Vulnerable Here or There? Examining the vulnerability of victims of human trafficking before and after return


  • Erlend Paasche
  • May-Len Skilbrei
  • Sine Plambech



human trafficking, vulnerability, return, reintegration, IOM, Nigeria


This article deals with how return programmes for rejected asylum seekers and irregular migrants construct and create vulnerabilities. Few studies have explored the role of assistance provided through such programmes for the sex worker returnees and victims of trafficking who return through them. Even fewer holistically examine a return programme through data elicited in both destination and origin locations, before and after return. That is what we aim to do in this article. We first look at the legal-bureaucratic construction of vulnerability in a host state, Norway, and the systemic logic of its efforts to return victims of trafficking. We then look at how returnees narrate their experiences of and perspectives on vulnerability upon return to their country of origin, Nigeria. This study, together with the broader research within this field, indicates that flaws in programme implementation can in fact exacerbate vulnerabilities rather than help returnees overcome them.


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Author Biographies

Erlend Paasche

Erlend Paasche is a Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Department of Criminology and Sociology of Law, University of Oslo, in the project ‘Transnationalism from Above and Below: Migration Management and How Migrants Manage (MIGMA)’ on European migration management and Nigerian migration. Specialising in the field of return and reintegration, he has coauthored evaluations of assisted return programmes from Norway and conducted fieldworks in Syria, Iraq, Kosovo and Nigeria. Paasche is a visiting academic at the University of Oxford, where he analyses perspectives on trafficking among postgraduate students in Benin City, Nigeria, and representations of trafficking in Nigerian cultural production.

May-Len Skilbrei

May-Len Skilbrei is Professor in criminology at the University of Oslo, where she heads MIGMA. Skilbrei has done empirical research on subjectivities in and policy developments on prostitution and human trafficking, sexual violence, irregular migration and return migration. She has coauthored the book Prostitution Policy in the Nordic Region: Ambiguous sympathies, and has published articles on trafficking policies and victimisation in journals such as Ethnos, Anti-Trafficking Review and the British Journal of Criminology.

Sine Plambech

Sine Plambech is Senior Researcher at the Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS) and Visiting Professor at Barnard, Columbia University, Department of Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies. She has extensive fieldwork experience from Nigeria, Thailand, Italy, and Denmark. She has published on trafficking, migration and deportations in journals such as Social Politics, Journal of Ethnic & Migration Studies and Feminist Economics. She is leading the project ‘Women, Sex & Migration – Seeing sex work migration and human trafficking from the Global South’ and is part of the MIGMA project.




How to Cite

Paasche, E., Skilbrei, M.-L., & Plambech, S. (2018). Vulnerable Here or There? Examining the vulnerability of victims of human trafficking before and after return. Anti-Trafficking Review, (10).