News / Europe

Warnings of Humanitarian Crisis in Greek Port Town

A man prepares to leave his shop next to an empty one with a sign reading "For Rent" in Piraeus port-town near Athens, May 29, 2012.
A man prepares to leave his shop next to an empty one with a sign reading "For Rent" in Piraeus port-town near Athens, May 29, 2012.
Henry Ridgwell
PERAMA, Greece - Aid workers say the Greek economic crash is causing a humanitarian crisis in one impoverished suburb of the port city of Piraeus. 

Most of the residents of Perama are unemployed and many are unable to afford basic healthcare or provisions. 


The rusting hull of a super-yacht sits on Perama dockside, a project started and abandoned four years ago when the shipbuilding company went bankrupt.

The shipyard is eerily quiet, the first hint of the disaster unfolding in this hillside town.

Shipbuilding and maintenance, the industrial lifeblood of Perama, are all but dead. 

Panayiotis Karagiannakis, the president of the dock-workers' union, says these days the situation here at the shipyard is tragic.  Unemployment has reached 90 percent.  Nothing has been done to modernize the facilities to adapt to the needs of the industry.

In 2010 the main dockyard operations in Piraeus, one of Europe's busiest ports, were sold to the Chinese company Cosco. But Karagiannakis says the workers do not blame the Chinese.

"Our problem is not that China implements a shipping policy, but the fact that Greece, the Greek government does not do the same," he said.  "We have the ability, owning such a vast fleet, to support this industry and promote it.  This is not happening because we lack the political will, he added."

Health care

In the maze of streets leading up from the port lies an emergency health clinic.

It is run by the Greek branch of Doctors of the World, an aid agency more used to war zones and famines.  Doctor Meropi Manteou volunteers at the center.

She says the greatest problem concerns children.  Children who cannot get access to vaccinations and who cannot receive medical care.  The second biggest problem here is patients who recently lost their health care insurance.  They receive prescriptions, but they cannot afford them anymore.

A debate erupts between patients over who is to blame for Perama's plight.

Human tragedy

One middle-aged lady says she has been unemployed since 2008.  She says she is searching for work like a dog, but cannot find anything.  She says she would even clean toilets.  She says she would do it for her grandchildren, who she says are starving.

In their tiny house, Spiridoula Firlemi tries to care for her three-month-old son. The ceiling is caving in.  Her husband, a plumber, has had no decent work for three years.

She says now the electricity bill has come, it is more than $1,500.  She says they will cut it off and maybe she will get electricity from a neighbor, because she cannot leave the baby in the cold.

This is a community that feels abandoned, with no work and no hope.  Aid agency Doctors of the World warns this is the start of a humanitarian crisis, within the borders of the European Union.

You May Like

Syrian Rebels Poised for Anti-Russia Collaboration

Forty-one insurgent groups issue joint statement vowing retaliation for Russian air offensives More

Political Maneuver Revives Export-Import Bank's Chances

Parliamentary tactic gets bill out of committee, but it faces opposition in the Senate More

Beijing Warns US on S. China Sea Patrols

Warning follows news reports Thursday that US military is planning to sail warships close to artificial islands Beijing has been aggressively building More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Cristiano from: Brazil
May 31, 2012 2:07 PM
I don't really know who is to blame for this tragic situation in Greece.

But I do know that something must be done right now, or things will get irrecoverably worse.

by: Factual Dose
May 31, 2012 11:50 AM
Greece is paying the price for faulty system. Greeks do everything humanly possible to avoid paying state tax, but they also enjoy flaunting on borrowed money. Next time choose the right politicians for office.

by: Peter Kikareas from: USA
May 30, 2012 6:56 PM
I could never believe that this might happen into a EU full member Country. I have strong worries that something is
going very wrong. This chaos and anarchy that has started
inside the European Union has never been experienced before
after the second world war.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs