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Security and Conflict Mitigation in EU Migration ‘Hotspots’ in Greece


This project of Wageningen University and KUNO, funded by the Knowledge Management Fund, looks into policies and practices to mitigate and prevent conflicts between asylum seekers, host communities and aid actors on the Greek islands of Lesbos, Samos and Chios.

The containment of asylum seekers and the effects of their presence on local host communities has resulted in clashes and threats among asylum seekers and the host community, and aid workers and volunteers have become targets of hostilities. The first round of consultations and interviews took place online, due to Covid-19, and probed further into these tensions. This revealed a varied picture of responses of NGOs and volunteer groups, and showed that coordination and security frameworks, partly due to the variation in aid actors, and the EU context, are not straightforward. Rather, we encounter a complex arena of opposing political concerns, in which different humanitarian and volunteer groups operate in various and sometimes opposing ways. It is clear however, how humanitarian aspirations have become politicized to the extent that bearing aid agency logos in public is seen as a risk. It is a turn-around of common sense humanitarian ideas of gaining acceptance in crises areas, and also shows that the humanitarian identity has lost its significance as a security measure.

As we started the first week of fieldwork on Lesbos a fire destroyed Moria, the iconic, overcrowded camp for asylum seekers awaiting their asylum application. The fire was quickly labeled as a crisis waiting to happen, and is a case in point for the escalating tensions as a result of the asylum question. We are following these events closely, and our researchers are planning to continue to do field research on Lesbos, Chios and Samos in the weeks to come. By better understanding what strategies aid groups employ and how they maintain relations with each other, asylum seekers, local authorities, the population, and national political groups, we aim to learn which approaches can inform better aid practice for security along the EU border.

For more information about the study, please contact Bram Jansen, Department of Sociology of  Development and Change, Wageningen University at

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