In the conditions of the social struggles that took place during the period 2008-2010, some of the
squatters that we lived in the neighborhood of “Prosfigika” realized that the collectivization was the
only solution for us. Firstly because of the architectural structure of the area which is designed for
community life and secondly because we were suffering from micro-mafias that were looting the
spaces. Since then, several solutions have been provided based on self-organization and also on
problems that had to do sometimes with subletting, sometimes with drug trafficking and child sex
trafficking. As an assembly that was oriented towards the ideals of communal ownership and
perceived the value of use as the only value, we created “community of squatted prosfigika”
(SY.KA.PRO) in 2012.
Today, most of the neighborhood is occupied and inhabited. During these 10 years we have
managed to fill the neighborhood with life, transforming it into the largest squatting community
(spatially and numerically) in Greece, with 400/500 permanent residents and self-organized
structures (meeting place, children’s house, women’s structure, meetings with the initiative Ψ for
mental health issues, community coffee, children’s cinema, community cuisine, community ovens,
gym, community center, 2 houses of internationals, distribution of food from neighboring public
markets, community internet, equipment for cleaning the sewerage and language lessons).
We do not see our project as an “island of freedom”, nor do we have such illusions. We are part of
the class, social and international struggles and we perceive self-management and self-organization
as the only way against the state and capitalism. Prosfigika neighborhood is a practical response to
the social and economic conditions that have been forced to us. Our community is a home to
people from all the spectrum of repression : war refugees, political refugees from Turkey and
Kurdistan, migrants, families with children, elderly, sick, homeless, LGBTQI, former drug addicts,
political activists, anarchists , communists, people of all nationalities and religions, a cultural mosaic
of repressed class.
The land where “prosfigika” was built (covering an area of 14,500 sq. m) was under conflict
between the refugees that were kicked out from minor Asia (they were living there in tents already)
and football fans. The fans of the newly formed Panathinaikos football team (the team was about
15 years old) were claiming the land for which they had already given money to the Greek state.
Fights started between the refugees and the fans and finally the state intervened and gave the
opposite land to build the stadium in 1933-1936. So the neighborhood was built as a complex of
228 apartments of 50 sq. m which were bought under favorable terms by the refugees, mainly from
the Turkovouni camp.
Over the years, the state has repeatedly threatened to suppress the historic neighborhood. The
junta was the first to issue a ministerial decision according to which the first 4 rows of houses
would be demolished to build the Courthouse, a plan that finally did not move forward. Rumors of
demolition and gentrification of the area continued for the following decades. In 1994 the (DEPOS)
Public Company for Urban Planning and Housing proposed the renovation of 2 apartment buildings as a pilot project and then to continue with the rest, another plan that didn’t succeed. Finally, in the late 1990s, the decision was made to demolish the historic neighborhood in order to become a
mall, an underground garage and to be integrated as a Panathinaikos stadium extension.
Thus, the (KED) State Real Estate Company presented and offered 25,000 euros in order for the
residents to leave. If they refused they would lose their homes as the state would proceed with
forced expropriation. The residents initially refused and the amount rose to 50,000 euros, while the
objective value was estimated to be 75,000 euros. Until 2003, the state, under suffocating pressure,
managed to evict most of the residents by practicing all the legal terrorism allowed since its
establishment, and 177 apartments were transferred to the KED. 51 residents refused to give in
terrorism and with the support of the School of Architecture appealed to the (STE) Council of State
and after two court rulings, in 2003 the two front rows were declared a “newer monument” as
belonging to the Bauhaus movement and also carry up to today the signs from the fire received by
the left forces during “Dekemvriana” * (It is surprising, of course, that an entire state was unaware
of the building’s historical value).
In 2009, a year when the other 6 rows of houses were also designated as newer monuments, the
(TEE) Technical Chamber of Greece requests the exchange of one of its own plot (the current
Navarino Park in Exarchia) with 4 of the refugee apartment buildings in order to relocate
headquarters of the Chamber and its library. The plan was not implemented. In 2014, 137 houses
were transferred to the Public Private Property Utilization Fund (HRDH) and in 2016, the 177
apartments are transferred to the Attica Region. In 2018, the Council of State allows the re-transfer
of the 137 apartments to the HRDH and the Supreme Court of Cassation rejects the application of
the Municipality of Athens, which claimed ownership of the property. In the same year, ANAPLASI
SA was founded with Belavilla as president and the Syriza government announcing a European-style
redevelopment of the refugees with a charity wrap and a museum exhibit. In 2019, the studies
carried out with an individual donation (Hellenic Petroleum-ELPE) were granted to the Region and
were put to public consultation. Today, while all the houses have been judged to be sustainable,
the latest from the current government is the signing of a memorandum in December 2020 for the
double renovation of the Botanical Garden and Avenue between Eleonas GDP (Alpha Bank &
Piraeus Bank), the Municipality of Athens, Attica Region and ANAPLASI ATHENS SA, with Bakoyannis
as Chairman of the Board, with unclear intentions for the “regeneration” as they stumble upon
legislative road problems and unclear provisions on how to intervene on a monument. So they
focus on the timeless project for the underground garage and the construction of a mall in place of
the Panathinaikos stadium.
