The clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, and the room on the ground floor of this former tax administration building is filled with people chatting and laughing. Persian dance music on YouTube blasts from the speakers of the laptop sitting on a table, surrounded by cookies and glasses.
Mehdi’s* eyes are stuck on his mobile phone. He stands out in the crowd, hardly a smile on his face. He waits for news from his family. He hasn’t spoken to them in four days.
As Balkan border crossings closed for refugees not coming from Syria, Iraq or Afghanistan, many others found themselves stuck in Greece. They are the unwanted who got to spend the new year in Athens, and some found refuge in this building.
Mehdi is from Tehran. Back home he faces an eight-month jail time sentence for installing satellite dishes.
“I had two jobs. One was selling rice in the grand bazaar, the other one is illegal only in my country,” Mehdi says.
After the intelligence services raided his home for the third time, he decided to take his family and leave Iran. From Greece they tried to cross the border to Macedonia with fake documents pretending they were Afghans. His wife, daughter and son managed to pass and are now in Germany. Mehdi was rejected and sent back to Athens. His fingers keep touching the screen of his mobile phone. The fingertips on his right hand are abnormally curbed. They were broken by Iranian police, Mehdi says.