City Plaza Hotel is a previously unoccupied hotel in Athens, Greece that has been taken over by activists and refugees to provide needed accommodation and services to refugees fleeing persecution in the Middle East, Africa and Afghanistan. The Hotel is a community of anarchists, leftist activists and refugees who believed in the idea of providing better quality resources for refugees entering Greece and ensuring that they are firmly treated with dignity and respect. The hotel houses over 350 refugees and more than 30 activists who all work in harmony to create an equitable living space for all members of the City Plaza community. City Plaza Hotel is a physical manifestation of the belief that refugees and activists are able to provide more dignified resources and structures than overwhelmed and unprepared government and international organizations.
- Refugees will win, Solidarity will win. The goal of City Plaza is to build solidarity support for refugees and encourage their empowerment. Refugees have been left in atrocious conditions across Greece and City Plaza’s goal is to empower them by firstly providing them with shelter, food and resources so then they are able to themselves advocate themselves for refugee rights. City Plaza Hotel aims to create a space that Refugees can call their own and build solidarity between other refugees but also with the European activists that are supporting them in Greece.
- Provide refugees with shelter, resources, food and the basic requirements for them to be treated like humans that are currently not being provided in Greece’s sprawling refugee camps. The City Plaza Hotel aims to provide refugees with a dignified living experience and allow them a sense of privacy and respect that is missing from their current living predicaments across Europe.
- The City Plaza Hotel shares an anti-colonial, anti-capitalist migration strategy that criticizes the nation state and works to end the artificial barriers for refugee migration. Borders have been being established across Europe and the refugee solidarity movement within the City Plaza Hotel has incorporated the actions of the No Border Network and advocated for the destruction of new border systems and fences aimed at stopping the flow of refugees. The City Plaza Hotel advocates for open border policies for refugees and allowing those stuck in squalid camps at border crossings to be allowed to travel freely.
- The hotel also particularly focuses on the negative narrative around refugees and actively trying to change the narrative of Refugees, from Vulnerability to Empowerment by showcasing the strength that refugees have and how they are able to be a contributor in their own integration and development. City Plaza showcases the leaders in the Refugee community Greece and provides them with the resources such as housing, food and legal information to be comfortable in Greece while also working towards the improvement of their Refugee status and guaranteeing more rights for other refugees also.
The group is fighting against macro and micro oppositional forces that not only aim to shut down City Plaza Hotel but also aim to decrease Greece’s role in the Refugee Solidarity Movement. The oppositional forces range from right wing political parties in Greece such as the Golden Dawn party to the owner of the hotel and local police who aim to shut down City Plaza soon as it is being a leader in the fight to provide refugees with alternative services and resources that go against capitalist ideals of property and government sponsored institutions. Firstly, City Plaza Hotel faces opposition from the Greek government and judiciary who have ruled that squats within the city - including City Plaza, the largest of its kind - must be evacuated. The mayor of Athens, Giorgos Kaminis, has called on the government to empty all squats and has actively promoted the closure of similar squats such as Zoodochou Pigis 119 and Papouchadiko which both house refugee solidarity activists and refugees themselves. In January 2015, Syriza, a party formed from a coalition of smaller left parties and organizations breathed hope into an alternative way of integrating refugees compared to the European Union’s neoliberal program. They promised to grant citizenship to migrants born in the country and pledged to shut down immigrant detention centers on the Greek islands, where thousands of new refugees were stopped after arriving from Turkey each day. Instead, the Greek government have built more detention centers on the island and fast-tracked deportations of rejected asylum seekers. There are huge governmental opposition forces to the refugee squats and Syriza government has actively tried to shut the squat and others in the neighborhood down. Furthermore, another threat comes in the form of the Golden Dawn political party in Greece. The neo-Nazi party has been growing in strength and numbers and holds a firm anti-refugee stance that aims to block any refugees from settling or entering Greece. Activists from the Golden Dawn party have threatened to enter the City Plaza Hotel and close down its operations. Moreover, they have actively threatened refugees outside the hotel and have been the perpetrators of numerous accounts of vandalism and threatening language on the Hotels property. The hotel now has significant security so no neo-Nazis have dared to enter the physical grounds but have contributed to the intimidation and violence that refugees have faced on the streets of Athens.