The Role of NGOs and Civil Society in the Refugee Crisis: A Case Study of Lesvos in Greece

Monday, 16 July 2018: 15:45
Oral Presentation
Nikos SARRIS, National Centre for Social Research, Greece
Local and municipal authorities, independently or in cooperation with other public agencies and non-governmental organizations are involved in migrant integration providing a large array of social services in the area of health, education, and social and child care. Regarding migration matters, municipalities played a very important role in the heightening migration and refugee crisis over the course of 2015 and in the beginning of 2016. During this period, Greece became a transit country for over 1,000,000 million migrants and refugees reaching the country through the Aegean islands.

Lesvos is one of the several Greek islands that function as the main gateway to Europe for migrants and refugees that are looking for a better life. The period between the summer of 2015 and early 2016 was the peak for crossings, with almost 500,000 arrivals to Lesvos, the most common point of arrival. Humanitarian aid organizations, both governmental and non-governmental, have worked to provide this basic assistance at many points on the path from the landing beaches. The contribution of NGOs and the collaboration with local authorities was of crucial importance.

The paper examines the role of NGOs, the ad hoc grassroots organizations and civil society during the 2015 refugee crisis. It outlines the evolution of humanitarian response, which started with various spontaneous initiatives and the cooperation with NGOs and international organizations in the provision of humanitarian services. It also discusses the anxiety of the local society considering that the presence of unregistered NGOs is more disruptive than useful. Overall, this paper will attempt to answer the main critical questions of how top-down and bottom-up models can co-exist in the implementation of public policies at a local level.