July 2, 2015 (updated)
Tourists visit the Acropolis in Athens on June 30, 2015. Strapped for cash in crisis-hit Greece but desperate to visit the Acropolis? Tourists faced with empty ATMs need not despair, visitors to the ancient site can now pay by card for the first time. AFP PHOTO / LOUISA GOULIAMAKI
In chaotic scenes, thousands of elderly Greeks on Wednesday besieged the nation’s crisis-hit banks, which reopened to allow them to withdraw vital cash from their state pensions.
“Let them go to hell!” shouted one pensioner, after failed talks between Athens and international creditors sparked a week-long banking shutdown.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s government ordered the banks to close on Monday for one week and imposed strict capital controls to head off a banking collapse after panicking Greeks emptied the nation’s cash machines.
Athens has now reopened almost 1,000 bank branches for three days to allow pensioners without bank cards to withdraw 120 euros ($133) to last them the rest of the week.
Under banking restrictions imposed all week, ordinary Greeks can withdraw up to 60 euros a day for each credit or debit card. But many of the elderly population, who are allowed more, do not have them.
Pensioners with cards will not be eligible for the 120 euros withdrawal, because they can already withdraw significantly more cash per day via ATMs.
The move has again sparked lengthy queues at banks across Greece — and outrage from many retirees who are regarded as among the most vulnerable in society, exposed to a vicious and lengthy economic downturn.
“I took the money out. I know that this is not enough, but that’s what I could take and so I took it,” said Dyonisia Zafiropoulou, a former employee of the national electricity company DEI.
She said she was convinced Greece could weather the financial crisis.
“I lived during the (WWII Nazi) Occupation, I experienced hardship and I think we will overcome this moment,” she told AFP.