It’s just after 5am in the central Athens neighbourhood of Exarcheia. A group of Afghans and Iranians are sitting down together for breakfast in the middle of the street, with a banner that reads “No Pasaran” (“They shall not pass”) strung between the buildings above their heads. They laugh and joke as they help themselves to bread and cheese pies from the communal table.
The public breakfast is outside Notara 26, a self-organised refugee accommodation squat. Since opening in September 2015, at the height of the refugee crisis, it has provided shelter to over 9,000 people. These ‘‘Breakfasts of Resistance” – held in the early hours when police-led evictions are most likely – have become daily events since Greece’s New Democracy government assumed office in July.
A promise to “restore law and order” was one of the campaign themes that swept the right-wing party to power. Swiftly making good on this, on 8 August plans to evict all 23 refugee and anarchist squats in Exarcheia were announced.
If carried out, by the end of the month they will have put an end to Athens’ experiment with autonomous urban governance and its grassroots refugee solidarity network, which currently houses over 1,000 people.
Ringed by university buildings, Exarcheia has long been the home of Greece’s intellectual left, antiauthoritarian and anarchist movements.
Thousands of refugees arrived in Athens in summer 2015. Seeing little response from the state, the anarchist squat movement in the area (which dates back to the 1980s) resolved to open empty buildings in Exarcheia to house refugees. Notara 26 was the first, and was soon joined by others, founded on the same principles of autonomous self-organisation.
The squats offer a viable alternative to official refugee camps, hotspots and detention centres, whose conditions have been widely condemned by international observers.
Source: The Guardian