The City Plaza is a self-organized housing project for homeless refugees in the center of Athens that accommodates 400 people, among them 180 children. City Plaza is a 7-floor abandoned Hotel, which had remained unused for 7 years until it was squatted by activists and refugees in late April 2016.
City Plaza Refugee Accommodation Center emerged as a practical response to the repressive migration and border policies in Greece, the EU-Turkey Deal and the militarization of the borders. It is an answer from the social movements to the entrapment of tens of thousands of refugees in the Greek mainland, the mass detention of refugees in the border regions and the disastrous living conditions for homeless refugees in the cities and the huge, state-run camps.
City Plaza is based on principles of self-organization and autonomy and depends entirely on the political support and practical solidarity from within Greece and abroad. That is why we call for international solidarity to City Plaza Accommodation Center. Only through massive solidarity and involvement can this ambitious antiracist project survive, defend itself against repression attempts and continue covering the huge daily costs for food, medicine, hygiene products and everything necessary for its daily functioning.
Squatting City Plaza
In the morning of 22nd of April, activists and refugees joined action to squat an abandoned hotel in the Victoria/Ag. Panteleimonas district of Athens. The 7-floor Hotel City Plaza had been abandoned since 2010 until the Solidarity Initiative to Economic and Political Refugees, a coalition of antiracist and left groups and individuals, decided to occupy and re-open it in order to return it to the society: To re-use it for the urgent social need for refugee accommodation.
Since the 20th of March, the day of implementation of the shameful deal between the EU and Turkey which followed the militarized closure of the Greek northern borders at Idomeni, we are witnessing – in Athens and throughout Greece – the deterioration of the already dramatic living conditions of refugees. A system of mass detention and deportation was intended for the newcomers on the islands, whilst tens of thousands of refugees that were already in Greece are forced to live homeless in the cities or are moved to huge refugee camps built by the army in the outskirts of the cities, isolated and excluded from society, community networks and access to basic services and rights.
Good livelihood for all
The existence of unused, fully equipped hosting facilities right next to hundreds of homeless people appeared in our eyes as a scandal in itself. A contradiction which reveals not only the hypocrisy of what is called European “refugee crisis management”, but also the inner logic of a system in crisis which devaluates the lives and the rights of both locals and refugees and creates the conditions for the intensification of racism.
By squatting an unused hotel we wanted to be paradigmatic, we wanted to stress – as an example – how the social movements and society from below are able to improve the living conditions of the refugees and thus improve the livelihood of all. We share the idea that by claiming the basic rights and providing for the needs of refugees, we also put in practice a conception of solidarity in everyday life and of self-organization which creates and develops spaces of freedom and of common struggles of locals and refugees. We are convinced that the balance of power can be shifted in concrete practices rather than through general humanitarian appeals. In these practices the renewed version of the mantra of T.I.N.A. (There is no Alternative) of repressive migration policies can be disputed and space can be gained against the far-right; City Plaza made itself a place of solidarity and resistance in a neighborhood that is claimed since years by the extreme right and the neo-Nazi party of Golden Dawn.
We do not, of course, believe that the problem can only be solved through squatting, as the provision of shelter is a fundamental obligation of the state and the local authorities; we do, however, believe that squats can act not only as a means for claiming rights but also as a factual exercising of rights precisely by those who are deprived of rights: the illegalized and excluded economical and political refugees.
City Plaza sees itself as part of a multitude of different solidarity practices and struggles that emerged since last year, which constitute a specific demand to the Greek state, against the detention of refugees in despicable detention centers as well as against their isolation in monstrous camps; for the decent housing of refugees in the cities, ensuring their access to health care, education and all social services. On the other side City Plaza sees itself as part of the European and international solidarity movement which challenges the militarization of borders and the externalization of asylum policies and which claims the freedom of movement and the right to stay.
The City Plaza Refugee Accommodation Center now houses mainly families, totaling 400 people, including 180 children. Amongst them are 22 single parent families as well as people with disabilities. At this time the nationalities that make up the City Plaza community include Afghans, Kurds, Syrians, Palestinians, Iranians, Iraqis, Pakistanis and a few others. Each family lives in a separate room, while all inhabitants are provided with breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as with hygiene products etc.
City Plaza Refugee Accommodation Center is based on principles of self-organization and political autonomy. It functions through different working groups as for cleaning, cooking, security, logistics, education and childcare, medical care, media-work, reception, which answer to the regular assemblies of refugees and solidarians.
Support City Plaza Refugee Accommodation Center
With this appeal we call different organizations and collectives, trade unions, social and anti-racist organizations, student and academic groups, self-organized projects and cooperatives in Greece, all over Europe and beyond to express their solidarity to the City Plaza Accommodation Center. We call you to publish letters of solidarity, to distribute material and information from City Plaza, to involve yourselves in the funding and to organize donation campaigns. More generally, the project’s existence hinges on volunteer work, funds and material donations.
Support City Plaza Refugee Accommodation Center! Help the refugees and activists to keep it alive as an alternative paradigm to the repressive migration policies in Greece and the EU, and as a project of common life and struggle.
Solidarity will win! We struggle together, we will live together!
Η αλληλεγγύη θα νικήσει! Αγωνιζόμαστε Μαζί, θα Ζήσουμε Μαζί!
e-mail: [email protected]
F/b: Refugee Accommodation and Solidarity Space City Plaza