The current wave of moral panic surrounding trafficking in persons has lead to the tightening border controls worldwide in the name of protecting migrants from so-called modern slavery. Under the rubric of rescuing the helpless and repressing a supposedly “ĥidden” crime (which is simultaneously understood to be omnipresent and incredibly lucrative), surveillance technologies and practices are being increased across the board, especially at key human mobility nexuses such as airports, bus depots and train stations. A major component of these technologies and practices, however, has been the global propagation of a socio-economic profile of a “typical” trafficking victim, in which gender, race, class and national stereotypes are combined to designate those migrants who need to be watched more closely and detained if necessary. Within this general scenario, Brazilian women engaged in trajectories of international migration, including women engaged in transnational sexual/affective relationships have become a particularly potent target for anti-trafficking surveillance and border harassment. The present study combines ethnographic data with an analysis of recent anti-trafficking campaigns and programs to show how the international movements of Brazilian women are being impacted by the shift from a human rights to a law enforcement paradigm centered on the repression of the poorly-defined crime of “trafficking of persons”. Within this shift, the borders of American and European nations have expanded into surveillance zones, where a series of public and private agents (duly “capacitated” to recognize “typical trafficking victims”) employ racial and national profiling to impede the mobility of women deemed, a priori, to be suspect and where the rhetoric of human rights is used to support the practices of social and ethnic exclusion.

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