Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2803

Article | Open Access

Eroding Rights, Crafting Solidarity? Shifting Dynamics in the State–Civil Society Nexus in Flanders and Brussels

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Abstract:  In 2015, hundreds of new civil initiatives emerged to provide stopgap help to refugees arriving in Belgium. This article zooms out from this moment of solidarity and explores the broader socio-political conditions that allowed these initiatives to emerge and, in some cases, solidify into professional service-providers or powerful political actors. The article focuses on two case studies, one in Flanders and one in Brussels. In Flanders, the Hospitable Network brings together local civil initiatives which have drawn upon the networks and skills of senior citizens with considerable experience in civic associations, NGOs and social movements. While these initiatives have partly filled the gaps that were created by a series of neoliberal reforms in Flanders’ citizenship regime, the same neoliberal outlook has prevented these initiatives from being institutionalised. In Brussels, the Citizen Platform for the Support of Refugees has mobilised largely among the city’s super-diverse population. The Platform’s development has been shaped by Brussels’ continuing attractiveness to immigrants, as well as by the city’s complex governance structure, which has provided it with both material support and increasing opposition. As a result, the Platform has become a highly visible political actor offering partly professionalised support to refugees.

Keywords:  asylum policies; citizenship regime; mobilization; refugees; social movements; solidarity



© Robin Vandevoordt. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.