A group of academics wants to nominate Greek islanders who aided refugees for the Nobel Peace Prize

A pat on the back.
A pat on the back.
Image: AP Photo/Santi Palacios
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An online petition to acknowledge the work of ordinary Greek citizens who risked their lives helping refugees cross into Europe may result in an actual Nobel Peace Prize nomination.

The petition, which has received over over 300,000 signatures so far, was launched by the online activism network Avaaz and does not specify who would receive the prize, only saying it should be awarded to the “fishermen, housewives, pensioners, teachers” and other who have hosted and helped refugees.

The campaign’s organizers are working with a group of academics from Harvard, Princeton, Cornell, Oxford University, and Copenhagen to draft and submit a nomination for the residents of Lesbos, Kos, Chíos, Samos, Rhodes and Leros, according to the Guardian. The deadline for submissions for the Nobel Peace prize is just days away, on Feb. 1—but the Guardian reports that the campaign has government support, after organizers met with Greece’s migration minister Yiannis Mouzala.

Already facing a crippling debt crisis, Greece struggled last year to deal with the roughly 800,000 refugees and migrants that crossed the Aegean sea to reach its country, one of the first stops on many migrants’ way to western Europe.

Migrants staying in Greece were often subject to abysmal and chaotic conditions in overcrowded refugee camps. In detention centers in Lesbos, refugees had to contend with broken beds, dirty sheets, and overflown toilets, according to Amnesty International. Authorities relied heavily on volunteer forces to feed the families and clean up the camps.

European Union leaders today (Jan. 25) criticized Greece for not protecting its border with Turkey and warned that the island nation may be removed from the EU’s passport-free travel zone if Greek leaders do not take steps to lessen the influx of migrants.

This would not be the first time a large group of people have been nominated for the Nobel Peace prize. Last year’s winner was the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet, a coalition of four different political organizations that were recognized for their work in rebuilding a constitutional democracy in Tunisia after the Jasmine Revolution of 2011. The EU, the United Nations, Doctors Without Borders, and Amnesty International have all received the prestigious humanitarian award in years past. However, only individuals or organizations can win the Nobel Peace Prize, so the campaign to nominate Greek islanders would likely have to focus on one or two leaders or the islands’ “solidarity networks in order to reward those who helped refugees on the ground.