The Politics of Social Protection: Is it really the Citizens vs. the Vulnerables?

18 January 2019

SG1 and SG2, Alison Richard Building

Registration for this conference is now open.

The full price fee is £20, inclusive of lunches and refreshments. We are able to offer a limited number of student/unwaged places for a subsidised fee of £7. Once this limit is reached, additional student/unwaged registrants will be charged £10.  



Nabila Idris (University of Cambridge)



Despite being seeming political allies, there appears to be a fundamental tension between the proponents of increased migration and the proponents of a stronger welfare state. It arises due to the conundrum of eligibility: is eligibility for scarce state assistance mediated by citizenship or vulnerability? Regimes have oscillated between these positions, sometimes at the cost of their ideological integrity.

The practical implications of this conundrum today play out not just in the global North, although the recent migration crisis in Europe has thrown it in stark relief. The tension is also apparent in the global South where aid funding in countries like Uganda and Bangladesh is accused—at least in the popular imagination—of getting split between disadvantaged citizens and vulnerable refugees. 

This one-day conference brings together students, academics and practitioners from both the global North and South in an attempt to tease out the politics of social protection. Is it really a ‘turf war’ between the citizens and the vulnerables? Or should we more critically interrogate the perception of scarcity itself? What political processes actually shape these decisions on the ground?




Supported by the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH), and the Cambridge Society for Social and Economic Development (CAMSED).


Administrative assistance:


Unfortunately, we are unable to arrange or book accommodation for registrants. The following websites may be of help:

9.00 - 9.15


9.15 - 9.30


9.30 - 10.45

Session 1: Framing Social Protection

Zina Nimeh, Tamara A. Kool, Francesco Iacoella and Alexander Hunns (Maastricht University/UNU-MERIT)

'The Puzzle of Rights, Moral Obligations and Design: A Social Protection Framework for Protracted Refugees'


Samuel Hickey (University of Manchester)

‘From social contracts to political settlements? Getting real about the politics of social protection'

10.45 - 11.15


11.15 - 12.30

Session 2: Developments in the Global North

Toby Parsloe (University of Cambridge)

'The politics of refugee shelter placement and development in Berlin'

Pietro Vulpiani (Ministry of Interior, Italy)

'Resettlement, demand for social welfare and secondary movements of Syrian refugees from Italy'

12.30 - 13.30


13.30 - 15.15

Session 3: Shifting Lenses

Albert van Wijngaarden (Novosibirsk State University)

'Speaking about refugee eligibility to scarce means in Bangladesh: From unwanted others, to suffering fellow human beings'

Jad Moawad (University of Lausanne)

'A New Wave of Welfare Chauvinism? How Rising Immigration and Unemployment Level Affect Support for Distributing Welfare to Immigrants in Europe'

Semanur Pekkendir (TRT World, Turkey)

‘"Ansar and Muhajirun" as a discursive device to shape public perception towards Syrian refugees'

15.15 - 15.45


15.45 - 17.30

Session 4: Politics in the Global South

Georgia Cole (University of Cambridge)

'Articulating a "right" to social assistance: The case of Eritreans in Uganda'


Ilene van Brouwershaven (Maastricht University/UNU-MERIT)

'Finding a helping hand in a revolving door regime: A qualitative case-study about social protection for low-skilled foreign workers in Singapore'


Gbenga A. Shadare (University of Sheffield)

'The role of citizens’ perspectives in the transformation of social transfer programmes - examples of Nigeria'

17.30 - 18.00

Closing Discussion