Although the training is over and everyone has reached their homes by now we kept some of our articles in store for this week.
On the day before last, the participants were given the task of going on an observation mission in the neighbourhood of Exarchia to be confronted to the reality of the refugee and migrant crisis in Athens and maybe even spark a conversation with someone on the topic.
Here is the report of our first group: Maher, Nika, Fruzsina, Kinga and Jana
We started our observation at Exarchia Square. When we looked around we noticed stuffs such as blankets or chairs made from baskets that were probably left behind by people who live there. Banners were hanged all around in the park with messages in Greek and some of them with the sign of anarchists.
The park was rather empty, only a few people were sitting on benches. As we were taking photos of the banners a punk-looking anarchist man with a coke bottle in his hand warned us in a friendly way not to take pictures of the people, who were sitting here, because they don’t like to appear on photos.
We decided to visit the technical university hoping that we will be able to talk with the students there. It was surprising for us that all the buildings were covered with graffiti, both artistic and political ones. We learnt from a student that they started doing graffiti around 2000 just to create a nicer environment. As we did not find many students in the building, we decided to walk around in the neighbourhood and had a closer look at the posters and graffiti on the street.
We noticed one poster written in Arabic and Farsi, which was a call for a protest that will to take place in Exarchia Square on the 17th of June. The aim of the protest will be to raise awareness on the unjust treatment of refugees. As we continued our walk we ended up in a park, where people were taking drugs openly while sitting on benches near the entrance of a building and syringes were everywhere. We didn’t feel safe in this place, so we decided to move on.
We came back to Exarchia Square to draw conclusion from our observations. We decided to take a final round and we were lucky. As we were passing by a café a young woman started a conversation with us explaining that the place is one of the squats in the neighbourhood of the park. We started talking about the atmosphere and situation of the district. She had a very positive attitude and she spoke highly about what the community is doing for refugees. One of the squats is organizing language courses and they have an open kitchen once every two weeks at Exarchia Square.
We settled down in a café to summarize our experiences. Suddenly an artist appeared and started chatting with us. We learnt that she also works with refugees as a social worker. She spoke very positively about the district. She enhanced that this is a protected place where everyone takes care of each other and the inhabitants of the district supports the refugees in different ways. She also mentioned that she is sometimes upset seeing that even if the refugees get accommodation and support to fulfill their basic needs, some of them beg on the street. She recommended us to visit Nosotros, a semi-squat in the neighbourhood. Unfortunately, our conversation was interrupted by an unpleasant experience. While we were speaking two girls appeared asking for money and one of them tried to steal one of our phones lying on our table. In spite of this experience we were happy with the result of our observation and we felt lucky for having the possibility to speak with locals and learn about their opinion. Finally we headed to Khora to share our experiences with the others.