The role of credibility in constructing the victim of trafficking status




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British Sociological Association



Peer reviewed


The UK government claims human rights approach underpins their policies to tackle human trafficking (Home Office, 2007, 2011). The decisions of front-line workers about the eligibility of individuals to access the rights afforded to ‘victim of trafficking’ highlights their role as street-level bureaucrats and moral entrepreneurs as they assess claimant’s credibility (DuBois, 2010). Street-level bureaucrats have the ability, both in technical skill and legal-administrative authority, to make judgements about the people they encounter and their entitlement to rights, protections and services afforded by the UK government (Hupe & Hill, 2007). If an individual claiming the status ‘victim of trafficking’ does not provide a credible performance of their claim, it is likely to be dismissed (McKinnon, 2009).

Adapting a framework for evaluating the credibility of international human rights NGOs (Gourevitch & Lake, 2012), this paper examines the role of credibility at the nexus of individual claims of human trafficking victimhood and public institutional concerns about border security, migration and criminality. The framework critically examines tensions between the priorities and interests of state agencies are discussed; risk and virtue in narratives of victimhood; evidence and the external validation of claims of victimhood; and the necessity of performing the correct steps when making a claim for human rights. Individuals identified as ‘victims of trafficking’ may find the personal troubles narrated in their claims are transformed in the official narrative of their experiences constructed through records of their institutional journey.


Delivered within the Sociology of Rights theme of the BSA National Conference; coordinated by the BSA Sociology of Rights Study Group


street-level bureaucrats, credibility, human trafficking


Tangen, J (2017) The role of credibility in constructing the ‘victim of trafficking’ status. delivered to the British Sociological Association National Conference, University of Manchester: 04 April 2017


Research Institute

Institute for Research in Criminology, Community, Education and Social Justice