In the past 40 years, the escalation of policy-makers’ appetite for border security has increased public attention on “migrant smuggling” to unprecedented levels. Policy-makers tend to portray smugglers publicly as inherently dangerous and deviant figures, who threaten the safety of both migrants and receiving societies. This representation persists even though the literature has now widely acknowledged that it is deceiving. Rather than looking at the mismatch between representation and reality, in this paper I interrogate the uses of smuggling. I ask: what political function does the figure of the “smuggler” fulfill in border control? I contend that the demonization of the smuggler enables the expansion of the border apparatus. Casting the “smuggler” as the main source of danger for people crossing the border irregularly displaces attention away from the structural sources that create a demand for human smuggling in the first place. Individualizing and pathologizing the dangers connected to smuggling facilitates the deployment of a “war against smugglers.” Following Rob Nixon’s concept of “slow violence,” I argue that anti-smuggling activities can be categorized broadly into fast control instruments, that deploy military-style interventions focusing on destroying the infrastructures that facilitate irregular border crossing; and slow control methods, that aim at transforming potential migrants and former smugglers into immigration-law-abiding subjects through welfare-like initiatives. Although they might not be apparently successful in their intent to disrupt smuggling networks and economies, these projects do succeed in advancing the border project: they further precarise the life conditions of migrant people, and they reinforce the idea that migration is a “problem” that can be “solved” through ad-hoc, time-bounded, rapid interventions.