Three-Star Squat Opens for Refugees in Athens

At City Plaza, which opened last week, there are more than 300 guests from Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Iran. Most of them are families with children, elderly and vulnerable people. Image by Jodi Hilton. Greece, 2016.

A Syrian family moves into City Plaza Hotel. Most of the guests came from camps where they complained of living in intolerable conditions where they found poor shelter, limited food and sanitation problems. Image by Jodi Hilton. Greece, 2016.

Ali Jaffari, an Afghan computer scientist and translator, his wife Wajiha and two sons, moved from Eliniko, a camp at an abandoned Athens airport, to City Plaza last week. Jaffari says when he started his journey, borders were opened, but three weeks later, when the family arrived in Greece, they missed their chance to continue traveling towards Germany. Image by Jodi Hilton. Greece, 2016.

Guests serve dinner in the hotel’s dining room, where people from several nationalities dine together. Image by Jodi Hilton. Greece, 2016.

Fidan Daoud, 3, and her brother Rashid, 7, from Afrin, Syria, play in their hotel room. Before coming to City Plaza, they were staying in an old building with a single bathroom for 100 people, said their mother, Lava. At City Plaza, they have their own toilet and shower. Image by Jodi Hilton. Greece, 2016.

Over 300 refugees and immigrants have moved into City Plaza, an abandoned seven-story hotel in the city center, after activists moved in and took it over. More than 50,000 asylum-seekers have reached Greece in recent months and due to the closure of the Balkan Route, are unable to continue their journeys towards Western European countries like Germany and Sweden.

Numerous camps have been established throughout Greece, where conditions vary. The worst camps suffer from overcrowding, food shortages, insufficient shelter and hygiene issues. But for a select group of refugees who found shelter at the City Plaza Hotel in Athens, life is decidedly different.

Established by a solidarity group as a squat, the hotel is clean and comfortable. Cooking and cleaning is shared by immigrants and volunteers, and healthy meals are prepared three times a day.

There are thousands of empty buildings in Athens that could be used by immigrants or by victims of the economic crisis, explained a spokesperson for the group.

Nasim Lomani, an activist who immigrated decades ago from Afghanistan explained, "We want to create an example for the Greek government on how to accommodate refugees."