Greek resort fights back against British 'hooligan tourists'
Saturday 29 June 2002
The Greek island of Rhodes has begun a campaign against British "hooligan tourists" because of a rise in the number of public order and drug offences in the resort of Faliraki.
Police have doubled the number of officers patrolling outside clubs and bars and have joined tourist industry leaders to "elevate the standard" of tourists, 90 per cent of whom are young Britons.
A concerted effort to curb their excesses has resulted in 11 arrests this week – four for drugs offences and seven for public indecency, mainly because of an increasing incidence of drunken holidaymakers running naked through the centre of the resort.
There are also concerns of a more sinister side to Faliraki's nightlife, with a rise in the number of reported sex attacks. A British woman was raped last month and two others have claimed they were assaulted in recent weeks – although one allegation has since been dropped. Police say evidence-gathering is difficult because alleged incidents frequently occur after long nights of drinking and drug-taking.
The tour operator Thomas Cook has issued rape alarms to its female representatives and the Foreign Office has updated its advice to visitors, warning women not to accept lifts from strangers.
The tourist industry is concerned that the island's image is being destroyed by British tourists – many attracted by the hedonistic nightlife portrayed in the ITV series Club Reps. A local lawyer, Efthymios Dimitriadis, who deals with a large number of cases involving Britons every year, said: "The community has had enough, we can't have anarchy here. We don't tolerate illegal acts. People must get the message." He added: "A 10-metre run with your trousers down can cost you up to €1,000 (£650)."
Locals complain that they are enduring the worst of the UK's tourist hordes. "The class of people that come is not a high standard," Mr Dimitriadis said. "People on unemployment allowance with no money to spend are coming and they bring their problems."
Two British citizens were charged on Thursday with trafficking drugs and face up to six months in prison awaiting trial. The pair, represented by Mr Dimitriadis, were caught with 42 ecstasy pills and five grams of cocaine. They insist it was for personal use. Locals deny any trafficking in the resort and insist most substance abuse is committed by tourists with their own supply.
Mr Dimitriadis, who has appealed against the latest trafficking charge, said: "There is no proof of trafficking here. If it was going on you would expect to see up to two arrests a day. We have a nice place here with swimming and sunshine. Well adjusted to British customs, everyone speaks English and we have organised pub crawls. But there is a clear message – 'don't destroy the place'."
Locals point to the nearby island of Ios, the former black sheep of Greek holiday destinations. A clean-up campaign has curbed drug abuse, violence and drunkenness and brought a five-fold increase in domestic tourism.
Meanwhile, about 300,000 young British holidaymakers are expected to head for Faliraki this summer, with bookings already up by 30 per cent on last year.
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