In the aftermath of Europe's 2015 so-called refugee 'crisis', tens of thousands of border crossers remain stuck in Greece aided by an array of humanitarian workers, government employees, and volunteers. Drawing on previous scholarship about street-level bureaucracy, I discuss the work of informal volunteers in Athens and Lesvos, where they continue to aid border crossers attain entitlements and rights. Based on 10 months of ethnographic research conducted from 2017 to 2018, this article explores how volunteers within the humanitarian landscape of Greece sought to enact their ethical principles within governance regimes that categorized border crossers in restrictive and at times harmful ways. I show how the struggle to assist border crossers in effect transformed volunteers into informal street-level bureaucrats, who drew on a range of tactics that simultaneously reproduced and subverted the policy categories of refugee or vulnerable person. This article argues that rather than facilitating administrative care of border crossers, these categories were in fact a political battleground upon which volunteers struggled to pursue their moral rationalities despite an exclusionary governance regime.
- informal street-level bureaucrat
- EUROPEAN REFUGEE CRISIS