Refugees escaping war are not a problem for Greeks

Giorgos Moutafis for SolidarityNow

Dominika Spyratou is an Advocacy Officer with SOLIDARITYNOW, an organisation supporting those most affected bythe economic and humanitarian crises in Greece. She looks back on the launch of an important new report on the country that took place in May.  Dominika is a mentee  in the Social Change Initiative’s (SCI) migration mentoring programme – this programme provides mentoring support to leaders working on migration in six countries.

TWO exciting events recently took place in Athens and Thessaloniki.Their aim was, firstly, to present the findings of a new report on Attitudes Towards National Identity, Immigration, and Refugees in Greece and, secondly, to explore how they might be used by interested parties in their work.Local media showed a particular interest in the report’s results, some focusing on people’s anger, fear and frustration towards their country (for an example in Greek see here) while others (see report in English here) concentrated on how Greeks still show empathy towards refugees despite the harsh times the country is facing.The finding that wasn’t highlighted enough though is how Greek society is not divided in two groups – those who are in favour of migration and those against.In reality the vast majority of people hold mixed views that very much depend on their own personal experiences, values and beliefs.This important finding together with the report’s segmentation analysis which breaks the Greek population into groups of opinion, make this study a unique tool for migration stakeholders who want to change the negative public narrative around migration and build a more inclusive society.


The research, polling and focus groups that made up the report were conducted by Ipsos Greece with the support of SCI in partnership with More In Common.Among the key findings, the research found that: “While Greeks feel deeply disaffected as a result of over a decade of austerity, this disaffection has not been turned broadly against those who have come to Greece seeking refuge.”This provides a more accurate account of what the majority (67%) of Greeks truly feel about migration, and challenges the prevailing populist narrative on migration.The report found:

  • The Greek population coalesces into six distinct opinion segments – one segment has open and welcoming views (20%), two segments have closed views (18%) and three segments (62%) have conflicting views. However, each individual segment is motivated by unique perspectives and combinations of values.
  • Despite the immense pressures that Greece is under, opinions are, for the most part, less sharply divided among the different segments.
  • Nearly three quarters (74%) of Greeks reject the idea of sending refugees who are children arriving without family back to their country of origin.
  • 94% of the population agree that when the government makes laws, the number one principle should be ensuring that everyone is treated fairly.

The research also suggests that building a positive and engaging story of Greece’s future should start with pride in Greek identity and in the character and efforts of ordinary Greek people at the grassroots.It found that Greek achievements in the face of enormous difficulties were also to be seen as a source of pride for its people.USING


The two workshops in Athens and Thessaloniki in May brought together advocacy and communications experts, journalists, academics as well as INGO and municipality representatives and mostly focused on the people with mixed views, or in other words the ‘middle’ segments.These groups constitute 62% of the Greek population and don’t hold strong opinions therefore their public attitudes can be more easily changed, albeit towards either direction.Together we tried to identify who these people are, understand each segment’s specific concerns, what drives their behaviour and most importantly, how to connect and speak more strategically with them before more conservative or extremist groups do so instead.What we have all agreed is that people in all segments have legitimate concerns which need to be addressed.Refugees escaping war and persecution are not a problem for Greeks.What they are really concerned about is economic uncertainty, increasing inequality, security threats and our joint future under these difficult circumstances.It’s time for all of us to start discussing more strategically these issues.In order for that to happen, Greek civil society needs to rebuild trust with the public which – as the report shows – in the last years has reached a very low level.This should be our common next big project!

  • You can read the full research report on Greece here.


This blog was originally posted at https://www.thesocialchangeinitiative.org/refugees-escaping-war-are-not-a-problem-for-greeks/