Anti-trafficking, anti-slavery and the Vietnamese who migrate to the UK: Feminist geopolitics of a transnational protection agenda

Valentine Gavard-Suaire

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


My research focuses on non-governmental actors’ response to the current migration of Vietnamese workers to the UK. Over the past two decades, reports of Vietnamese people being cheated and exploited en route to, or in the UK, led to an increase in anti-trafficking andanti-slaveryactivities,whichweremostlyledbycharitiesandNGOs. Thisthesisasks how protection initiatives developed and which local narratives they built on, changed, or strengthened. Research methods include semi-structured interviews, participant observation, in-field observations, media and social media survey as well as analyses of charitable projects, documents, and visuals. Most of the fieldwork was conducted in the UK and in North Vietnam between the Autumn 2018 and early 2020. The thesis reveals that, in Vietnam and in the UK, protection professionals have contrasted and sometimes conflicting views over the circumstances and needs of Vietnamese migrants. The thesis traces related discussions across space and detangles how protection professionals’ fragmented transnational imaginaries(Mountz 2004; Pratt 2008), interconnected discourses, and uneven practices circumscribe migrants’ identities and possibilities. In addition, the thesis seeks to understand how migrants’ own spatial practices impact the ways in which protection stakeholders come to view them. It shows that migrants’ distrust towards support workers – in the context of criminalisation, enforced returns of irregular migrants, and discrimination issues – and their elusiveness, have not only perpetuated communication and understanding gaps, but also complicated the ‘politics of visibility’ (Casper and Moore 2009) around vulnerable groups: Vietnamese migrants, the thesis reveals, have increasingly been framed as vulnerable to trafficking and exploitation in spite and sometimes because of their elusiveness. Finally, the thesis uncovers how the diffusion of trafficking and slavery concerns and activities impact Vietnamese migrants’ transnational mobility. It approaches the dynamics of control that the diffusion of anti-trafficking operations is entangled in and discusses processes of exclusion affecting migrants (Mountz 2003, 2004; Yea 2020) as well as under-explored strategies through which mobility is constrained (Hyndman 2012), arguing that they can paradoxically be located in international mechanisms defined as forms of human rights protection.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Brickell, Katherine, Supervisor
  • Willis, Katie, Supervisor
Publication statusUnpublished - 2023

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