The ‘New Humanitarians’: Vernacular aid in Greece


  • Adi Maya



refugee, Greece, Europe, migration


Since 2015, the ’refugee crisis’ in Greece has turned the Eastern Mediterranean migration route into one of the main entry points to Europe. In response, a grassroots solidarity movement has emerged in the Aegean islands that has become instrumental for boat rescue at sea, and for camp service provision. These local and international volunteers, as well as refugees, identify as ‘New Humanitarians’. This paper presents the emic aspects of the ‘New Humanitarians’, and focuses on vernacular actors and how they challenge the humanitarian landscape in Greece by examining their principles, practices, and discourse.

A key finding is that the ‘New Humanitarian’ principles that they model revisit the existing ones—i.e. solidarity, hospitality, equality, and agency. Other findings show that the ‘New Humanitarians’ are reproducing governing technologies imposed by the government and other agencies. They do so while trying to contest mainstream humanitarianism and pleading for much-needed change in the European border regime and refugee management systems.


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Author Biography

  • Adi Maya

    Adi Maya is an anthropologist, researcher, and humanitarian Head of Mission. She has worked for small NGOs in several emergency contexts in the past 10 years in the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa, and Europe. Her experience includes working in Lesvos Island and Athens in Greece, where she also conducted field work. She worked shoulder to shoulder with refugees and developed a participatory and inclusive project programming approach. Adi holds a Master of Advanced Studies in Humanitarian Action from the Geneva Centre of Humanitarian Studies in Switzerland, and a Master in Sociology and Anthropology from Ben-Gurion University in Israel. Her previous research project took place in Ethiopia and was focused on Development and Jewish Faith-based Organisations. Her current interest is in migration, vernacular and embodied humanitarianism, and refugee-led humanitarian NGOs. She is also the co-founder of Humanitarians on the Move, a Swiss association dedicated to advocacy, education and placement of refugees and people with migrant backgrounds in the humanitarian domain.


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How to Cite

“The ‘New Humanitarians’: Vernacular aid in Greece” (2022) The Humanitarian Leader, p. Working Paper 027, July 2022. doi:10.21153/thl2022art1625.