Citizen Humanitarianism at European Borders

Edited by Maria Gabrielsen Jumbert and Elisa Pascucci (2021). Routledge.


In this book I co-edited with my colleague Maria Gabrielsen-Jumbert (Peace Research Institute Oslo), we try to answer the questions: What happens when ordinary citizens – rather than professional humanitarians – mobilize to help migrants? Is this kind of aid more effective than the one coordinated by complex, bureaucratic organizations? Are citizens’ efforts supported or hindered by states? These questions have been very relevant at least since the so-called “migration crisis” of 2015-2016, particularly in Greece. Today, the war in Ukraine puts them again at the forefront of debates in the humanitarian community.

The contributors to the edited volume include academics, practitioners and activists. They examine case studies from around Europe and its border zones – from Melilla to Istanbul, from Sicily to Saint Petersburg. They all use qualitative research methods, particularly interviews and ethnography (an “immersive” method whereby the researcher learns about a group of people or an organization by spending a significant amount of time with them, and engaging in their activities). What they find has both practical applications, and political implications that we hope will foster further discussion. In particular, the book highlights how, in Europe today, helping migrants is not just a humanitarian gesture. It has become a political stance, and one that is often regarded as dangerous or even “criminal” by states – for instance, when helping citizens are accused of abeing “illegal migration”, or even of trafficking. Gabrielsen-Jumbert and I discuss this and other findings in the introduction and conclusion to the volume.

Find the full publication here.