COVID-19 - Coronavirus disease 2019

Rights of Marginalized during the Coronavirus Crisis: Hospitality and Commitment – DECHE

Covidexil, analyses of exile and the health crisis in Rennes

Participatory action research on the residential, educational and food insecurities of exiled people during the health crisis in Rennes.

How were exiled people taken into account by associative and collective actions during the health crisis in Rennes?

The lockdown instituted by the government in March 2020 has affected the role of social actors involved with exiled people. Many associations have been alerted to the situations experienced by individuals in precarious situations. As researchers involved in the associative field in Rennes, we wondered about our possible contributions during this long-lasting crisis. Since May 2020, we've been analyzing the organizations that welcome exiled people and the migratory trajectories, particularly those of young people. How have exiled people been taken into account by associative and collective actions during the health crisis? To build our analyses, we are conducting research based on the characterization and recognition of local collective actions. Our work is thus based on the coordination of actors involved in food aid and the fight against precarious housing conditions. We are also interested in the involvement of teachers and students in the field of education. By locating and tracing actions carried out with exiled people at local level, we aim to better document the associative organizations set up and their interactions with public actors.

Our research is led by a team made up of young members of local associations, academics from the Arènes laboratory and members of Coop'Eskemm, a study and research cooperative. We began our work with three sociological inquiries to understand changes in residential, food and educational precariousness. Our data-gathering methods were based on the experiences of the mixed research team, observations of associative situations and interviews. A questionnaire was also used to analyze practices in the fight against food insecurity.
The units mobilized for the analyses are exiled people, volunteers, associative or institutional action professionals and decision-makers.
This research is participatory. We have experimented with six ways of involving associations and committed academics. The composition of a professional research team as a «joint researcher« helped to clarify certain methodological difficulties associated with partnership research (1). The mobilization of academics, who would interact on a regular basis with the team members present on the basis of their current associative experience, constituted a form of applied research (2). Supporting the involvement of young associates was a form of research-training program, particularly for those also involved in their studies (3). Working with a number of local associations was an opportunity to consider how data collection methods could be mobilized to serve associative research capacities, while at the same time working on the scientificity of the action-research approaches undertaken (4). The «Humanités en Quarantaine?« program of videos and podcasts we created in conjunction with local SOS Méditerranée and Cimade groups explored the links between short-term research-creation and long-term academic research (5). Finally, we experimented with research-intervention, acting on research structures by creating a shared space in a former youth center in the heart of a Rennes neighborhood (6).

Our work on education has highlighted the fundamental role of continuities in the commitments of certain educational players, to address the difficulties of «educational continuity« in taking into account the situations of marginalized young people, such as children living in squats or students in highly precarious situations. Our inquiries into residential and food insecurity enabled us to suggest explanations for local political tensions, dominated by the logic of conditionality in the allocation of public aid. The challenge was to support associations in their analysis of a relatively misunderstood phenomenon. If «sheltering« and the provision of basic needs were possible for all precarious people during the initial period of confinement, why was it not possible to maintain this care over time? By situating the actions of local associations and institutions in the literature, which situates them respectively in the humanitarian frame of reference in the case of the associative sector, and in the frame of reference of conditionality in the case of the institution, we finally explained that state action during this period was marked primarily by a frame of reference for crisis management, which thus opened up a third way that was not intended to be maintained over time.
The unconditional measures taken by the government at the time of the confinement, by « putting the whole population under shelter «, did not last. On the other hand, a local system of unconditional food aid, organized by Rennes-based associations with the support of the municipality, is still in place.

The work continues with a number of analyses. New research is being developed to better understand the links between the choices and constraints of young exiles in their life trajectories in Brittany. Another project focuses on the role of voluntary associations in public action networks. Part of the team is also involved in the Horizon Europe Merging research project on migrant integration.

Three research reports, on food and housing insecurity, as well as on our research approach, are developed. Two university degree reports have also been produced by students as part of their involvement in this research. Three articles and book chapters are based on the work carried out. We were also able to submit seven scientific communications, both on the issues of youth and exile, and on methodological questions.
We have also produced content in other formats: podcasts, videos, workshops... These resources are available on the blog.

This research aims to focus on the situation of the most vulnerable during the confinement set up on March 17, 2020 in France. This phenomenon created some disorganization of the action of solidarity associations to the detriment of the most vulnerable. However, they have adapted and the actors have changed their interventions to not create more difficulties for the poorest people. Humanitarian aid associations, after having suffered for a few days from the lack of volunteers, were able to reorganize. The squats have adapted to establish the distance measures as much as possible. Youth associations have developed their social, educational and cultural activities on a digital level. The institutions carry out some actions concerning rehousing, food, health and education of marginalized populations. How are all these initiatives developed to take into account the fundamental rights and needs of vulnerable populations exiled in Rennes, from March 17 until the end of confinement? This question finds certain answers based on the knowledge developed concerning the care and the vulnerable populations, in particular with regard to their intercultural support. In terms of the commitments of these people, the volunteers and workers around them, it is necessary to have a large perception of the forms they can take to understand the demands and the ways of taking care of basic needs. Finally, the role of community action in times of crisis is also an important point to integrate, to help develop the resilience of systems providing basic needs.

From a methodological point of view, it involves implementing research co-created by beneficiaries, social workers and academics. From an inductive perspective, the survey is thus developed according to the principles of co-research, which aims to transform the consideration of marginalized populations. The methods used are mixed: virtual and face-to-face observations, accounts of experiences by field newspapers, interviews, analyzes of media and institutional speeches, questionnaire.

The analyzes are also co-constructed between academics, the first concerned and social workers. They are put into perspective with surveys carried out on the same subjects in Lyon, Brussels and Montreal, allowing national and transnational comparisons.
The research team is made up of four researchers from the Coop Eskemm cooperative and six researchers linked to the Arènes laboratory. From the start of the survey in April 2020, the team is supplemented by five co-researchers with experience of care as exiles and volunteers of solidarity associations. This research work is built in an open logic, with regular workshops allowing the other actors of solidarity and the first concerned to get involved according to their desires.

This research should finally lead us to distance ourselves from the care of vulnerable people in a period when the social and economic system is particularly challenged. This work on social intervention in times of crisis should make it possible to improve the conditions of action of solidarity associations and the situations of their beneficiaries. Ultimately, this means contributing to improvements in the resilience of care systems for vulnerable people.

Project coordination

Fransez Poisson (ARENES)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


Coop Eskemm

Help of the ANR 192,240 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: April 2020 - 18 Months

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