NGOs are urged to team with law enforcement and provide comprehensive knowledge of the perpetrators involved; and NGOs are encouraged to hand trafficked women back to law enforcement agencies (Danish Red Cross, 2005, as cited in Aradau, 2008).

Interestingly, the ‘rescue industry’ upholds the wider security dispositif though the processes of victim profiling – trafficked women are identified as victims of coercion, fraud, deceit and vulnerability (Council of the European Union, 2002, as cited in Aradau, 2008). However, these terms are not satisfactorily explained. If they are ascribed to poverty, in the search for a better life and larger structural factors, the ‘rescue industry’ reduced these determinants to the level of the individual, which indirectly pathologized and criminalized the act of migration. Indeed, issues of inequality, such as negative employment trends in countries of origin that lead to migration decisions, are being equated with ‘vulnerability’ (El Cherkeh, Stirbu, Lazaroiu & Radu, 2004). The authors also believe that psychological attempts to re-frame the decision to migrate, locate it within an individual model of psychopathology. Hopes and expectations are translated to signify the ‘vulnerabilities’ that are exploitable by traffickers. Even if structural factors such as poverty are acknowledged as ‘push’ factors, the individual psychological reaction to these variables that warrant action. As Aradau succinctly states, “Prevention will be deployed by action upon the actions of individuals” (p.99). It is reasonable to argue that because the economic and social inequalities that spur women to migrate in the first place are more challenging to address and reform, the ‘rescue industry’ finds it comparatively easier to engage with the psychologization of the phenomenon, namely through rehabilitation and recovery. Psychological counseling is perceived to be the optimum method for the re-integration of ‘victims’.

A further aspect of risk profiling is the ascription of trauma to the experience of being trafficked, or trauma associated in the victim’s past. The consideration of certain predispositions in the characters of trafficked women are thought to be predictors of risky behaviors. For example, victims of child abuse, exposure to violence and past traumatic experiences are some of the mental health variables associated with the experience of being trafficked. The concept of “double trauma” has been introduced to describe a continuum of trauma, which is thought to explain both “the cause and origin of trafficking” (IOM, 2001, 2003, as cited in Aradau, 2008, p.101) If certain predispositions put women in high-risk categories for being exploited, trafficking is constructed as the outcome, such that victim profiles are then manufactured to include and emphasize past trauma (IOM, 2001, 2003, as cited in Aradau, 2008). Brownlie (2001) contends that past trauma is an indicator of not only further personal abuse but also future risk. As well as raising the possibility of being re-victimized, the abused can also become perpetrators themselves, according to Romano and De Luca (1997). They suggest that abused children show symptoms of anti-social behavior at later stages in their lives and deliberately seek more risk taking behavior (Zimmerman, 2003, cited in Aradau, 2008). We see how the past is construed to justify a further category of psychotherapeutic interventions directed towards these so-called ‘victims’. It is tempting to draw a direct connection here between this kind of ‘victim’ profiling by the ‘rescue industry’ and the mobilization of what Aradau calls the “technologies of risk management” (p.102). The rescue industry is directly contributing to the whole machine of security and risk management, whose aim is to limit re-offense in any capacity. Eventually, the humanitarian façade of NGOs and other ‘rescue’ actors, merges with the “politics of risk” to become initiatives geared towards “containment and minimization” (p.102). Those ‘at risk’ are suddenly transposed to the category of ‘high risk’ and the rescue industry then acts as a cover for the deployment of ‘risk technologies’. Trauma and suffering take a backseat to the forefront agenda of decreasing the possibility and incidence of future risky behaviors.

Added to the mix of problematization, risk, and security discourses, ‘the problem of gender’ in migration literature and policy also has to be addressed. Calvo (2013) reports that in her exploration of the EU migration policy documents, the issue of female migration is addressed in relation to gender-based violence, sex trafficking, sexual violence and other traditional forms of harmful practices such as genital mutilation and honour crimes. The link between gender equality in migration and women’s rights and employment participation, along with the connection between migration and gender-based violence help demonstrate the complexity of the question of migration and gender. Furthermore, Calvo (2013) explored the representation of the ‘problem’ of gender in EU policy and noticed that there was a startling lack of definitions related to the concept of gender, but found some references to the ‘gender dimension’ or to ‘gender issues’. The 1996 Commission Communication entitled “Incorporating Equal Opportunities for Women and Men into all Community Policies and Activities” was a milestone for mainstreaming gender into EU policy, however it gave no definition of ‘gender’. It simply argued for the importance of including men and women in the labor force to account for an ageing population. Generally, Calvo discovered that the EU documents sometimes referenced the term gender in relationship to the labor market as well as terms of efficiency, economic dependence and employment, while the category of women was referenced in descriptions of social exclusion, poverty, discrimination, violence, gender inequality, human rights and vulnerable persons. The 2006 Report on Equality between Men and Women acknowledged severe gaps between the participation of men and women in the labour force and that women were concentrated in lower paying sectors of the economy. To counteract an ageing population in Europe, women’s employment at all ages should be encouraged, especially amongst immigrant women (European Commission 2006a:11, as cited in Calvo, 2013). It is important to also refer to the ‘others’ beyond the labour market argument - those women who help with domestic duties when the primary female is employed outside the home. These ‘others’ are responsible for childcare, home maintenance and domestic work, and are undervalued and unproblematized in Europe. This marginal group is seen as more vulnerable to poverty, victimization and generally disadvantaged. Gender mainstreaming at the EU level involved a dual approach – targeting and addressing specific categories of women on the one hand and establishing measures to help them towards employment. In practice however, Calvo is disappointed that gender mainstreaming is deemed as complex and infeasible in practical policy, especially when policy makers have no interest in gender questions. At best, gender mainstreaming in migration and labour policy is comprised of an acknowledgement that there are women who may be utilized for the betterment of the work force.


