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Accepted paper:

'We live together, we fight together': Greece's politicised grassroots 'aid' movement


Ioanna Manoussaki-Adamopoulou (UCL)

Paper short abstract:

As documented by Rozakou (2018) in her ethnography on volunteering with refugees in Athens, mentalities of charity and horizontal solidarity run deep in Greek society- affecting how politics of giving are imagined and performed. These are also reflected in current refugee rights struggles.

Paper long abstract:

Before 2015, the humanitarian sector was fairly under-developed in Greece. When people started arriving en masse there was a huge civil society response that filled this infrastructural gap. The first refugee and migrant housing squat in Athens, that Pia Klemp visited last August, opened a few months after the first hotspot camp in Lesvos. Since then, there has been a parallel growth of the humanitarian sector and the migrant solidarity network, that was soon enhanced by groups and individuals from Europe. Local solidarity, originally organised to support free movement, is politicised and advocates for open borders. As it was gradually criminalised, a lot of foreign solidarity groups registered as NGOs to continue their projects, creating a third pillar; a network of grassroots NGOs operating on solidarity principles. At the same time, a many unemployed left-wing social scientists found work in the NGO sector but still relate critically to the humanitarian ethos. The current paper explores the dynamics of heterogenous and intersecting politics of care and rights by and for migrants in Athens, through three moments of shared struggle: a protest of evicted migrants in Syntagma square; the Refugee Movement for Rights and Justice protests for housing and the NGO workers' trade union assembly against refugee evictions from UNHCR-funded flats. These collective processes showcase both the limits of the political of civil society actors, as well as the potential to create a space of temporary equality in action, as citizens and non-citizens shape common strategies against legislations supporting the border regime.

panel AA12a
Helping in an era of hostility: Political agency and moral contestations in civil society movements for and by migrants