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Work Packages

Whis project initially was divided into three main work packages, each dedicated to one type of sanctuary practices. After joining O. Terentyeva in 2022 an additional forth work package was added.

Image by Akira Hojo


Church Asylum

In its contemporary variant, church asylum refers to cases where religious congregations harbor undocumented immigrants in order to shield them from law-enforcement authorities. In the US, the New Sanctuary Movement was formally launched in 2007. In Europe, the official launching event of the New Sanctuary Movement took place in Berlin in 2010 with an international conference, the adoption of a Charta, and the formal proclamation of a European Network of Sanctuary Churches (Just 2014). The movement includes active sanctuary alliances in Germany, Belgium,
Norway, Switzerland, France, the UK, and the Netherlands. In both Europe and the US church asylum has come under intense criticism by authorities. Churches are accused of putting parochial morality above legality and misusing religious prerogatives to unduly infringe with state matters, essentially undermining the liberal-secular political order.


Sanctuary Cities / Firewall Policies

Sanctuary cities (and also counties and states) are local-level jurisdictions that adopt firewall policies aimed at providing a safe environment for irregular immigrants to participate in society, make use of institutions, and receive services without fear of persecution (Lasch et al. 2018). Although firewall policies are themselves enacted by authorities, they also involve insubordinate behavior as subnational jurisdictions refuse to comply with national authorities. Since 2016, the largest European advocacy network for irregular immigrants, PICUM, has adopted firewall policies as one of their key advocacy goals (Levoy, Keith, and Geddie 2016). Non-cooperation measures and firewall policies are justified in practical terms and “as a necessary moral and ethical response” (Lasch et al. 2018, 1754) to inhuman immigration policies. Critics in turn reject these policies as illegal and unethical, arguing that they contradict federal legislation, expose local populations to danger and unduly protect undeserving immigrants.

Image by Andrea Ferrario
Image by Li Yang


Humanitarian Rescue Operations

Humanitarian rescue operations have so far not been analyzed as an instance of the politics of sanctuary, but they also attempt to create a temporary safe space for immigrants through life- saving operations at the borders, often in defiance of governmental authorities. Indeed, recent developments indicate a growing trend towards the criminalization of these operations (Carrera et al. 2016). Those NGOs that still operate in the Mediterranean do so despite mounting pressure from European governments. Their critics see them as contributing to the high death toll in the Mediterranean, while they see themselves as the last bastion of humanity. It is an innovative aspect of this project that it will analyze humanitarian rescue operations as the morally-motivated provision of sanctuary in the form of a temporary safe space for immigrants fearing for their lives and bodily integrity.


Power Relations Within Sanctuary Networks: a Postcolonial Approach

This new work package involves a case study of the recent cases of church asylum and church occupation by migrants that have occurred in Belgium and the Netherlands, focusing in particular on two recent cases that have drawn very large media attention, also internationally. These two cases are the case of church asylum in a protestant church in Den Haag that lasted for three months of the occupation of a church in Brussels by a groups of self-organized refugees who asked for regularization and who also conducted a hunger strike and remained in the church for several days. The goal of this work package is to add a focus on the cultural representation of the asylum seekers/irregular immigrants involved in these incidents, as well as on the mediatic representation of sanctuary as such through postcolonial perspective. It will allow to map power relations within sanctuary networks on the two countries mentioned.

Image by Vlad Hilitanu
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