Urban Arrival Infrastructures between Political and Humanitarian Support: The ‘Refugee Welcome’ Mo(ve)ment Revisited

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-7635

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Urban Arrival Infrastructures between Political and Humanitarian Support: The ‘Refugee Welcome’ Mo(ve)ment Revisited

  • Rivka Saltiel Universität Graz

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Maximilian Park in Brussels was the site of a makeshift refugee camp for three months in 2015 when the institutional reception system was unable to provide shelter for newly arriving asylum seekers. Local volunteers stepped in, formed a civic initiative and organized a reception area under the banner ‘Refugees Welcome!’ The civic platform which emerged claimed and asserted (existing) rights for one specific group, asylum seekers, exclusively, and thus did not challenge the exclusive migration regime nor demand transformation. While such a humanitarian approach risks reproducing the exclusive border regime and the inequalities it engenders, political support is a disturbing rupture in the name of equality that resists normative classifications and inaugurates transformation. This article maps out the complex dialectical interrelation between political and humanitarian support and argues that political implications can only be understood through longer-term research, emphasizing processes of transformation that have resulted from these moments of disruption. Therefore, the article revisits Maximilian Park two and four years after the camp and reveals how the humanitarian approach chosen in the camp sustainably transformed the park, adding arrival infrastructures beyond the institutional, and had an impact on how refugees were dealt with and represented. Concluding, the article suggests the notion of ‘solidary humanitarianism’ that providing supplies, meeting acute existential needs and simultaneously articulating political claims that demand structural transformation: the right to shelter, basic supply, presence, and movement for all in the city.

Keywords:  arrival policies; Belgium; Brussels; humanitarianism; irregular migration; solidarity; space of arrival; transmigrants

Published:   28 July 2020

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/up.v5i3.2918

© Rivka Saltiel. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.