Tuesday, 15 January 2013

The starkness of the streets

The Greek Statistical Association reported that during 2011, 40,000 more Greeks joined those living below the poverty line, bringing the total to 3.4 million - 1/4 of the population. According to Eurostat figures Greeks have seen their living standards drop by 17% in the last three years - the biggest drop in the Eurozone.

Over 1000 people lose their jobs daily; unemployment is more than one million which is one quarter of the workforce while youth unemployment has reached 58%. Those who are working have seen their income drop by 30% since 2009.

The government has been reluctant to pass reforms that would hit the wealthy. Instead it has cut social programmes and welfare by 40%,

Nowhere is this more obvious than in the streets. The rise in prostitution, drug users and HIV has been phenomenal.  The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has reported an increase of 1,500% in the instances of HIV infections due mainly to the scrapping of needle exchange programmes.  At the same time the Therapy Centre for Dependent Individuals (KETHEA) has had its budget cut from 24 million to 16 million and a cut in staff of 15%. There are an estimated 25,000 drug users in Greece.

Walking around the centre of Athens you can see users injecting with impunity in full view of passers by. There are whole streets and areas where users lie on the ground, totally 'out of it', and these streets have become no-go areas for the majority of the population. Tositsa Street, in the vicinity of the Epigraphical Museum as well as the National Museum is such a case in point.

I don't like taking photographs of people who are suffering in the streets. I was so overcome by what I saw last time we were in Metaxourgeio however that I could not help myself.

I just tried to make sure that no faces were visible.

Seeing this young woman literally in the gutter, broke my heart.

There is such a sense of abandonment in some areas that it is unbearable.

More women are turning to prostitution in order to support their families as unemployment is especially high amongst women. More women in the sex trade and falling incomes mean that 'clients' now pay between 2 and 15 euros and sex workers are forced to agree to sex without condoms so that they can get a higher price. As in most parts of the world, in order to be able to do this job they take drugs so that they can bear  it, and consequently increase their risk of contracting HIV.

Unable and unwilling to help people, the government is trying to blame groups and turn people against each other. When the alarming rise in HIV cases was disclosed in May, officials tried to blame sex workers who were rounded up and forced to have HIV tests. When dozens tested positive, the attack was swift and vindictive: photographs and the names of those who tested positive were posted online by the police. They were then charged with causing bodily harm and locked in jail. Some websites posted the photographs of the women and within days vigilante mobs assembled outside the homes of the women's families shouting abuse.

26 of the women who were arrested remain in jail. They insist that they did not know they were HIV positive but no one is listening and no one cares.

The state does not respect any of its citizens in Greece - not the vulnerable, not the destitute and not the sick.

The situation is reaching the stage where it could spiral out of control. Is anyone listening?


  • Kathimerini, 9 January 2013
  • Frangiska Megaloudi, Rising Death in the Streets of Athens: the Human Toll of the Greek Tragedy, Huffington Post, 07.01.2013
  • The Women Greece Blames for its HIV Crisis. The Independent, 25 July 2012

For more information on Greece and lots more on current affairs, go to: http://99getsmart.com/


  1. Greece will become a third world country very soon, and then countries like New Zealand (where I am from) will need to take these poor people in. What the Greek government is doing is very disgusting - some heads need to literally roll. Their government could easily manage it's debt if they imposed the measures against the super wealthy, but they would rather let them earn sky high incomes so the government benefits from tax revenue. What about the people? Surely their priorities have a more important need than something which is literally printed out of thin air (money and fractional reserve banking).

    I am very interested in conspiracy theories and can only wonder there is a secret agenda going on here... No one should let people like the poor woman in the gutter resort to unsafe prostitution just to make ends meet, and definitely not allow people to shoot up on drugs in the streets. Years ago, I thought of going to Greece - I should have taken the chance back then because it would be suicidal to go there now.

    I was going to post a link about conspiracy theories, but thought I might get flagged for spam; however, if you search for "Alex Jones Infowars" on Google, you should find some good information there. I do have a big text file of YouTube videos explaining the financial collapse and the whole conspiracy surrounding evil groups like the Bilderbergs and Wall Street - if you message me I am only too happy to send you the links (doing so in this comment will get me flagged as spam) :).

    1. Thanks for your comment. I agree with your thoughts and comments and I am in despair about the ruthlessness and lack of caring of the Greek government. I should point out in the interests of accuracy that the young woman in the photograph is not a prostitute as far as I know even though it looked like she was on drugs. I was making general comments about the link of prostitution and drugs and their rise in Greek society and probably did not make that clear.

      Thanks for the Alex Jones Infowars link which I have looked at and found interesting. I tried to get in touch with you via email but the address was 'no reply'. I would rather not post my email address in this comment form.

      There is no reason why you should not visit Greece. There are still lots of good things going on here, and the Greek people continue being very positive and determined to make the best of their situation. Greece is not a good place for its own people at the moment, but lots of tourists still come and have a safe and enjoyable time.

      All the best


  2. Respect For the Unemployed & Benefit Claimants - is listening & in solidarity we share with our group members (solidarity & respect) x