Research project

Getting involved in exile camps: understanding citizen solidarity practices

“The SOLIEXILE project aims to examine informal exile camps as spaces for mobilization. In these spaces, where specific forms of politicization, commitment and mobilization occur, different actors meet and interact.”

Context, stakes and issues

The aim of this research is to ethnograph the encounters and interactions between actors, their discourses and practices, in order to identify the underlying logics of their (non)cooperative actions through the prism of their politicization.


Description of the research field, its specific features and difficulties

The research questions the role of citizen actors in support initiatives in exile camps, the activities implemented by these actors and how they coordinate (or not) with the activities of other actors present in these spaces, the drivers of commitment as well as the degree of politicization of these citizen actors. The chosen approach is ethnographic, involving qualitative research with the various players involved in exile camps in two areas: the Lyon region and north-east Paris.


In your opinion, what is the usefulness of this research for humanitarian and/or social actors?

The first purpose of this research is to meet the needs of those involved in the French Red Cross (CRf) Informal Camp Intervention Scheme (DICI) in the Lyon region. Collaboration with CRf teams enables us to adapt the research to the needs of the association’s volunteers and employees, for a better understanding of the logics behind each actor present, in order to improve the articulation of the various support and solidarity actions. More generally, this project contributes to debates around the reflexivity of the various social and humanitarian players present in these informal living spaces


Why is this research important for you, your background and the state of knowledge on the subject? What is the objective and scientific scope of your research?

At the crossroads of the sociology of migration and the sociology of mobilization, one of the aims of this research is to raise the profile of citizen actors involved in informal living spaces, and to better understand their place, role and commitment in these spaces. The aim of this research is to stimulate reflection on the dynamics of support for vulnerable populations, by contributing to the debate on commitment and the professionalization of the humanitarian sector. In so doing, it contributes to the work on the notions of militancy, commitment, associative work and citizen solidarity. In addition, this research intends to contribute to the literature on the politicization of solidarity actors in the spaces of exile camps.

This research also follows on from work already supported by the French Red Cross Foundation on the theme of exile camps, notably that of Chiara Brocco on access to independent housing for exiles living in informal settlements, and that of Marjorie Gerbier-Aublanc on citizen solidarity in the Paris and Calais camps.

This research aims to combine the analytical task with the need to “keep a trace”, to participate in the construction of a collective memory “from below”, rather than an institutional memory of civic solidarity. The testimonies of committed actors contribute to what Maria Chiara Rioli calls the “Archivio Mediterraneo” of contemporary migration. In the history of mobility, she reminds us, “archives help to give depth to what is presented to us as an eternal present, by tracing the unexpected and multiple connections between people, groups and objects, and by reconstructing histories, existences and identities”.



Caterina Giusa is currently a postdoctoral researcher at Labers – Université de Bretagne Occidentale and a fellow of the Institut Convergences Migrations. She holds a doctorate in sociology from the Université Sorbonne Paris Nord and is an associate researcher at IDPS. Her research lies at the crossroads of the sociology of migration and the sociology of collective mobilization. In her thesis, she worked on the migration routes and mobilizations of Tunisian harragas in Europe (Italy and France), as well as on the evolution of migration policies in Tunisia. She is co-author of the book “Externalising Migration Governance through Civil Society: Tunisia as a Case Study” (2020, Palgrave, Mobility and Politics series).