Thursday, May 26, 2016

Athens - a city of contrasts

There are so many contrasts in this city...thousands of tourists roaming through Plaka while thousands of refugees huddle in inadequate shelters. Graffiti echoes the unrest of young Greeks... everywhere, not just in the is everywhere!

Athens is an incubator for protest graffiti.

We are continually meeting and talking with either unemployed youth or under-employed youth. The overall unemployment rate in Greece is 24.2% with the youth unemployment rate hitting an all time high of 51.9% in January 2016. Compare that to Canada's youth unemployment rate of 13%!! The country is losing generations of young people who can't afford to stay. Our taxi driver yesterday (38 years old) explained that he has a Masters degree in Marine Science but there is no funding for his occupation in either the private or public sectors.

We met with a young friend this afternoon who is involved with the Solidarity movement in Athens. She helps at the City Plaza Hotel which, after sitting empty for several years, was taken over as a "squat" to house 400 refugees, mostly families. The inhabitants share with cooking and cleaning in the building. Food and other necessities are donated by citizens who are struggling through their own economic times. Volunteers, usually unemployed youth, help with translations and paperwork. Meanwhile, EU countries have created an immigration bottleneck that Greece has to deal with on a daily basis.

Athens feels like a city under siege with a daily theatrical performance in Plaka for the benefit of tourists and their pockets lined with money.

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