30 country profiles reflecting
the state and diversity of the
humanitarian sector in Europe

Click on the flags to explore
Summary of
all countries

Greece, lacking a colonial past, lacks also the knowledge of intervening in other parts of the world.

Shelter, Health, Protection
Refugees, Disabled, Women

Scope of involvement


The Greek sections of the Medecins sans Frontieres, ActionAid and ‘Apostoli’ act overseas, primarily in Africa.


The current trend in the light of the events of recent years, is humanitarian action that targets exclusively Greek citizens. While in the past, there was an interest in hosting and supporting “vulnerable” cases of asylum seekers, currently such activities are kept at minimum and the key beneficiaries are the different groups of urban poor. The serious crisis of the last 6 years has led to the termination of a number of services, including those that have to do with humanitarian work abroad. Local NGOs (i.e. Hellenic Red Cross, Greek Refugee Council) provide assistance to populations in need (asylum seekers, unaccompanied minors, homeless, “new poor” due to the economic crisis) at local level.

Turning point

Greece has a history of receiving humanitarian assistance to accommodate its “own” refugees. Following the Lausanne Treaty and the exchange of population agreement between Greece and Turkey (1923), the League of Nations provided assistance for the accommodation of 1.5 m. displaced populations from Asia Minor. A Refugee Settlement Commission (1923-1928) was established; with the aim of creating rural settlements in Northern Greece and no funds were to be used for temporary relief purposes. By 1993, some 120.000 Soviet Greeks had “repatriated” to Greece and resettlement efforts were targeted towards the region of Thrace, aiming at the rural accommodation of the newcomers.


Types of stakeholders

NGOs in general

The implementation of humanitarian initiatives, mainly via civil society organisations was rather impromptu, hence missions in Africa , Lebanon, Gaza, Asia, relied either on volunteering, charity, or activism, or in the worst case scenario on government and European funds handled by newly minted NGOs established as consultants, with untrained young workforce with limited work experience.


State humanitarianism

Legal framework

According to the OECD Development Assistance Peer Reviews: Greece 2011, ‘Greece does not have yet an overall clear definition of its humanitarian goals or a strategic programming framework’. This results in a fragmented response portfolio.


The relations among different humanitarian actors are characterised by competition for funds and lack of cooperation. This is reflected in some government initiatives aimed at clarifying the institutional framework of voluntary organisations.

Specific roles of international organisations

European Commission

Multilateral diplomacy and participation in European and international organisations (international organizations, OECD, EU) opened new horizons.


Humanitarian Education

Higher education

In the Greek case there is no educational activity concerning humanitarian aid training per se, either on undergraduate or graduate level. More precisely, formal educational establishments have not offered courses, diplomas, or syllabi on humanitarian crises as such, at any level. The relevant state administration has not dealt with the education of those involved in such actions, neither at university level, nor within civil society.

In-house training

The type of support and training received by volunteers varies widely and depends on the voluntary organisation. Training for volunteers is provided on a case by case basis, usually by shadowing paid staff or more experienced volunteers. Education and training of staff is not a priority, usually individuals deployed in humanitarian crises situations have expertise in related disciplines such as medicine, accounting, social sciences, or had attended graduate programs or seminars abroad, such as UN Volunteers, Medecins Sans Frontieres, etc.

Seminar/short courses

A series of occasional seminars are organised by particular NGOs; yet there is no structure or follow-ups and there is no institutional framework for their recognition or continuation.

Additional Points

Since the crisis, the collapse of social security and health services opened up a huge gap that is either privatised or outsourced (through EU funds or donations) to basic service-providing NGOs. On the other hand, there is the development of social solidarity networks and activism, such as social pharmacies or medical centres, organizations working with refugees and asylum seekers, and other marginalised communities



Hadjimichalis, C., 2011, ‘Uneven geographical development and sociospatial justice and solidarity: European regions after the 2009 financial crisis’, European Urban and Regional Studies 18(3): 254-274

Huliaras, A. & Liargovas, P. (eds.), 2013, Designing, Implementing and Evaluating Development Programmes, Papazissis, Athens (in Greek).

Lambropoulos, N., Pouliou, A. & Sirakoulis K., 2003, The third sector in Greece: A managerial perspective based on field research results, Centre de Recherche et d’ Information sur la Democratie et l’ Autonomie (CRIDA)

Sklias, P. & Houliaras, A. (eds.), 2002, Civil Society Diplomacy: Non Governmental Organisations and International Development Cooperation, Papazisis, Athens (in Greek)

Tsovili, T. & Voutira, E., 2004, Asylum seeking single women, women head of families and separated children: Reception practices in Greece, Commissioned by the UNHCR Representation in Greece and supported by the Evaluation and Policy Analysis Unit, UNHCR Geneva.

Vaiou, D., 2013, ‘Transnational patterns of everyday life: practices of care and neighbouring in Athens’ in N. Bardhoshi, G. de Rapper & Pierre Sintes (eds.), Social practices and local configurations in the Balkans , UET Press, Tirana


Konstantinos Tsitselikis and Paraskevi Perraki
University of Macedonia

This site uses cookies to enhance user experience and to track usage statistics. For more information, see NOHA’s Data Privacy Policy.