A huge banner reading “Refugees Welcome Home” is draped across the front of a derelict building in Exarchia, Athens – a district that’s generally regarded as the spiritual home to the city’s anarchist movement. On Tuesday morning, members of the Anti-authoritarian Movement Athens (AK) occupied a former university dining hall, with the aim of transforming it into a temporary residence for refugees. They want to fix up the space and make it fit to accommodate refugee and migrant families arriving in Athens.
Crossing a rubble-strewn courtyard, I entered the building to find members of AK making plans for an open meeting later that day. They offered to show me around and explained that before any refugees can be housed, they’ll need to work together to clean, disinfect and make the place habitable. The truth is that it’ll take a hell of a lot of time and effort because at the moment it’s just a building site. The three floors are vast and empty. The ground level consists of a sort of living room, plus what’s left of the old kitchen and bathrooms. The first and second floor will accommodate the families, while there are also plans to turn the basement into a storage area. Once complete, it’s estimated that the building will accommodate up to 200 people.