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Whom Do Human Rights Norms Protect? The Determinants of Cross-national Variations in Protections for Itinerant Populations


This study compares the determinants of cross-national variations in levels of legal protections for three itinerant groups (trafficked persons, internationally displaced persons, and migrants) to better understand why levels of codified protective laws and political sympathy/lenience for some groups stem from exogenous/global normative influences, while for others, what matters is the extent to which states act upon their own state interests. The study employs fuzzy set qualitative comparative analyses (fsQCA) to complement statistical analyses, and theoretically adjudicates between the explanatory strengths of institutional (i.e., world society theory and international relations constructivism) and more conventional interest-based functionalist and realist perspectives. It finds that although codified protections for itinerant groups are functions of both normative human rights influences and state interests, factors that are exogenous to state interests are the primary “ingredients” for legal protections for groups that are both 1) understood as unthreatening to state interests, and 2) globally socially constructed as “vulnerable” and therefore “deserving” of protections by means of involuntary or forced presence in a foreign land (e.g., trafficked persons and internationally displaced persons). Normative human rights influences are either absent or meaningful in conjunction with state interest factors in shaping protections for more “threatening” and less “vulnerable” groups (e.g., migrants). In each empirical chapter, each group is analyzed further by disaggregating the group into subgroups, whose variegated protections logics are also shaped by juxtapositions of “deservingness” and “threat to state interests.”

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