Solidarity, vulnerability, and the labour of refugee activism

Considering responses to refugee mobility in the UK, a focus on the practice of care for refugees, has centred on the effects of displacement and the vulnerabilities this exposes, both for citizens and non-citizens. A wide range of organisations at both national and local levels, have sought to welcome and support refugees in various ways, with an ethic of care at the heart of many of these responses. Critically, however, care itself often falls short of an articulation of solidarity, read as a political interruption into (shared) vulnerability. In this sense, solidarity asks not simply how suffering may be alleviated but under what conditions suffering flourishes. With this tension in mind, this paper focuses on the work of the Northern Ireland Community of Refugees and Asylum Seekers (NICRAS), a refugee-led organisation that supports refugees across Northern Ireland. In examining the recent work of NICRAS to investigate the housing conditions of asylum seekers and refugees across Belfast and to hold accommodation providers to account, the paper illustrates the forms of labour, learning, and collaboration that produce acts of solidarity. By exploring the shared labour of NICRAS in producing collaborative reports, challenging local authorities, and articulating claims to political visibility to the devolved Northern Irish Assembly, the paper discusses how acts of solidarity are both produced by, and productive of, relationships of learning and vulnerability.