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Sanctuary movements

Migration A–Z


  1. Randy K. Lippert

Published Online: 4 FEB 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781444351071.wbeghm469

The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration

The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration

How to Cite

Lippert, R. K. 2013. Sanctuary movements. The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 4 FEB 2013


Contemporary sanctuary movements are organized, collective efforts to provide physical protection to migrants facing arrest and deportation by state authorities in receiving countries. Medieval sanctuary practiced by the Christian church was a permanent element of a legal system and protection was extended to felons, fleeing serfs, and debtors (Morgenstern 2009). Such provisions were later appropriated by the modern state in Europe and were essential to the development of early modern criminal law (Shoemaker 2010). Only in the late 1970s did sanctuary movements and their practices develop a strong connection to protecting asylum-seekers from arrest and deportation in receiving countries rather than other kinds of fugitives. The defining practices of these movements first became manifest in the UK (see Weller 1987: 10). But it was during 1982 and 1983, and then sporadically during the next three decades, that sanctuary practices ostensibly stemming from Christian churches emerged fully in the US, Canada, and Western Europe, including Germany, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Norway, and Finland (see Lippert 2006: 4). These practices arose amid a dramatic increase in the number of asylum-seekers in the West, and a corresponding escalation of national and international efforts to discourage and control their arrival, including the use of physical arrest and deportation.


  • civil rights;
  • equality;
  • ethnic conflict;
  • racism;
  • violence