Urban Alternatives is launched by a collaboration of different actors which are united in their efforts to create a more democratic, just and sustainable world. This map seeks to highlight initiatives that work towards this goal. Proposal for initiatives not listed yet can be made directly on the website. This process is open to new collaborations.

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City Plaza Athens

Migration & Citizenship Rights

What challenges did this initiative look to address?

Greece was hit particularly hard by the 2008/2009 financial crisis and the following austerity policy imposed by the European Union. The social welfare system was cut back and public services were privatised, people lost jobs, flats and could not count on any social security anymore. These circumstances coincided with the arrival of hundreds of thousands of refugees from the war-struck areas in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. When the Balkan Route was closed, more than 50.000 of them got stuck in Greece under miserable circumstances. The state-run camps were poorly equipped and staffed; there was no infrastructure offering access to medical treatment, legal consultancy or even schools.

What has changed?

At City Plaza, refugees could finally find a place that allowed for the privacy, security and dignity that they missed on the exodus route and in the camps. The City Plaza with its 100 rooms counts 400 residents, mainly families, of which 180 are children - not only from Syria and Afghanistan bit also from the Kurdish areas, Iraq, Palestine and Maghreb. The community of refuges and helpers is running its own kitchen, a medical centre, a pharmacy, a women’s room, a playground, a library, a hair dresser; volunteers offer medical care, language courses and legal support accessible to the residents.

How did it happen?

In April 2016, refugees and activists occupied the former hotel City Plaza Athens. All the equipment was still there, the hotel kitchen and fully-furnished rooms just needed some renovation. As the hotel owners had not paid the property tax, they hesitated to take legal action against the occupation.

In a collective process, without any help from the state, but with active involvement and participation of the residents and people in solidarity, the daily life in the hotel is managed – following the initiative’s motto “We live together – solidarity will win”. Decisions are made collectively in plenary sessions and everything is maintained on a voluntary basis and supported through donations only.

Former residents and helpers established a European-wide solidarity and support network. Nonetheless, donations are regressive and the residents recently launched the campaign “Keep City Plaza Open“ to help support the funding of the space and its residents.

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