Informal citizen volunteering with border crossers in Greece: the informality double-bind and intimate solidarity

Ashley Witcher, Victoria Fumado

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This article introduces the concept of the informality double-bind, arguing that informal citizen volunteers must choose between helping border crossers in less formal and more intimate ways due to the lack of formal response, or leaving them to receive the inadequate aid of state-sponsored and formal organisations. Either choice entails multiple risks to both border crosser and volunteer. Drawing on fieldwork in Athens, Greece, in 2017-2018, we expose how volunteers engaged in 'intimate solidarity' with border crossers, giving out personal phone numbers and inviting them to stay in the volunteers' personal apartments. The article argues that (a) the cause of the informality doble-bind was the very lack of formal service provision which propelled volunteers to get involved in the first place, (b) organisational bureaucracy shelters government actors, aid workers and more formal volunteers from facing such ethical dilemmas, and (c) while these bureaucratic procedures appeared to produce precarity, they may have at the same time protected the border crossers and aid workers from risks associated with informal aid.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Ethnic and Migration Studies
Issue number17
Pages (from-to)4049–4065
Number of pages17
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Citizen volunteer
  • intimate solidarity
  • informality double-bind
  • border crosser
  • Greece
  • AID

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