The former tax office provides housing and services for migrants and asylum seekers.
Image via YouTube video by user Globale Historiefortællere
Since it first opened in September, the Notara solidarity center in Athens, Greece, has provided assistance to more than 1,700 refugees. The center, however, is operating illegally, in a building owned by the Greek Ministry of Labor, occupied by a group of Greek leftists and anarchists. The former tax office houses refugees from Iran, Algeria, Morocco, Afghanistan, and Syria, many of whom are having trouble adjusting to life in their host country and have nowhere else to go. At Notara, anarchist volunteers supply clothing, dispense advice and information, and even provide basic medical attention—services, they say, the government has failed to furnish.
Many of the volunteers had experience assisting incoming refugees in Lesbos last summer.
“We are against the state and we think the government has done nothing to provide a real solution,” a volunteer who gave only her first name, Mimi, told Al Jazeera. “We had a full summer of experience under our belts and felt that refugees needed a safe space when they get to Athens, especially as the weather gets worse. From Athens, they still have a long journey ahead of them.”
Art and drawings by refugee children at Notara
The volunteers have structured a collaborative system at Notara, where the refugees and migrants are directly involved in decision making and facilitation.
“The act of squatting in this building was a message to the government: It is failing everywhere and we are putting a spotlight on it,” Mimi added. “We are anti-authoritarians. We reject the assistance of the state, NGOs, charities, and businesses."
According to the UNHCR, there are approximately 37,600 refugees and asylum seekers in Greece. The economic crisis, however, has inhibited assistance to this vulnerable population.