Mattias De Backer e Alessandro Mazzola


Governments measures to contain the COVID-19 pandemic had a strong impact on migration, involving the closing of borders and of asylum applications in several European countries. At the same time, civil society support to migrants was almost completely stopped. Just like in the 2015-18 refugee reception crisis, however, new initiatives and forms of solidarity emerged during the COVID-19 crisis. These largely employed online channels and involved small organizations, volunteers, activists and local government personnel in surprising numbers of support activities. Civil society initiatives and practices aimed to provide migrants with a space for reception and support when formal reception spaces (e.g. reception centres) were shut down and isolated, under such exceptional circumstances as strong confinement and full lockdown.
We draw on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Belgium during two crises (the 2015-18 refugee reception crisis and the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic) to identify and discuss the “space of reception” as a key concept to understand civil society solidarity towards migrants in contemporary societies. We see the action of mobilized citizens as twofold. On one hand they filled the gaps of the asylum system, as pointed out in recent scholarship; on the other hand, they transformed the space of reception by mediating it within the social context, filling it with activities and relations, and ultimately broadening it to cope with the crisis and create the best possible conditions for the reception and integration of vulnerable migrants.

Refugees and Asylum Seekers, Reception Crisis, COVID-19, Civil Society Solidarity, Reception Space, Belgium


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Registrazione presso il Tribunale di Napoli n. 37 del 05/07/2012