Child trafficking or teenage migration? Bolivian migrants in Argentina

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This paper considers the usefulness of the concept of child trafficking in the context of teenage migration from Bolivia to Argentina. The paper starts with an overview of the international context in relation to child trafficking for labour exploitation and then proceeds to examine the situation in Latin America. It argues that child trafficking in general and for labour exploitation in particular is a neglected issue in South America where it is often not perceived to be a problem. Child trafficking for labour exploitation is, however, a widespread phenomenon which takes place in close connection to both internal as well as international migration and is often related to culturally embedded forms of patronage. The paper then turns to the specific case of Bolivian migration to Argentina where it identifies its characteristics and recent trends in order to better situate child trafficking. Four cases of child trafficking for labour exploitation are presented in order to examine (1) the reasons for wanting to migrate, (2) the modes of recruitment, (3) the working conditions, and (4) the consequences of child trafficking. Given their differences, these cases are compared and contrasted in order to highlight key issues in child trafficking for labour exploitation, namely, its embeddedness in child labour practices and culturally specific understanding of adulthood. The detailed analysis of the selected cases indicates that by adopting a biographical approach, it is possible to understand trafficking as a phase within what is a much larger process of labour migration. This in turn raises questions related to the usefulness of the concept of "child trafficking" in this particular context. The final section addresses the policy implications of the issues raised in the analysis of the four cases. It concludes with recognition of the consequences of restrictive migration policies and of the need to tackle the root causes of migrants' and children's rights abuses. © 2005 IOM.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-89
Number of pages32
JournalInternational Migration
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2005

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Global Development Institute


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