Date of Award

Fall 2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Political Science & Geography


Graduate Program in International Studies

Committee Director

Erika Frydenlund

Committee Member

Angelica Huizar

Committee Member

Amy Milligan


“What would I do if I wasn’t given freedom? I would protest every day.” This illustrates the empathy that locals in Lesbos shared with the struggles of refugees when the European Refugee Crisis arrived on the shores of Lesbos in 2015. Locals on the island helped refugees get off boats—or saved them from the water—and offered to take them to the city center to claim asylum. But soon, with the arrival of humanitarian aid organizations, life on Lesbos changed considerably. Meanwhile, refugees continue to sit in camps that are over capacity to await asylum processing. Echoing the frustration on the island, people lament that “Nobody cares about the people [of Lesbos].”

This thesis is focused on the significance of ensuring that the needs and sentiments of the refugee host community of Lesbos is better understood by the Greek government, the European Union, and by the non-governmental organizations. Frustration and resistance continue to rise as migrants remained trapped on the island and thousands more arrive to the backlog of cases. Lesbos took in refugees from all over the world, first as a gateway to Europe and now as an asylum processing detention center. Locals felt shut out of decision-making about the crisis and from the outside are often viewed as uncompassionate or even hostile. This thesis contributes to studies of host communities by illuminating the varying sentiments towards refugees by locals as they witnessed one of the largest migrations into Europe in recent history. Integrating the perspective of host community members into migration policy is critical for ensuring that humanitarian aid agencies and governments can manage tensions between locals, non-governmental organizations, and migrants to meet the unique needs of all parties and minimize the risk for violence.


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