I was just sent a link to The Guardian newspapers’ latest holiday offer, 7 nights, £2500pp, on a special safari tour of poverty porn on the islands and mainland of modern Greece. Sun, sea, a spot of refugee spotting and searching out local families whose lives were destroyed by the financial crisis. How quaint.
The tour begins in the Aegean isle of Samos, famous for it’s wine, it’s breathtaking landscape, and shipwrecks. The lucky holiday maker can start their tour enjoying the vineyards of this sunny isle before heading down to the town to take a few holiday snaps of the horrific conditions the asylum seekers on the island find themselves trapped in. Don’t worry though I don’t imagine you would have to hang around in the dirt with them for too long, not like those who have been held in hotspots or in tents outside of hotspots, for months and or even over a year. After this little pity party, you get the chance to have a chat with some local aid workers to ask them those burning questions like – “Do you think it’s OK for me to be taking a tourist trip to see humans in cages and treating them like they are animals in a zoo rather than actual equal human beings on my special Guardian holiday?”
I’m not sure if there will be any specific excursions to the sites of shipwrecks, or any real insight into the true horrors which played out on this island and many other of the surrounding islands. Just over a week ago 16 people drowned not so far from this island, perhaps this will be mentioned as you lunch in the olive grove after your grape picking session mentioned on day two.
As your time in Samos comes to an end make sure not to miss out on seeking out the locals worst affected by the financial crisis. You can drive around and see some abandoned houses, some derelict half built buildings, some repossessed houses, you may even hit the jackpot and find some of those migrants you were looking for squatting in one!
Then it’s off to Athens, to enjoy the ancient architecture whilst seeking out some urban poverty.
You begin the central square of Syntagma, leaning about why the Greeks just love to protest so much, then on to the underfunded hospitals, stopping by to meet some local families who need to rely on free food initiatives to eat, oh and then some refugees struggling to survive inner city life thrown in for balance. What more could you want from your Easter holiday?
I am not Greek, however I have lived here now for the last 2 and a half years, I arrived as a volunteer in the summer of 2015, much like the volunteers you will meet on Piraeus port who fill gaps for a government unequipped and unwilling to deal with the crisis after crisis they face. I have been one of those NGO workers on an island and on the mainland, working with human beings, who deserve the dignity of being treated as people, not as a tourist attraction. I now call this country home and I am about to marry one of the locals, and I plan to do what I can to eventually become one of the locals. When I read this, my initial reaction was disbelief, followed by anger, by disgust and then again by disbelief. Was this an early, terribly thought out April fool? I deeply hope so as the reality is so much darker.
Yes, Greece has had an incredibly hard time over the last few years and the more I was thinking about this article, the more I tried to understand it is about learning about the reality of Greece, it is about raising awareness of the issues faced here, which I know are not always understood by those in Western Europe. I can see where this idea has come from and I can see that your local journalists want to share their story of this time, because Greece is in trouble and has been a long time. It is hard to face the reality that Greeks face under such austerity and it is incredibly difficult to survive here as a refugee. But, upon saying I understand where you are coming from this holiday is in the worst of taste.
If you want to come on holiday to Greece, come to Kos, come in the summer. Come laze on the gorgeous beaches, come sip cocktails at sunset. Come see that Greece is safe and tourism is still thriving here, I live here trust me, it’s paradise.
If you want to understand what is happening here, read the stories of refugees coming out Moria, follow the volunteer groups publishing the reality, hey you could even come and volunteer yourself. Read about the financial crisis, follow the journalists covering the realities of the poverty in Greece. Reach out to organisations, see what you can do practically to help.
Please, please don’t take a safari to gawk at people in need. It’s beyond disturbing.
£2500 is a hell of a lot of money in Greece, it’s more than 4 times a take home minimum wage salary after all the lovely Greek tax.
A holiday in Greece is a great idea, the Greeks will welcome you with open arms, and in turn your helping the economy by spending those pennies here.
Doing something useful to help those struggling is also a great idea.
Using your privilege to make someone in a bad situation feel even worse about it as they become an exhibition in the museum of Greek crisis, is definitely not a good idea.
Hey, why not donate that £2500 to a charity supporting locals and refugees on the ground in Greece. Now there’s an excellent idea!
Anyway, I just had to have a rant about this as it is just such a horrible pitch for a holiday and I take so much offense, for so many reasons and it has definitely made me reconsider my relationship with the Guardian newspaper.
What a strange world we are living in.