The Aegean Islands have descended into crisis. 40,000 asylum seekers now live in camps built for just 6,000. 5 years of neglectful EU policy are culminating in citizen protests, human rights abuses and the criminalisation of solidarity efforts.
Rooted on the Aegean Islands, we are building up grassroots networks of engaged citizens, NGOs and local authorities in Greece and across Europe to strengthen the voices of those on the islands and promote the fair relocation of refugees.
The North Aegean Islands of Samos, Chios and Lesvos.
Communities living on the Aegean islands have found themselves left on the margins: geographically and politically. Since 2015, these small island populations have played host to thousands of asylum seekers. Now, mounting frustration and a sense of abandonment are the results of failed EU policy and support.
Grassroots solidarity and relief efforts - often led by local citizens - have played a huge role since the beginning of the crisis. But local communities and refugees have neither the voice nor the means to advocate for the systemic change needed to address the root causes of these issues. Due to this, conflict and growing resentment build between the communities co-existing on these islands. These dialogues must instead be directed at policy-makers and national governments.
In the past, impact-driven participation in advocacy and active citizenship has been confused by hostile debates between host and refugee communities on the islands. Both communities are exhausted. Our work creates channels for meaningful engagement that directly affect these populations.
Our work aims:
1. to amplify the voices of Greeks and refugees in democratic debates;
2. to share these voices on local and European stages;
3. to build new infrastructures for civic engagement and discussion;
We do this by:
1. Supporting grassroots-driven research that involves refugees and locals
2. Developing shared messaging across these communities
3. Establishing common aims and shared goals between communities
4. Building links between Aegean island communities and the wider EU
Primarily, we work with local host communities and asylum seekers, including:
1. Local residents whose voices have been long-ignored in the political debate
2. Local solidarity groups to promote the involvement of Greeks
3. Local news organisations to encourage balanced reporting on the local issues
4. Municipalities and mayors to hold the space for peaceful and collective action
5. Asylum seekers in camps who are best placed to share eye-witness accounts
6. Local NGOs to monitor the human rights conditions
Secondly, we engage communities on a European level, including:
1. Networks of citizens across European countries to foster support for Greece’s island communities and asylum seekers
2. EU and UN-level representatives to seek resolutions to the long-term root issues
Phase 1: Project development
1. Test our intended outputs in focus groups comprising host communities, asylum seekers and NGOs
2. Appoint field researchers in Chios, Samos and Lesvos
Phase 2: Momentum-building
3. Gather in-field content and turn into audiovisual content
4. Build trust with stakeholders
5. Facilitate small conversations and deepen relationships
6. Present these conversations and outputs back to the communities to generate discussion and garner more interest
Phase 3: Change-making
7. Communicate audiovisual content and common messaging through media
8. Organise regular advocacy ‘Action Days’ that allow communities to send clear messages
9. Create calls to action that engage and empower communities in civic debate
10. Measure, evaluate, learn and develop
The combined result of our work aims to promote civic engagement and support with the quality of life for communities on these remote islands.
1. The Aegean Islands will be less congested, resulting from combined advocacy and campaigning. We aim to see the refugee population halving from 40,000 to 20,000, and ideally reaching the official capacity of 6,000.
2. Cities, politicians and the wider European community will make more frequent and more public gestures of solidarity and direct support
3. A culture of greater trust and mutual tolerance will be developing, where regular mechanisms for inter-community conversation take place.
4. Hate crime and violence directed to refugees will be less tolerated, less common, and quicker and easier to report.
Everyday human rights are violated at our external borders. If we want to go on saying that we live in democratic structures, what is happening is not just a failure of foreign policy forces, but an expression of its voters. With any other attitude, civil society would shirk its responsibilities, declare its powerlessness in the face of political leadership and accept the erosion of democracy. We face this problem head-on. We raise awareness on our responsibility and show that we have the power to act. We give people the platform to express itself and its ambitions, to make their voices heard. By offering low threshold formats with a great range of time commitments and required skills, we try to reach and mobilize big parts of society.
Europe Must Act is a call grounded in a deep optimism, a profound belief that the right choices can be made, that a fair and humane migration policy is possible, that through collective action we can build a better world.
Our work represents a new attempt to bring together some of the most marginalised communities affected by the European migration policy. We are determined to fundamentally change the way Europe treats the asylum seekers arriving at all its borders, land and sea. We are determined to see grounds for meaningful and healthy discussion, not just protest and conflict. We will carry on our work until the shameful policies that force communities onto the political margins end.
Funding requested from Civic Europe
3 x stipended Field Researchers on Samos, Chios, Kos = €3,200/month, or, €38,400/year
1 x stipended Support Officer (Greece-based) = €800/month, or, €9,600/year
Digital Infrastructure (advocacy software, digital comms) = €250/month, or, €3,000/year
3 x Field Offices = €2,400/month, or, €28,800/year
We would love to hear about how others have attempted to bring together communities where inclusion policies have failed to promote healthy discussion and solution-orientated thinking. What instances have they witnessed? How did they bring these communities together? What impact did this have?