IBSA Foundation Covid19
THE REFUGE- 55 SQUARE METERS
More than 500 people from 30 different nationalities have found refuge in a derelict housing complex of 228 apartments - 55 sq.m. each - in Athens in the largest residential squat in Europe run by an anarchist collective. The squatters, political activists, underprivileged greeks, poor families, refugees, created a community that through direct democracy and solidarity manages to provide its members with the essentials and help them integrate into society. Το their struggle to rebuild their lives a new obstacle appears: Covid-19 Not listed in any healthcare or governmental system, constrained at home in fear of contagion and with the repression measures increasing throughout the country, the only ally to the squatters is their own community. “If coronavirus comes to the community, we will face a humanitarian disaster. But without the community nobody could survive” a political activist says.
“Prosfygika” is the largest residential squat in Europe, run by one of the most active anarchist (antifa) collectives in Greece. Initially this 1930s Bauhaus housing complex located in the heart of Athens-consisted of 228 apartments of 55 m2 each- was built to house greek refugees after WWI. Later the complex was expropriated by the state to be demolished but after it was deemed as preservable, the situation froze for over 20 years.
Since 2010 and the beginning of the financial and refugee crisis, “Prosfygika’s” ruins have been revived as more than 500 people from 30 different nationalities have found shelter there. The squatters, political activists, underprivileged greeks, poor families, refugees, have formed a vibrant community that gave new life to the neighbourhood. Through solidarity and direct democracy the community has managed to provide its members with the essentials and to give them space to live and fight for their rights.
But as these people struggle to start a new life, already in fear of eviction, a new fear emerges: Covid-19 pandemic.
The few who worked, without social security, lost their jobs and now constrained at home in fear of contagion, rely completely on the community’s care. Medical supplies are expensive to buy and following the social distancing can be difficult as, in many cases, five people share a 55 m2 apartment. Those with no legal documents are unable to even venture out as police are in every corner enforcing the government’s harsh repression measures and issuing fines under the pretext of violations against the anti-spread measures.
The community, that solves all day-to-day issues, and the buildings’ architectural arrangement, with open spaces between the blocks and lots of windows, are the squatters’ only allies, as they are not listed in any healthcare or governmental system. “If coronavirus comes to the community, we will face a humanitarian disaster. But without the community nobody could survive” a political activist says. The project is part of the web-based, multimedia project “The Refuge” https://www.therefuge.eu/.