Athens, Greece: Statement by Refugee Accommodation and Solidarity Space City Plaza about three years of occupation: Τhree years of resistance, solidarity, and self-organization.
Note: Enough 14 is not organizing any of these events, we are publishing this text for people across the US and Europe to be able to see what is going on and for documentation only.
Three years ago, a great struggle began. “As of today, Friday 22th April 2016 at 10 am, the disused hotel City Plaza, in Athens city center, has been transformed in a Refugee Accommodation and Solidarity Space”, as read our first announcement (👉🏿 http://solidarity2refugees.gr/choros-stegasis-prosfygon-ci…/).
One hundred refugees and one hundred and fifty local activists were the founding team who initially opened the premises, worked to make it inhabitable, started assemblies, organized the working shifts and slept in exhaustion, in a tender tension.
For the refugees, after a winter sleeping in tents, it was the first night they spent in a room with a door, beds, and private toilets and shower. The City Plaza was occupied one month after the borders had been closed and the UE-Turkey deal implemented.
The Greek government, under EU funding and supervision, organized the “management of the refugee crisis” at the EU borders and started doing the dirty work that consists of containing and discouraging immigration.
Tens of thousands of refugees were trapped in Greece, and within a few days, they became permanent homeless and had to survive in the streets, in the harbour of Piraeus, in the temporary camps set up by the army and, closer to us, on Victoria square.
During those days, the Initiative for the Solidarity with Economical and Political Refugees condemned the Turkey-EU agreement and the hotspots policy, underlining that it was merely a mechanism contrary to human rights, ostracising refugees and creating the conditions for another build-up of the far right. It is the consequence of a dead-end policy that aims at “fending off other potential migrants”, refuses the accommodation and the integration, and transforms an emergency in a permanent situation.
The City Plaza, part of the large scale 2015-16 solidarity movement, resisted to this new “normality” at the borders of Europe. In fact, it questioned the “pragmatism” of the “ruling left”, which stated that there is no alternative but the enforcement of the “rule of the mightiest”.
The thousands of people who reached out and united their voices with those of the refugees in all Europe showed what a society of solidarity really looks like. They showed that those “at the bottom” have the power, when they unite, to create spaces of resistance and freedom, and to reclaim the rights they have been deprived of.
This was to be the leading principle of City Plaza: the existence of forsaken and disused buildings because of the crisis, at the time when thousands of homeless people try to survive, is a real scandal.
The reoccupation of social facilities, though deemed “illegal”, constitutes a fair and legalized practice from a social point of view. Three years after, today, April 22nd, 2019, we, the people of City Plaza, have all the reasons to say that our enterprise, despite all its contradictions and limits, with joy in the struggle and perseverance in difficulties, was and remains a right and a fair struggle.
More than 2.500 refugees, one-third of them children, have been hosted at City Plaza. In the solidarity community that was created, they found a temporary or a longer-term shelter, enjoying conditions of dignity and security, so that they could keep on claiming a better future. The people of City Plaza form today an international community, a diaspora established in tens of cities of Europe, and many of them are still active in the movement.
Thousands of people, locals as well as international activists and refugees found inspiration and contributed with their ideas and their creativity to the continuous challenges of the self-organization of daily life, to the needs of coordination, networking, and organization of the mobilizations. Hundreds of collective initiatives and individuals found inspiration and showed their solidarity, offering money and equipment, covering from the bottom the considerable needs of an enterprise that did not receive any help from governmental or nongovernmental organizations.
We, the people of City Plaza, took part in and organized dozens of mobilizations to claim full access of refugees to social rights: education, schooling of children in public schools, health, and proper accommodation. And on the premises of the hotel, we set up foreign language lessons, a women space, activities for children, and much more.
We took part in dozens of antifascist and anti-racist demonstrations and events, days of international action, and we also supported isolated individuals who had endured repression. We organized dozens of debates and events for the cities that supported us, against the penalization of rescue operations at sea and the restriction of circulation, and set up coordination workshops with comrades from many European cities.
Today, for the 3rd anniversary of City Plaza, we keep on insisting that the struggle of locals and refugees is more contemporary than ever. The EU and the Hellenic government, despite the bankruptcy and the disastrous results of their policies, keep on attacking refugees and paving the way for the far right.
The recent evacuations of refugee squats follow the same slippery slope, the well known tactics that consists in targeting refugees and further demonize the solidarity with migrants and their struggle. The 3rd anniversary of City Plaza is another call to resistance and to solidarity.
Is it urgent and necessary to fight and ask for the end of humiliation in the Greek islands hotspots, the illegal pushbacks in Evros and in the Aegean, the continuation and extension of the terrible camps for migrants. Let us fight for equality and solidarity with the oppressed! Solidarity will prevail!
Refugee Accommodation and Solidarity Space City Plaza
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