Accepted paper:

The relational dynamics between refugees and activists in Berlin during shifting moods and neoliberal turns.


Fazila Bhimji (University of Central Lancashire)

Paper short abstract:

The paper aims to discuss the complexities of refugee relations with solidarity activists and volunteers in the context of homemaking in less welcoming times and ongoing gentrification of Berlin.

Paper long abstract:

Berlin has witnessed a significant inflow of refugees from Sub-Saharan African countries since 2013 and from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq in 2015 during 'the long summer of migration.' Several solidarity and voluntary initiatives emerged in Berlin since 2014 in order to assist refugees find temporary housing, shared housing and flats. In 2015, several voluntary initiatives emerged amidst a 'Welcome Culture.' However, since 2015 the 'welcoming' mood has shifted, but many initiatives continue their work in Berlin. Finding accommodation in Berlin in the face of gentrification and racism is a massive challenge. The paper interrogates the relations between refugees and activists who support refugees in their search for temporary and permanent accommodation. Some refugees opt to network with activists and volunteers in the hope of finding accommodation, others develop tenuous relations, while still others actively participate in the solidarity work of homemaking for refugees -by refugees. Thus encounters between solidarity activists and refugees can be understood to be shifting, dynamic and contested. Scholarship on solidarity work with refugees has presented a critique on migrant solidarity activism (Atac, Rygiel and Siteri 2017; Cabot 2016) but there has been less discussion on actual relations between solidarity initiatives and volunteers and refugees during shifting moods and structural inequities. Thus, the paper aims to demonstrate how an unstable context can affect not only the solidarity efforts but also the relations between activists, volunteers and refugees. Data are drawn on interviews, participant observation and participation in three housing solidarity and volunteer groups in Berlin.

panel P157
Refugees and Migrants Network and Mobilise with Activists and NGO workers