In a brilliant bit of Swiftian satire, a group of Syrians this week took to Airbnb to offer accommodations in their tent in Ritsona, north of Athens, where they have spent four months in exile from their war-torn homeland.
The post has since been removed, but as reported by the Telegraph, it promised “a real opportunity to experience life as a Syrian refugee,” including “tents, wood-fire cooking, [and] 41 degree [Celsius] heat”. Other perks include a “marginal sanitary situation, friendly scorpions, broken promises, even dehydration”!
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The post described further ‘amenities’ including portable toilets, shared by 600 refugees and located in a vacant lot also used as a playground by children. Medical help and educational opportunities are available “rarely,” but “for a short-term stay you will be just fine; just imagine if you had to stay here for the past four months.”
These conditions, the aspiring hosts pointed out, continue “While EU politicians talk about refugees.” The wave of refugees and migrants arriving in Europe in recent years, mostly from the Middle East, has led to an internal crisis, with some EU member states openly hostile to welcoming the migrants or funding relief efforts. Many of the displaced land in Greece, and have often received, as the listing makes clear, a bare minimum of welcome and comfort.
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In addition to its scathing indictment of European politics, the satirical listing does seem like a bit of a dig at the happy-go-lucky globe-hopping mindset that underpins AirBnB itself. Some people, we’re reminded, have no choice about leaving home.
But Airbnb and similar digital platforms have actually been instrumental in connecting some local hosts offering refugees more homey accommodations. In a statement to the Telegraph, Airbnb also said that while it had removed the listing, it empathized with the refugees’ plight and had raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for relief efforts.