This article explores the interface between migration and human trafficking in sub-Saharan Africa fromthe two angles of governance and poverty. A salient feature in the emerging frameworks of migration management is its implicit bifurcated vision of mobility. Trade-connected mobility is well protected by government rules whereas mobility to sustain livelihoods is subject to a punitive regime with a limited scope for resolving the discrepancy between the legal and social interpretations of human rights and well-being. The rise of migration by women, children and young people within and outside traditional practices under risky conditions may reflect deeper structural transformations than are commonly acknowledged by policy-makers. Reactions based on human rights concerns have contributed to new international, regional and national legislative frameworks for preventing abusive and exploitative practices in migration. The prevalence of glaring differences of interests in the variant policy approaches to all these issues migration management, crime control, labour standards, poverty reduction and the particular needs of communities at risk requires the concept of best practices to address the relationship between dominant forms of social knowledge and the policy field to situate and tackle issues of rights violation in different scales of governance and their interrelationships.