The fire burned for most of the night and displaced upwards of 4,000 migrants. Over 50 UNHCR units (used to house over 800 people) were destroyed and 30 individuals were hospitalized according to United Nations Refugee Agency spokesman William Spindler.
“Witnessing the charred remains of Moria camp is shocking but comes as little surprise. Holding thousands of vulnerable people on Lesbos in appalling conditions with no knowledge of their fate inevitably creates an incendiary atmosphere of fear and despondency," Giorgos Kosmopoulos of Amnesty International said. "The European Union and Greece cannot carry on stockpiling refugees indefinitely on the Greek islands. Instead EU leaders must share responsibility fairly and they must urgently start moving refugees to the mainland and onwards across Europe.”
City Plaza is considered to be at the forefront of peaceful refugee assimilation. After thousands of homeless migrants were found overcrowding the streets of downtown Athens, "The Solidarity Initiative to Economic and Political Refugees" took action to renovate the 7-story abandoned City Plaza Hotel. The NGO, who identifies as "a coalition of antiracist and left groups and individuals" states the City Plaza Squat "emerged as a practical response to the repressive migration and border policies in Greece, the EU-Turkey Deal, and the militarization of the borders."
Christian Herrera, a chef from Spain, closed down his food truck business and moved to Athens to manage the kitchen in City Plaza. Here, he and a staff of young refugees and volunteers prepare roughly 900 meals per day. Several months after Herrera began working at City Plaza, he was arrested for "cooking for the refugees," he explained. While he would not reveal the official reason for his arrest, he continued to comment on the racism found pulsing through the ranks of Greek police.
"Sometimes police and fascists [Golden Dawn Members] show up outside the building," Dimitri, Head of Security said. "They yell, 'We'll fuck you, we'll burn you.'" AlJazeera reported that 13 polling stations where "hundreds of police" voted pulled in a 20% vote for the far-right Golden Dawn party as compared to a mere 6% from all other civilian-only polling stations.
Last year, the party rose to the third most powerful in Greece, with a 7.8% Greek vote. "They have a racist agenda that appeals to the masses," Dimitri continued. "The far-right is on the rise, utilizing hatred toward the refugees to gain power. 'Greece for the Greeks,' thats what they say."
Jasmine School, a squat housing 350 refugees, is located just down the street from City Plaza. Unlike Plaza, the building is deteriorating, volunteers and food are scarce, sanitation is non-existent, and donations are inconsistent. The once-abandoned school was squatted exclusively by refugees in the early spring of 2016.
The rooms, each sleeping upwards of 15 people, have missing windows and no doors. Areas are partitioned into sections using bedsheets hanging from the deteriorating ceiling tiles, and privacy is not an option. It is one of six other squats just like it, and represents the norm for refugee housing in Athens.
Jasmine School depends exclusively on local vendor donations and independent volunteers. With City Plaza located down the street, demand is high. "Bread is what we need most. Donations from local bakeries," Jasmine School refugee leader Muhammed Alhamit commented.
"We can't handle the number of people. We aren't focused on getting heaters for the winter, just bread."
Volunteer Pedro Rocha E. Mello, of the Jesuit Refugee Service elaborated on the struggle to find sufficient food contributors. "There are so many needs here. They have not had hot water in three weeks," Mello said. "Food is running low, just one meal a day at this point. The only solution is to speak to donators. The problem is big corporate food producers cannot act here because it is illegal. But if they donate to an independent volunteer organization like us, [we can do something.] It's just bureaucracy."
Relocation remains a top priority for every refugee. This is an extremely laborious process, and leaves many migrant families trapped in Athens for up to a year or more. "The relocation now is being really controlled because of tension caused by the contract between Turkey and the EU," Pedro Rocha E. Mello said. "It's hanging by a thread. If they [the refugees] do anything wrong, it's over."
For Syrian University students Nour Aldeen Almasare and his cousin Muhammed Shimshonty, scholarships and asylum programs are their best option to legally leave Greece. Both of them studied anesthesiology in Aleppo. "I wish to complete my university in Syria, but I can't," Nour said. "Every time they [Syrian military officials] ask, 'Where is your ID card?' You want to study, no you must go to army and fight."
"We are waiting to see if we are accepted to the program or not," Muhammed said nervously glancing at the ground. "Should take about 4-5 months, then we have two interviews, and if we pass those, another 9 months for our visa applications to be processed."
Hope is on the horizon however, with volunteer organizations like the Syrian Solidarity House and the Jesuit Refugee Service stepping up to help to help at Jasmine School. Improvements include the installation of a new hot water heater, repairs to broken windows and doors, the building of a security booth, and the arrival of new volunteers at the end of October.