Hostile hospitality and the criminalization of civil society actors aiding border crossers in Greece

Civil society actors aiding border crossers in Europe have been subject to systematic criminalization through prosecutions and attempted prosecutions, extensive police harassment, public scapegoating, and the imposition of bureaucratic barriers. We seek to explain why this is occurring through the analysis of field research data, collected in Greece between 2017 and 2019, through the lens of Derrida’s concept of “hostile hospitality”. We develop a theoretical framework with three key features: first, the demarcation between insider and outsider which lies at the core of notions of hospitality; second, the constitutive relationship between hostility and hospitality which is closely related to notions of sovereignty; and third, the primacy of state definitions of hospitality, which subordinate private and collective hospitality practices. This explanatory framework guides the analysis of two case studies from our fieldwork: the criminalization of solidarity initiatives providing accommodation in squats in Athens and Pikpa camp on Lesvos, and the criminalization of boat-spotting and search and rescue activities on Lesvos. We conclude that civil society actors aiding border crossers in Greece are criminalized because they challenge and interfere with state policies and practices of hostile hospitality.

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