Over the last decades, in a context in which the living conditions of asylum seekers and refugees are becoming increasingly difficult, many charities have dedicated themselves to the support of these groups across Europe. A large part of the activities of these organisations depends on the involvement of volunteers who participate in altruistic actions such as: legal aid, advice and support in terms of access to services (housing, schools, welfare, etc.), language or educational support (in particular children's support), fundraising, therapeutic or moral support. This study focuses on the case of the volunteers engaged in the support of asylum seekers and refugees in order to explore questions which remain underexplored in the literature on collective action.
This research project seeks to analyse what motivates volunteers to engage with charities that support asylum seekers and refugees, as well as how they define their engagement and reflect upon their experience. In particular, the study wants to analyse whether and how these actors distinguish between altruistic action and social or political protest. In doing so, it seeks to explore how the frontiers between different forms of engagement in society are constructed and negotiated. Looking at immigration and asylum politics 'from below', it also aims to analyse how public debates and policies on these issues are reflected in the forms of engagement in support of asylum seekers and refugees.
The project is based on a comparative approach and on qualitative research methods: we will interview 140 volunteers with different profiles and who are active in two contrasted contexts (Britain and France). We will also interview key representatives of the main pro-asylum charities active in these two countries, and we will analyse press reports and charities' archives. We will undertake this empirical research in the cities of London, Birmingham, Sheffield, Paris, Lyon, and in the region of Lille-Calais. This will allow us to develop an in-depth analysis of why and how people engage in altruistic action in support of asylum seekers and refugees. This will also enable us to analyse whether differences in terms of the life trajectories and personal values of volunteers, of organisational cultures of pro-asylum charities, of national cultures of volunteering, of relations between civil society actors and public authorities, as well as of immigration and asylum politics lead individuals to define their engagement in different ways.
This approach and these methods will give us new data and perspectives on the ways ideas that relate to altruism, solidarity, humanity, care, or compassion are constructed and experienced. They will also enable us to develop original perspectives on the consequences in civil society of policies and public debates in the field of immigration and asylum. This research is timely in a context of intense debates and rapid policy changes on immigration and asylum, both at the national and EU levels. It is also timely in a context of funding shortages to civil society organisations.
|Publication status||Published - Dec 2019|
© 2019 The Authors