Panel at the IASFM 2016 Conference, Poznan, Poland, 12.-15. July 2016
Voluntary work to help the displaced, often born out of local emergencies and political convictions, has a long tradition. Organised in projects or initiatives, in small groups of friends or as individuals, people have devoted their spare time to assist refugees and migrants. In the current humanitarian refugee crises, volunteers have taken on crucial roles from feeding and sheltering to smuggling and integrating refugees. In Europe, volunteers have engaged with asylum seekers all across the continent, from the Greek and Italian islands, along the Balkan route into Austria and Germany to Scandinavia, France and the UK. Beyond Europe, volunteers assist refugees in humanitarian crises all over the world, from Asia and Australia to the Middle East and Africa, to the Americas. Their engagement is not only important to refugees but a contribution to civil society and democracy in the receiving countries.
While professional humanitarian aid work is increasingly being examined in Refugee Studies, volunteering work for and with refugees has received very little attention. Yet, various particular aspects are of concern here:
- What motivates volunteers to work with and for refugees?
- Who are the volunteers and how are they organized?
- What effect does volunteering have on refugees’ lives?
- How does volunteering for refugees relate to civil society, democracy and the integration potential of refugees receiving countries?
- What impact does volunteering have on refugee policies and the role of the state in refugee protection?
- How do volunteers relate to established aid organisations and other civil society actors?
We are looking for papers addressing these and other aspects of volunteering work for and with refugees from any discipline and from any region. We are particularly interested in empirically based considerations about methodological and conceptual approaches to this new area of research.