Three-star squat opens for refugees in Athens
More than 300 refugees and immigrants have found new homes in City Plaza, an abandoned seven-story hotel in the center of Athens, after activists moved in and took it over. Jodi Hilton reports from the Greek capital.
At City Plaza, which opened in late April, there are more than 300 guests from Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and Syria. Most of them are families with children, elderly and vulnerable people.
Closed for years
The owner was trying to sell the property, which was closed due to financial problems and the Greek economic crisis. Now the reception area welcomes refugees and immigrants who have keys to their own rooms.
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.
Every day, refugees are expected to clean the building and their rooms. Two Syrian children, Sezar, 10 and Sidra, 7, go room-to-room, helping with the vacuuming.
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 open, but three weeks later, when the family arrived in Greece, they missed their chance to continue traveling towards Germany.
Working in tandem
Italian volunteers and Syrian refugees work together in the hotel's kitchen to cook lunch. Donated food is delivered daily to the hotel in order to prepare three healthy meals each day.
Guests serve dinner in the hotel's dining room, where people from several nationalities dine together.
Volunteers lead activities for children at the hotel, where the majority of guests are children. Children make up a large percentage of the more than 50,000 refugees and immigrants now trapped in Greece.
A bed, at last
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.