Motivations and Effects of Volunteering for Refugees. Spaces of Encounter and Political Influence of the 'New Civic Engagement' in Milan


The article focuses on the new civic engagement often referred to as volunteer welcome initiatives. Indeed, during the misnamed 'migration/refugee crisis', a consistent number of citizens in Europe engaged in practices of helping toward refugees and migrants. Based on participant observations and 28 interviews with volunteers from four different voluntary groups running their activities in Milan, Italy, I argue that such organizations offer a space of encounter and confrontation with migrants throughout which volunteers develop a strong sense of outrage and critical awareness of asylum system deficiencies. Moreover, it is argued that these organizations have had an important role within Milan's urban policy arena, to the extent that they contributed in shaping how the challenges of receiving the many newcomers were addressed locally.

DOI Code: 10.1285/i20356609v12i1p142

Keywords: Civil society mobilisations; immigrant rights movement; Milan; volunteering; welcome initiatives


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