Belonging and the ethics of care. Refugee aid and guardianships of unaccompanied refugee minors

Start - End 
2013 - 2016 (ongoing)
Department of Languages and Cultures



In recent years, both in Belgium and in the Netherlands, several cases of refugees scheduled to be deported to their home countries became highly mediatised. Cases of refugee deportation that evoke moral indignation and public protest often concern refugees who are involved in close (caring) relationships with people of the host country. In public debates, these relationships are often cited when arguing against deportation of the refugees involved.

The proposed research in the emerging field of empirical care ethics seeks to provide an empirical description and ethical analysis of care relations in the context of refugee aid in Belgium and the Netherlands. With the use of qualitative research methods, I will study the meanings and values that are attached to long-standing and strong relationships in (1) local volunteer groups who support refugees in towns and cities and (2) guardianships/foster parentships for refugees who have migrated as unaccompanied minors.

The study aims to examine values that are attached to these relationships and how they relate to institutional and ideological contexts in both countries. The overall aim is to contribute to the ethical debate on the contradictions and ethical dilemmas in Western immigration policy and practice. The way care relations are experienced and valued in the context of refugee aid can inform ethical reflection on the relevance of incorporating an ethic of care in the discussion of who has the right to belong.