Perspectives on refugee collective We Are Here

In cooperation with the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences

17okt2018 20:00 - 21:30


Over the last six years hundreds of students, researchers, volunteers, artists and activists have engaged with We Are Here, the social collective of refused refugees in Amsterdam. Some are professional and strictly academic, others more personal or activist. Where do academia and activism meet, and how can they strengthen the other?

In this minisymposium we bring together some of these engagements and perspectives, particularly the academic look and the activist view. What kind of questions do different researchers ask? For what audience do they write their work? Has the research of the past years been useful for activist collectives of refused refugees?

Through presentations and a round-table discussion, sociologist Arjen Leerkes, anthropologist Barak Kalir and Khalid Jone (a representative for We Are Here who received a residence permit sixteen years after his first refusal) explore where these two worlds meet, and how can we facilitate a fruitful collaboration, with the refused refugee community as a context. 

Taking part in the round table discussion are Arjen Leerkes (Erasmus Universiteit), Khalid Jone (We Are Here), Barak Kalir (Universiteit van Amsterdam), Lieneke Slingenberg (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam), Ashley Terlouw (Radboud University Nijmegen), Sander Mensink (Universiteit van Amsterdam), and Jo van der Spek (Migrant2Migrant).

About the speakers

Barak Kalir is an associate professor at the Department of Anthropology, University of Amsterdam, where he currently leads a five-year ERC-funded project “The Social Life of State Deportation Regimes,” in which the implementation of deportation policies is ethnographically examined in different countries in Europe and beyond.

Jo van der Spek is founder of Migrant 2 Migrant and has been involved with We Are Here from the very beginnings as a communication advisor. He studied History at the University of Amsterdam and has made various radio programs from Hilversum to Halabia (

Sander Mensink is a PhD student at the Political Science Department, University of Amsterdam. His research focuses on activism of undocumented migrants and solidarity movements, more specifically on the 'We Are Here'​ group. The aim is to understand how such collectives on the one hand establish relationships with local, representative political actors, and on the other hand develop a strong sense of self-organization.

Khalid Jone stepped down as a spokesperson for asylum seekers without a residence permit at 'We Are Here', when he received his, sixteen years after applying. He is preparing a book on his experiences. 

Arjen Leerkes is Full Professor at the Maastricht Graduate School of Governance and an Associate Professor of Sociology at Erasmus University Rotterdam. His research has, among other things, focused on illegal residence and public safety in the Netherlands. Currently, he aims to understand how states shape patterns of international migration in intended and unintended ways, and at what human costs.

Lieneke Slingenberg is Associate-Professor and head of the Section Migration Law at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. She has published widely on the social rights of irregular migrants, asylum seekers and refugees. In her work, she analyses how states use the provision of and/or exclusion from social rights as an instrument of migration control and how this relates to human rights law.

Ashley Terlouw is professor of Sociology of Law and responsible for the Centre for Migration Law at the Radboud University (Nijmegen). She has published in the area of Equal Treatment, the Administration of Justice and Migration Law. Her current research is in the area of discrimination on racial, nationality and religious ground.


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