‘Greeks feel abandoned’

PORTRAIT 13 – LESVOS – MYTILINI AIRPORT – JULY 2016

A suntanned middle-aged couple from Leiden just spent a week in the touristy place Petra and are now waiting for their flight back home to The Netherlands. They look back on a relaxed sunny holiday, during which they haven’t come across any refugees. They did however see the effects from the influx of refugees: it was empty and quiet everywhere.

“We had a wonderful week. We needed a real beach holiday so we haven’t been exploring the area much, but Lesvos is a pleasant island and the Greeks are nice. For us price was the reason to come here: it costs ‘nothing’. We booked back when there were thousands of refugees arriving here daily. This wasn’t an obstacle to us. We even figured that by then we’d be volunteering for a day.” It didn’t come to that eventually.

Portret 13- Lesbos ©Vluchtelingen in Europa

The decreased tourism hits the Greeks on Lesvos hard. The island largely depends of tourism. A great part of the locals is unemployed in winter time and works from April to October seven days a week. This year a lot of them are jobless because restaurant and hotel owners don’t hire personnel. Ever since Greece received financial aid from Europe, these owners are to pay much more tax than before and have to deal with hugely disappointing amount of bookings. They barely get around. “A year ago the hotel where we stayed at was a well running joint with five personnel members, now only by the family. These past weeks we’ve seen business owners with tears in their eyes. On one of the first evenings we went to have dinner somewhere and noticed the owner heavily drinking with a friend. We ourselves like a conversation or two so pretty soon we were talking to him, he told us how hard it all hit him. That was very intense!”

“In The Netherlands people only see that there’s a lot of money going to Greece. Bullhorns like Geert Wilders emphasize this continuously. But over here people feel that most of the money is being kept in Athens and that they are being hit twice. They feel completely abandoned by everyone.”

Would you like to know more about the circumstances in Lesvos? Read: About Lesvos