This article discusses gendered conceptions of vulnerability at play in destination states’ formulation and implementation of return policies. Based on qualitative interviews in Norway with asylum reception centre personnel, social workers who work with irregular migrants, and asylum seekers whose asylum applications have been rejected, this article argues that some forms of vulnerability are more easily recognized by authorities, frontline personnel and migrants themselves. Conceptual blind spots have consequences for access to assistance and protection, and may exacerbate vulnerabilities. While return and reintegration programmes offer particular benefits for returnees considered ‘vulnerable’, research by the authors has found an unwillingness to apply this label beyond female victims of human trafficking for the purpose of prostitution. The reasons for this, this article argues, are both institutional and cultural.
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