Clive Martin looks like a lost child standing on the deck of a boat during a booze cruise while British schoolies frolic around him. They’re afloat on the Aegean Sea, off the Greek Islands, and someone has cracked open a jar of Nutella, not for eating, for smearing on a guy who is more six pack than man. The party-goers begin dry humping each other in various sex positions but Martin says it’s all harmless fun, “more ‘Carry On’ than ‘Caligula’.” The cruise is one of many lures for tourist to visit the ‘party islands’ and it’s keeping the economy in the Greek Islands alive. Martin is there to investigate the relationship between the invasion of Northern European tourists, the locals and a growing population of refugees in the second episode of Big Night Out, Purgatory in Paradise.
Since 2009, the Greek economy has been in tatters following the government’s debt crisis that led to high rates of unemployment and homelessness. It’s estimated since the crisis that 20 per cent of the Greek population lack the funds to afford daily expenses. The Greek Islands weren’t spared and many young locals, with no job prospects elsewhere, work in tourism dealing with sloshed Brits. It’s a symbiotic relationship and Martin spends time with a group of teenagers who admit they don’t mind tourists trashing the place as long as they keep buying drinks. It’s not economics, more alco-nomics.
And here comes the twist: Greece has experienced an influx of refugees that is scaring away tourists. In June 2015, it was estimated there was a 750 per cent increase in the number of boats arriving. Footage of refugees floating in the water screaming for help is distressing. Many destroy their boats and risk being rescued to avoid being towed back out to sea by the authorities.
Martin visits the island of Chios, the epicentre of the crisis, to visit a refugee camp. Barbed wire fencing and portable sheds bake in the sun, completely out of place in paradise. A young refugee, Rami, befriends Martin and shows off his affluent life back home in Lebannon. Rami is far from the stereotype associated with refugees and his story relates to Hezbollah threatening his life. Rami shows footage of his arrival by boat on his smartphone, which is amazing news for whoever is providing coverage for his mobile phone. Purgatory in Paradise shows the unrest in any nation can force people to become refugees regardless of their social status. It also exposes the common misunderstandings that demonise refugees and cause tension, in the case, between the tourists spooked away and the locals hating on refugees for driving away business.
It turns out Rami is a house DJ and Martin arranges for him to play a gig at a nightclub. For once, the three groups at odds with each other on the Greek Islands blend together in the harmony of hardcore trance music. It’s an emotional moment in Purgatory in Paradise because it reminds us that the locals and refugees just want a second shot at their hopes and dreams without any prejudice. A sentiment the world could take on board with the current political climate across the globe towards refugees that cuts deep here in Australia.
Big Night Out visits Greece at 9:20pm this Tuesday night on SBS VICELAND. Stream previous episodes on SBS On Demand: