Human Trafficking, Organized Crime, and Border Control: Vicious or Virtuous Cycle?

56 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2011 Last revised: 26 Aug 2011

Date Written: 2011


Human trafficking as a form of organized crime threatens state security by compromising states' control over their borders, eroding interdependence sovereignty, raising fears over illegal migration and unauthorized access to territory, and constituting a human rights violation. Organized crime is closely tied to the dilemmas of globalization in exploiting the technologies of globalization while being fuelled by the demands of economic transformation in origin and destination states. Organized crime also represents a non-state challenge to state security. Understanding how states cope with human trafficking and crime is important for theorizing about the pursuit of security in the face of non-state security threats. I examine the relationship between human trafficking in origin states and destination states' border control policies. The policy literature leads to two competing propositions on the relationship between states' border policies and human trafficking. On the one end of the spectrum, pundits argue that human trafficking is prevalent because of porous borders and lax controls. On the other end, scholars posit that stringent policies only serve to embolden crime. Drawing on complexity theory in world politics, I study these feedback loops through a simultaneous equations framework. I test these competing propositions using data on destination states' visa control policies and indicators for human trafficking in origin states. While I show that border policies respond to how widespread and dominant trafficking in origin states, I also find evidence in favor of a virtuous cycle.

Keywords: non state actors, organized crime, migration policy, human trafficking

Suggested Citation

Avdan, Nazli, Human Trafficking, Organized Crime, and Border Control: Vicious or Virtuous Cycle? (2011). APSA 2011 Annual Meeting Paper. Available at SSRN:

Nazli Avdan (Contact Author)

University of Oxford ( email )

Mansfield Road
Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 4AU
United Kingdom

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