Cite as: Knott, A. (2017). Guests on the Aegean: interactions between migrants and volunteers at Europe’s southern border. Mobilities, 1-18.
Many would-be tourists were dissuaded from vacationing on Greece’s Aegean islands in 2016, in the aftermath of 2015’s ‘migrant crisis’. However, the islands witnessed an increased arrival of atypical ‘tourists’, among them volunteers intent on helping. This study is based on research undertaken on the islands of Lesvos and Chios in Greece as a volunteer myself. I focus on the figure of the volunteer, as an emergent humanitarian actor in border regions, to highlight issues with the way hospitality is currently being extended by one group of guests to another, at Europe’s frontiers. I investigate the way in which interactions between migrants and volunteers often end up reinforcing, rather than challenging, the distinction between them, and thus contribute to the legitimization of the current European border regime.