What is City Plaza?
It is a self organised refugee accommodation space in the Victoria/ Agios Panteleimonas area in the centre of Athens, in which approximately 400 people are currently living, among whom over 180 children.
A seven storey hotel, which remained closed for seven years, until the Economic and Political Refugee Solidarity Initiative, together with hundreds of refugees occupied it and returned it as a gift to society, that is, as a hotel transformed to meet the immediate need for housing refugees.
An act of resistance to the authoritarian border and migration policies in Greece and Europe, to the EU-Turkey deal of shame, to the closing and militarisation of the borders and to their consequences: the trapping of tens of thousands of refugees in mainland Greece and the imposition of a system of mass detention, deportation and exclusion from the right to asylum for the refugees arriving on the islands.
A counterexample for how the housing issue for refugees needs to be addressed by the movement and by society, which is at the same time a
concrete demand from the Greek state, against the detention of refugees in terrible camps, and in favour of their housing inside cities, with guaranteed access to health care, education and all social services.
An initiative of self organization of everyday life and of common struggle for locals and refugees. Because it is only through the practical fight for rights and common struggles, not through general humanistic declarations, that societal correlations change, that the dominant authoritarian and neoliberal policies, and the field of action for the far right becomes limited.
The residents of City Plaza
Refugee Accommodation Space City Plaza has been operating since 22 April and is home to approximately 100 refugee families, which were selected both on the basis of their previous housing arrangement and on the basis of the particular problems fac d by each family. Each family lives in a separate room, while three meals per day are offered to everyone, as are other essentials.
Operation and self organization
The initiative is an experiment in the self organization of refugees and locals, centered on the weekly general assembly and on the thematic working groups. The aim is to realise a conception of everyday life which will empower “from below”, ultimately leading to the creation of a “space of freedom”, which will serve as proof of our vision for society.
City Plaza relies exclusively on the political solidarity and on material support from the solidarity community in Greece and abroad. Economic and political support and, especially, participation in the working groups are for City Plaza the only protection against attempts to repress the initiative as well as a guarantee for its continued daily operation.
Coordination and centre for struggle
City Plaza is attempting to create a wide network with unions, schools, hospitals and social spaces, to organise solidarity to the trapped refugees and to resist the antirefugee policy of the government. As a centre for struggle, it attempts to carry out outward facing actions for claiming the social and political rights of refugees.
The working groups:
Education and child minding: its aim is to organise lessons in the children’s mother tongues, in Greek and in English, as well as creative activities. At the same time, it is organizing the struggle for refugee access to public education.
Health care: the doctors and nurses making up the health care team, which operates the health care centre at City Plaza on a daily basis, coordinates contact with public hospitals and the issues that arise as regards refugee access to health care.
Kitchen: approximately 1000 cooked meals are prepared in the kitchen daily, in addition to breakfast – from teams made up of refugees and solidarians.
Security: throughout the day and night, there are teams in place for guarding the building.
Cafe/Bar: the team operates the bar daily, offering coffee, tea, and soft drinks, thereby generating economic support for the initiative.
In addition, there are teams for economics, storage, cleaning and communications.