Beyond the bureaucracy of the Eurocrats, or the catastrophic mismanagement by the EU of the refugee ‘crisis’, or the xenophobic rants of the tabloid press, there is another Europe – the real Europe – a continent of Europeans who are compassionate and for whom social justice is not a political slogan but something that is practised every day and every week. We need look no further than the economic beleaguered Athens to find an example of this unassuming goodwill. The Greeks are well practised in the art of the alternative (or ‘parallel’) economy, having been ruled over decades by successive governments that have wrecked their national economy and seen Greece turn a vassal state of the EU. And alongside this self-managed economy is another specialism of the Greeks: direct democracy – where people manage their own lives without reference to government. Last year a group of anarchists, who were active in helping newly-arrived refugees on the Greek islands opposite Turkey, decided to squat a large, empty building – ‘Notaro26’ – in the centre of Athens to provide accommodation and support to the refugees arriving in large numbers via Piraeus. The centre – which is still flourishing – is run on the principles of participatory democracy and mutual support, where everyone – Greeks, refugees, volunteers from elsewhere, have an equal say, via the centre’s assembly, in daily affairs.
(Currently there are at least 30,000 refugees in Greece – many still trying to get to northern Europe. More than 12,000 are stuck at the Ideomeni crossing point at the Greece-FYROM (Macedonia) border, since the closure of that border and other borders northwards to Austria. In just over two week’s time, protesters are planning to converge en-mass to the border bottlenecks, to provide solidarity to refugees and enable free movement again.)
The centre known as Notara26 is located on 26 Notara Street in Athens and offers solidarity to refugees to cover their immediate needs (shelter, food, medical assistance). The centre provides temporary accommodation, basic medical treatment, clothing and information for up to 130 refugees each day. More than 1,700 refugees and migrants stopped over in Notara between September 25 and December 1 last year alone. The centre continues to act as a focal point for refugees who arrive in Athens and need somewhere to stay for a while.
According to one of those who help organise the centre, “We are anti-authoritarians. We reject the assistance of the state, NGOs, charities and businesses. There is a difference between philanthropy and solidarity. We understand that we are on the same level as refugees.”
Statement by Notara26:
Day by day thousands of people struggle to cross the borders , having to confront the rough sea conditions , the Evros fence, the smugglers, Coastguard and Frontex. Chased by the weapons of totalitarian regimes, western military operations and the horror of religious fundamentalism. Humans trying to escape from extreme poverty.
Those who manage to enter Fortress Europe come face to face with states who profit from the migrant-refugee flow and the emergence of cheap labour, paying no interest to human life and dignity. They are confronted with xenophobia and racism, institutional or not.
In this suffocating context, we are squatting an empty public building in Athens, 26 Notara Str., in order to territorialize our solidarity towards refugees/immigrants to cover their immediate needs (shelter, food, medical help). This project doesn’t stand for philanthropy, statal or pivate, but rather for a self-organized solidarity project, wherein locals and refugees-immigrants decide together. The decisive body is the squat’s open assembly where everyone is welcome to participate with no exclusions.
Totally aware of the difficulty of our effort, we call every collective and individual not only to participate and support, but also to expand and create new projects for the same cause. We want to coordinate and interact with the numerous individual and collective initiatives throughout Greece and abroad to strengthen our solidarity to refugees and immigrants; we want to build our common future together.
Let’s make the refugee’s Odyssey of survival, a journey of humanity towards freedom!
No Borders- Freedom of movement
Against Fortress Europe
Legalise immigrants – Grant asylum to refugees
Against racism and xenophobia
Against all detention centers
Against the war- No deaths for their profits
To the refugees who arrive at Notara26:
As comrades in solidarity (Greeks and non-Greeks), we understand the immigration and refugee crisis, empathize with the difficulties and hardships that you have gone through until you arrived here and we seriously value your needs. We criticize and resist against the inhumane and unjust anti-immigration policies – practices of both Greece and the EU. For that matter, we have taken the initiative to occupy this public building on Notara 26 and create an open, self- organized and supportive housing facility with no interest neither to replace state responsibilities nor emerge as “goodwill” philanthropists. Instead, our aim is to show the indifference and hypocrisy of both the Greek and European authorities by standing by your side and actively expressing our solidarity through the operation of this housing squat, even if places are still limited.
This squat serves as a temporary housing space hosting refugees and migrants regardless of race, origin, religion, gender and sexuality. As it is a self-organized housing space, its right operation is based on the participation of its guests: in other words ‘you’. Everyone of you depending on your abilities, could and should participate in the management and maintenance of this space.
We welcome you in this space that belongs both to you as refugees and to us as your comrades in solidarity. This place has neither ties with NGOs nor funding by the Greek state and the EU. Instead, it is built upon the contribution and participation of all of us. Even with our very few resources, we aim to to cover as much as we can all your immediate needs. In solidarity with each other and all together by collectively deciding and acting, we will try to turn this space into a different housing experience from all others you have lived in so far in your journey as refugees: we will make this space more welcoming, more open and safer for you all.
Below is a letter from anarchists sent earlier this year to a Greek independent news website about what is happening at another squatted centre for refugees and migrants in Athens….
On the evening of Sunday, January 10th 2016, we occupied the empty building on Themistokleous St. 58, in Exarchia, Athens. The intention is to open up a place where migrants, who are blocked here in Greece because of the European migration policies, can live and self-organize free from state control. We are a group of individuals from different places and of different contexts, connected through the fight against States, nations, borders, lager, prisons, capitalism; eventually against every part of this rotten system of domination that oppresses us. We are open to anyone who agrees with our basic principles and wants to participate in the project without a hidden political agenda.
This squat isn’t meant to be a public service. We aren’t “volunteers” and we don’t see migrants as victims. One of the challenges of this project will be to overcome in practice the separation imposed on us by borders and citizenship. This house seeks to become a place where people organize themselves and learn from one another mutually, regardless of their origins.
This is an act against the system and the migration policies. It is not our intention to assist the humanitarian aid provided by the State. The integrated and/or assimilated, non-critical humanitarian aid is in fact helping the State to focus on repressive measures in order to persecute and control migration. We strongly refuse to cooperate not only with the State and political parties, but also with NGOs and other organizations or formations that do so (officially or unofficially). All of these scumbags take advantage of the situation of migrants either to profit, protect their interests, gain political power, or to build a social profile.
The control of migration is a tool in the hands of those in power. Right now the Greek State uses the situation of migrants stranded here to put pressure during negotiations for better conditions enabling the implementation of the third memorandum. At the same time, European States regulate migrant flows according their need for cheap labor force, and the rest of migrants are murdered (in land and maritime borders and the streets of European cities), incarcerated or deported. The European Union upgrades its repressive border policies and negotiates deals with States at the inner and outer European borders to continue and intensify the war against migration by more effective means. Those in power hope to secure their property and privileges from those who are being exploited by the capitalist system and suffer their wars. Private and public corporations try to make as much profit of this situation as possible. NGOs represent the interests of their employers, mainly the State, and are well paid for their job.
Because of property rights, people are sleeping in the streets while thousands of houses remain empty. There are enough goods for everyone. We just have to take what we need ourselves.
We declare our solidarity and support to all forms of action that attack borders, nations, prisons, the critical infrastructure that reproduce the existent, and all those who directly or indirectly defend the status quo!
NOT welcome are:
All organizations that cooperate with the State
We welcome people willing to self-organize, regardless if they have papers or not, and regardless if they have a refugee status or not. Priority in housing is given to those who have no chance to stay somewhere else.