ADVISORY ON GREECE
Earthwatch Institute, Oxford, UK May 19th, 2010
This advisory primarily addresses the issues arising for volunteers travelling to Earthwatch’s Dolphins of Greece project, as a result of regular strikes and demonstrations throughout Greece.
At the present time, the Greek capital Athens experiences almost-daily demonstrations against the government's austerity plan and a joint emergency aid package it has successfully negotiated with other euro zone member states and the IMF. Visitors should expect regular strikes and demonstrations throughout Greece. This will continue to affect the travel plans for volunteers travelling to the project site via Greece.
Currently we are planning to field all currently scheduled teams, with the next one due to field in May 2010.
The village of Vonitsa, where the field station is located, lies on the southern coast of the Amvrakikos Gulf 16 km west of Preveza, and is approximately 350 km NW of Athens at 38°55'9.46"N 20°53'20.11"E.
- Normal travel to Greece, including Athens, can continue.
- Be prepared to change travel plans in case of disruptions.
- Avoid all protests as a basic security precaution.
- Prior to travel to Greek cities, check with your hotel that it is located outside the areas regularly affected by demonstrations.
- Monitor local news media and utilise local resources such as your hotel and local contacts to ensure that you remain alert to the current situation.
- In the event of encountering protest activity or large gatherings of security personnel, vacate the area immediately; do not stop to watch or photograph proceedings
Strikes, demonstration and disruption to travel:
Visitors should expect regular strikes and demonstrations throughout Greece for the foreseeable future. Strikes and demonstrations are sometimes called at short notice and can cause disruption to public transport in and out of Greece (including air travel). Isolated violent incidents can break out with little warning and riot control procedures have included the use of tear gas. Volunteers should exercise particular care in the centre of Athens, Thessaloniki and other major cities and avoid government buildings, including EU offices, the parliament and finance ministry buildings and places where demonstrators frequently congregate, such as the Polytechnic University area, Exarchia, Omonia, and Syntagma Squares in Athens, and Aristotle Square in Thessaloniki.
The general strike scheduled for 20 May comes amid almost-daily demonstrations against the government's austerity plan and a joint emergency aid package it has successfully negotiated with other euro zone member states and the IMF. Previous strikes of this kind have been observed by airline and other transport sector workers, in addition to many other public and private sector employees. Significant disruption to flights, as well as rail, ferry and other public and private transport is thus expected on 20 May. In addition, protests over the pension reform bill – which Parliament is due to vote on by 25 May – and other austerity measures can be expected to be held within an increase in security presence in Athens as well as in the northern port city of Thessaloniki (Thessaloniki prefecture) and other major urban areas.
Earthwatch is regularly communicating with our partners and project staff on the ground as well as with International SOS, our health and security consultants. The scientist for Earthwatch’s “Dolphins of Greece” project, Joan Gonzalvo, is in constant contact with Earthwatch staff in the UK who will continue to provide updates on the situation and alert volunteers to possible travel disruption. Joan Gonzalvo has not reported any disruption in Vonitsa.
As expeditions continue to field during 2010, we will continue to monitor the situation closely through the US Department of State, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office and International SOS recommendations, among others, and respond as appropriate to any further developments.
Earthwatch can never guarantee anyone’s safety completely. Natural and political disasters can and do happen without warning. Volunteers should read Expedition Briefings thoroughly and encourage volunteers to educate themselves about current conditions in Greece by consulting the following resources:
United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Greece
United States State Department: Greece
Australia Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade: Greece
http://www.internationalsos.com/en/index.htm - Member Login: 14ACPA000075, select “Security Online” from the drop-down menu.
If you are scheduled to field on an Earthwatch expedition and would like to speak to a Volunteer Advisor please call 1-800-776-0188 in the US or +44 (0) 1865 318831 in Europe.