These days mark the one-year anniversary since the City Plaza squat was created. One year of resistance to the Greek government-EU antirefugee policies, practical solidarity and self-organization, dignified living and creative coexistence. One year in the political-social experiment which proves that the world our dreams is not only possible, but actually exists and is being built in the here and now.
On 22nd April 2016, the Economic and Political Refugee Solidarity Initiative, together with 250 refugees, squatted the City plaza hotel, which until that point remained closed and abandoned for seven years. City Plaza had followed a typical Modern Greek path: built during the junta, glory days, state subsidies, crisis, closure, wages and compensation owed to the hotel staff. The building owner prevented the workers from putting the mobile hotel equipment on auction, so that they could take the money that was owed to them.
While City Plaza remained closed, abandoned and derelict, thousands of refugees were either homeless or lived in terrible conditions, far away from cities, in state-run camps. They are those who were trapped in Greece following the EU-Turkey deal of shame, the abolition of asylum in practice, and the policy of closed borders followed by EU countries. They are all those people forced to live in conditions that are an insult to human dignity, due to the EU “policy of deterrence”, as well as the provocative indifference of the government and the municipalities. For all of us, the choice to squat was politically and morally imperative.
One year after the squatting of City Plaza, the plight of refugees continues to worsen. Living conditions remain terrible, while the state of exception for rights which has been imposed, is being turned into a new rule of law. Day by day, a peculiar apartheid against refugees is being consolidated.
On the other side of the government policy for refugees, Refugee Accommodation Space City Plaza has, over the past year, proven that things can be done differently. And not only done, but they can also be very successful. Over the past year City Plaza has managed to:
• Provide housing to 1500 refugees in total, in conditions that respect human dignity and hygiene.
• Prove that housing of refugees within cities is possible, without any problems.
• Provide three meals per day to 400 people. That’s a total of 432,000 meals.
• Set the example for peaceful coexistence and cooperation between people originating from over 15 countries, thereby proving that it is terrible living conditions which breed violence.
• Run an organized health care centre staffed with a pathologist, a pediatrician, and a psychiatrist.
• Run an onganized pharmacy.
• Provide adequate clothing for refugees.
• Secure that children go to school, and provide them with opportunities for creative play.
• Organize foreign language lessons.
• Organize many diverse cultural events.
• Serve as a centre of struggle for the antiracist movement, by contributing to the organization of a large number of protests against the Greek government and EU antirefugee policies.
City Plaza has managed all this without:
• State subsidy
• NGO funding
• Cash transactions of any kind
• Waste of funding, as happens in state facilities
Thanks to the generosity of thousands of people from Greece and abroad, we proved that self-organized cooperation can not only be productive, but it can also be more effective than hierarchical commercialized procedures.
Today, one year after City Plaza was squatted, we are facing threats of evacuation by riot police, combined with a goebbelsian smear campaign by the building owner, who is being egged on by government staff, political parties and “willing” media. We must make clear to all of them, and to anyone who sees them favourably, that we will not flinch and we will not take a single step back. We will defend Refugee Accommodation Space City Plaza as we have been doing for a year now. We are certain that the Movement will do the same, both for City Plaza and for all the other squats.
Solidarity will win!
Refugee Accommodation Space City Plaza