As it is obvious, from the constant transfers of property status and ambitious plans that are
announced from time to time, Prosfigika have become a ball in the various government services
and everyone wants to “save” them from decadence as they claim, while the reality clearly shows
us, that the state is the main aspiring corruptor of the collective memory of the refugees, as well as
the mediator for all kinds of businessmen who see the space as an chance for profit. Putting
forward, as a Trojan horse, the need to house the accompanying patients of St. Sava, the need for a
refugee museum or the need to house vulnerable groups, they shamelessly underestimate our
intelligence. The “Christian Union”, which belongs to the Petraki Monastery, is the owner of the
plot and the building facilities of Ag. Savva, and his invisible but general commander. It has entire
buildings in the wider area that could very logically allocate for the needs of the hospitality of the
accompanying patients of Ag. Savva, which of course he rents or leaves abandoned until he exploits
them. As for the need for a refugee museum, not even the most conscientious can be convinced of
their real intentions.
Prosfigika is a living organism and an integral part of the broader radical social movement. It is a
shelter – home for refugees who survived the modern imperialist wars and fascist regimes. As a
community consisting of refugees participating in modern social struggles, they can be described as
a “living museum” without the approval of official bodies. The associations of “Asia Minor”, being
descendants of refugees themselves, should ask themselves, how many refugees currently live in
the apartments and whether the need for housing is superior to a museum. As for the vulnerable
social groups for which the state is concerned, let us inform them that the majority of the
inhabitants today belong to those groups. We are not convinced by the charitable policies of either
the current or the previous government. By deconstructing the social profile of the gentrification,
we should examine the cancelling of “ESTIA” program, the general management of the migration
issue, the abandonment and disuse of dormitories and the pre-planned full privatization of health
and education. It is the state that creates the housing problems for vulnerable social groups and will
no problem can be solved with Prosfygika gentrification. Let’s not forget, Prosfygika gentrification
plan is another “game” that public money are being used by mayors, contractors, businessmen etc.
At the same time, in the case of Prosfygika, the state shows that it seeks to become a regulator of
collective memory and that the main purpose of mayors and government officials, in addition to
profit, is to seize the political overvalue that the gentrification will produce in order to satisfy the
mainstream and trendy reflexes of modern metropolitans.
The “blur” caused by modernization and spectacle in the metropolitan centers is well known:
futuristic works of art, Airbnb, expensive shops, restaurants and bars, offices of first-class
companies, inhospitable parks, “smart” events in the streets of the center, for loafers and tourists,
bypass the systematic degradation that comes before the seizure of public space, the expulsion and
repression of natural residents and resistance movements. A city’s centre without inhabitants
remains defenseless and at the mercy of businessmen, visitors – consumers and tourists. Without
the natural relationship between people and places there is no chance of defending them. Some
typical examples are the ones of Barcelona and Berlin where the inhabitants were expelled in the
suburbs and any way of life inside the centre is connected exclusively with entertainment and
Although in the advanced West, the attack of capitalism escalated in the 80s with the privatization
of natural resources, public spaces and social services, in Greece that happened when the
memorandums came. A crucial point for the development of modern capitalism in Greece was the 2004 Olympics, where it forged the conscience of the average Greek to unconditionally welcome the attack of capital, served as modernization.
Through the suppression of movements and the degradation of living standards, not only locally but
also globally, extreme neoliberalism is prevailing and being established. On the contrary, the battles
waged by the local movements against privatizations, for the preservation of the natural heritage
and public spaces as such, give rise to new dynamics and prospects to overthrow the domination.
The repression the squatters are receiving is the state’s attack on the most radical part of the
competitive movement. It is an attack on the houses of the fight, on the liberated areas, on the
practice of self-organization, on the hatcheries of the young fighters. It is a long war whose
intensity fluctuates according to the dynamics and unity of the movement. On July 23, 2020, at
dawn, the company “Anaplasi Athinas SA” drilled in the neighborhood to conduct research in the
subsoil and was expelled as soon as it was noticed by the community.
Without fetishizing specific practices, our choice is the militant defense of the community. As an
example during the Golden Dawn trial, when fascists and police launched a common invasion
operation on 31 October 2016, we fought back. Of course the example of comrades from Koukaki
community who militarily defended their occupations cannot be forgotten as well as the
disobedience everywhere in the world. Facing the frontal attack of the state, we need to be
organized with central planning and not to react to the events in urgent procedures. It is crucial
that we coordinate ourselves as all the parts of the conflict, leaving behind the mentality of
selective solidarity and kinship groups. We need open processes aimed at our political and physical
continuity, the recapture of liberated areas, the territorialization of struggles, and the introduction
of a new world in our processes.
There is a need to create an attica central coordination with a common strategy, with strong bonds
of solidarity to claim the free and liberated spaces and to strengthen the local struggles with our
physical presence. We have made the decision to stay, to fight and to stand up for our homes, for
our community, for another liberated place, and we will do so until the end.
Assembly of Squatted Prosfygika – SY.KA.PRO
P.S. We are convinced that the world of equality and freedom will not suddenly land from the sky,
but it exists in its infancy inside the system. It is already here and as it grows stronger and creates, it
nourishes processes and experiences, preparing us to confront the existing system and to create not
only the cracks but also its destruction, carrying on our backs
the responsibility of creating a new one.