Creating social and affective bonds as the key to successful reception

Creating social and affective bonds as the key to successful reception

Wed, 19/02/2020 - 11:53


Reception. Covering material and labour needs is not enough when we talk about the reception of newly arrived people. Social and affective bonds are just as important.

Taking in migrants and refugees means offering a roof over their heads and providing some material essentials, but it’s also about creating affective and emotional bonds that cover the human need for social relationships and recognition by others. The City Council is aware that reception is not effective unless it includes these bonds, and so its ‘Barcelona, Refuge City’ plan seeks to strengthen citizen initiatives that help create bonds with our society and compensate in some way for the loss of newly arrived people’s own social networks, family and important figures.

This is the case of organisations such as Punt de Referència and Refugees Welcome, which look for families and individuals who refugees and migrants can share time with to create ties with their environment. Another example is the agreement signed with La Intercol·legial, which puts professionals from the same sector in touch, with a clear labour insertion purpose but also to facilitate the exchange of ties with other people in a specific sphere.

The importance of bonds and the sense of belonging

A recent sociological study by the economist Raúl Ruiz Sola, ¿Comunidades de extraños por una sociedad de iguales?, can help us recognise the existence of this type of organised society and the need for extension, to achieve greater involvement and cover the comprehensive needs of newly arrived people. Ruiz Sola doesn’t investigate the specific case of migrants but offers a general approach to the emergence of new forms of vulnerability within the current capitalist model and how society offers a communal response.

“Current vulnerability and marginalisation are much more complex than decades ago and have many more faces: people out of work despite being highly qualified, people in work which is very precarious, people who have switched from working with others to working alone etc. In addition, the individualisation process, resulting from the emancipation from collective structures such as, for instance, the family leaving people without socio-affective protection who in the past would not have the need to reconnect with a community to develop ties with it”, states Ruiz Sola.

Strategies for mutual support and reciprocation

Given this reality of various solitudes, citizen initiatives have emerged with a mutual support strategy which generates new opportunities for safe socialisation. These are spaces for belonging, where people of different origins meet as they look to cover material or labour needs due to poverty (as we have understood it to date), and who also lack a social network or life goals. Ruiz Sola summarises it thus: “The word I’ve heard repeated the most over my years of research is family: the thing people valued most about belonging to an association or organisation was the feeling of being a family”.

“A paradigmatic case which acts as an example to explain the phenomenon”, continues Ruiz Sola, “is Barcelona’s Banc Expropiat and a woman I met there when I was doing research. She’d arrived from Honduras, where she’d worked all her life selling clothes, to look after her grandchild while her daughter worked. She hardly knew anyone in the city, but one day happened to go into the Banc Expropriat and took away an item of clothing offered there. That was the start of a link with the place and the people at the Banc Expropriat, which ended up with the creation of a women’s group based around the self-organisation and management of the free clothing shop. The group’s highly diverse, and like everything with the Banc Expropriat it’s a meeting point for anti-capitalist activists, but also for newly arrived people with material needs who end up getting politically involved with the entity. It’s a place of protection, mutual recognition and personal realisation”.

This is just one example which confirms the theory of engagement with social groups with varying socio-economic, political and cultural conditions, whereby intensification of the respective vulnerabilities becomes a common element of contact and connection.

Support from the administration

Given the comprehensive vision that the City Council wants to apply to reception, these studies offer an understanding of citizen realities which the administrations can’t substitute. “Improving reception doesn’t mean just increasing services for newly arrived people, but also providing support and boosting self-organised spaces and organisations which correspond to new forms of social risk”, notes Pablo Peralta, a specialist with the ‘Barcelona, Refuge City’ plan. “And I say ‘providing support’ but with complete respect and no intrusions into the dynamics of the organisations. They’re doing what we can’t do as an institution: creating bonds to facilitate inclusion in our society”, adds Peralta.

On a separate note, Raúl Ruiz Sola warns of the possible bureaucratisation of involvement by administrations, but also understands that the (precarious) dynamics of these groups can’t be sustained in time without some sort of support.

Raúl Ruiz Sola will be explaining the main conclusions from his thesis on 4 March, as well as talking about the Nagual project, through which he tries to offer a response to the lack of bonds in current society in relation to the refugee and migrant populations and autochthonous populations alike. Everyone is welcome.

  • Activity: ‘The importance of the reciprocal bond in new contexts of migration and refuge’
  • Organised by: Barcelona City Council, Department of Immigration and Refuge Services. Area of Social Rights, Global Justice, Feminism and LGBTI
  • Date and time: 1/04/2020, from 6 pm to 7.30 pm
  • Venue: Multi-purpose room at the Espai Avinyó (Carrer d’Avinyó, 52, 08002 Barcelona)