Inside City Plaza Hotel – self-organized refugee shelter

city plaza hotel  reportage 26 - Inside City Plaza Hotel - self-organized refugee shelter

Approximately three months ago activists squatted an old business hotel in downtown Athens. The hotel is located on Achanon Street 76 near the center of the poor district of Victoria. As activists reported, especially at night the area around the hotel is a rough neighborhood. Several news agencies, websites and newspapers have been reporting about the squat e.g. VICE News. The house is filled with photo- and video-journalist almost everyday, at least when we were visiting.

Right now City Plaza Hotel gives shelter to a little more than 400 refugees of whom at least 50 percent are children. The supporters on site do not try to guide a way for refugees, but support them in self-organisation. Decisions that concern the hotel are made in a full convention of all people on site. The first full convention was held just some weeks ago.

As we were on site Lina, an activist and supporter, gave and me an interview on the overall situation right now. She explained what the goals are, where there is conflicts and how they are dealt with (subtitles in English and German):

 Before we shot the video-interview and the photo-reportage following below, we stayed quite a while in the house to get to know people – mostly hanging out at at the bar of the hotel that is located on 2nd floor. Children are officially banned from this area to give adults a place where they can draw themselves back, study, learn or talk without a mass of small boys and girls jumping around them screaming. To be honest, this rules seems to be handled kind of lose. So we got in contact with Mohammed a probably around 10-year-old boy. He told us he already speaks 8 languages in fluent English. Other inhabitants seemed a little more distanced then the kids that were always grabbing cameras and gear, wanted to sit on shoulders, be carried around or to steal coffee. As it was ramadan most adults were sleeping and resting to then have a dinner all together at night.

Life seems very organized in the hotel. The house is clean, the kitchen is filled with goods – that we were told are donated. The hotel has an own pharmacy fed with medicine from the so called “social pharmacies” [1]. As Lina guided us around she explained that there is a schedule for doctors that come and check especially on the children. There is a storage room, filled with diapers and shampoo. At the reception there is a radio set charging. Lina explains:

“… as this is a rough neighborhood we have people patrolling around the building and watching out…”

Dangers to the hotel are various. Just some streets off the hotel there are celtic crosses sprayed against a wall. Neonazis and activists of Golden Dawn use it to demand an area to be theirs and cross out pro-refugee or left-wing Graffiti. But as City Plaza is also a squat, inhabitants and supporters are also always scared that police-forces will evict the building in the near future.
On 3rd floor there are the first rooms. The elevator is not working anymore so everybody has to take the stairs, even up to the rooftop. As we are guided around, Lina shows us room 315. It’s an average looking hotel room with two separated beds and a balcony onto Achanon street. As it’s hot outside the air condition is running. All the way up the staircase there is a rooftop with a bar. The view from the rooftop is fabulous. One can overview Victoria and almost all of Athens. But to explain more what living in the hotel looks like :

Photo-reportage about City Hotel Plaza – Click on the first picture to scroll through
 Lookout over Victoria – sorrounding City Plaza

Many thanks to Lina and everyone living and helping at City Hotel Plaza, working where all of you live was amazing and we felt warmly welcomed. We recommend to everyone travelling to Athens or living the area to visit at least City Plaza once and maybe help out and support this great project.