This thesis critically analyses and interprets various secondary sources – peer reviewed journal articles, books, government published data, online sources such as blog sites / publications and newspapers and websites of relevant NGOs. The thesis would be more accurately described as a critical engagement of a body of work published on the immigration predicament and political manipulation of ‘victims’ of sex trafficking, spanning migration literature, contemporary feminist migration work, especially focusing on the works of Claudia Aradau (2008), Laura Augustin (2007) and Jo Doezema (2010, 2011). The theoretical underpinnings of this thesis are based on a combination of Aradau’s security/risk studies/ international relations and Doezema’s feminist literature in a post neoliberal security context. The thesis attempts to analyze different political and social vocabularies to examine the contemporary phenomenon of sex trafficking. The thesis is also a critique of the discourse of modern humanitarianism and numerous sources that I have used, such as those related to Nicholos Kristof, individual sex worker accounts (Molli Desi) and Laura Augustin’s online blog called Counterpunch, are to demonstrate the exploitation of the term humanitarianism and its modern day discourse. Setting the stage for this critique, I begin with a review of relevant literature in humanitarian governance and gender geo-politics to demonstrate the perpetuation of colonial and imperial sentiments from the late 19th century (Augustin, 2007) up to present day, in the context of aid/development or what we shall term the ‘rescue’ of trafficking victims. A discussion of Aradau’s security/risk literature in the context of sex trafficking is followed by an engagement of contemporary feminist migration work. In subsequent chapters, the thesis critiques the discursive framing of immigration and humanitarianism, and humanitarianism with capitalism. Critical engagement with relevant literature also questions the desire of ‘assistance’ to act impartially; thus, to highlight this disjuncture, the thesis turns to a discussion of the correlation between assistance and gain – where gain encompasses every conceivable form-- economic profit, fame, the winning of grants, the perpetuation of employment security (in the case of NGOs) and even the precipitation of narcissism (see chapter 3).

I selected several organizations in the ‘rescue industry’ within the context of sex trafficking, three of which are NGOs and one faith based organization, and have attempted to highlight the link between ‘rescue’ and capital (showcasing products, sales, prices, payment options).

I examined the governments of the USA and the UK. Both countries publish comprehensive data online that is relevant to this research topic. I analyzed the UK Home Office /Border Agency online documents and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) websites, including the official online sites for various European Treaties and Conventions related to trafficking and the treatment of victims / immigration protocol for detaining or granting residency periods.

Extracting information about sex workers own opinions and recommendations to government and NGOs was accomplished by using the search term ‘rights or rescue’ and ‘forced rehabilitation’. Since this thesis focuses on the euphemism of ‘rescue’, it was deemed appropriate to decipher the voice of the individuals most affected and influenced by it. Therefore, the topic of ‘rights and rescue’ is engaged through illustrations of sex worker rights organizations, NGOs and sex worker accounts to demonstrate these diametrically opposed debates over the rhetoric of trafficking ‘victims’.


This thesis is divided into 4 sections. It starts with an analysis of the anti-trafficking rhetoric of immigration policy in the United States of American (USA) and the United Kingdom. I chose the USA and the UK for the scale and diversity of their sex industries and for the significant migrant populations in these countries that offer great potential to demonstrate the variety of links between migration and sex work. I also wanted to get a generalized view of this topic across the Atlantic, in two English-speaking countries, so that no inconsistencies in government document language or published research and translation were barriers to our research. In understanding how the ‘rescue’ industry works, we first have to look at who they are accountable and answerable to, which is the Federal government in the USA and the Home Department in the UK. Invariably, trafficking policies are at the crossroads of refugee and immigration policy. As will be demonstrated in the chapters that follow, ‘rescue’ actors are employed in various capacities by the state to protect state/political interests, which directly feeds into the research question, as to whether the term ‘rescue’ is actually appropriate in this context. Chapter 2 begins with an analysis of the USA and UK immigration systems in addressing ‘victims of trafficking’ and their rationales for the methods they utilize (a detailed account is provided for each country to demonstrate not only their rationales for employing the means they do, but to also illustrate how the governments first and foremost serve their own purposes under the guise of ‘victim rescue’). Then an analysis of how ‘rescue’ and rehabilitation is viewed by those that it affects is presented, including sex workers, NGO actors and the observations of various scholars. A third group of findings involve what is termed as ‘consumer humanitarianism’, and how the concept of humanitarianism is ‘sold’ or marketed to various audiences in a postmodern technological era, in which social media controls most elements of life, and certain individuals claim to advance ‘rescue’ causes to enhance their own public profiles (see discussion in Chapter 4: Adulterated Humanitarianism on the cult of personality, celebrity and social media). The final group of findings investigates the correlations between ‘rescue’ and economics, highlighting how the cause of ‘rescue’ is employed for financial gain by those involved, indeed raising questions and confirming our provocative hypothesis of rescue being a business.


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The business of rescue. Political strategy, immigration policy and profit
The American University in Cairo
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Davina Ray (Author), 2015, The business of rescue. Political strategy, immigration policy and profit, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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