Navigating spatial inequalities: the micro-politics of migrant dwelling practices during COVID-19 in Antwerp

H Robinson, J Molenaar, L Van Praag

Research output: Contribution to journalA1: Web of Science-articlepeer-review


The COVID-19 pandemic and its multiple lockdowns disrupted city life, while restrictions on physical distancing and urban activities highlighted the importance of our living environment and its links to our well-being. As part of the COVINFORM research project, this case study uses a micro-political lens to explore the specific spatial challenges which migrants faced in two of the more socially deprived neighbourhoods in Antwerp, Antwerpen-Noord and Borgerhout. This study aims to understand the specific spatial challenges migrants encountered during the pandemic and examine how they navigated and asserted agency within the confines of their living situation during this period. We combine participant observation with 25 semi-structured interviews with migrants living in two neighbourhoods in Antwerp (Flanders, Belgium), namely Borgerhout and Antwerpen-Noord. Findings show that the COVID-19 pandemic reinforced urban spatial disparities, where people’s strategies of adaptation were suddenly disrupted. Lower-income migrants were particularly affected, living in crowded housing without access to private open space. Access to public and green spaces, as well as facilities and public transport links, became more important during the pandemic, especially for those in poorer housing conditions. Within this context of spatial inequalities, migrants deployed their agency through claiming access to the city, shifting dwelling practices, and leveraging neighbourhood and community networks.
Original languageEnglish
JournalUrban Studies
Number of pages17
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2024


  • COVID-19
  • Exclusion
  • Housing
  • Migration
  • Poverty
  • Public space


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