Athens, Greece – It is New Year’s Eve: As the clock strikes midnight, the big room on the ground floor of the squatters’ building on Notara 26 is filled with refugees. There are no fireworks, but there is a bit of joy in the room.
Mehdi* stands out in the crowd. There is no smile on his face. His mind is far away with his family. His wife, daughter and son managed to pass into Macedonia 10 days ago and they are now in Germany. He was sent back to Athens.
As borders closed for refugees other than Syrians, Iraqis or Afghans, the others found themselves trapped in Greece.
The “unwanted” fill the transit camps, Victoria Square and other places around Athens.
In Exarcheia, a graffiti-daubed neighbourhood which the locals have dubbed an independent republic within the Greek capital, anarchists are squatting in the former tax administration building.
They call the place “Notara”. It lies on Notara Street and has now become a home for some of the refugees in the city. Many are Iranian, others from Algeria or Morocco. Some Syrian and Afghan refugees who have problems with their documents or are awaiting money from home have also found shelter here.
Mehdi’s last hope to be reunited with his family lies with the smugglers and the people who sell fake Afghan documents in Victoria Square. After his family left he tried again to cross the border but was unsuccessful. But he hasn’t given up hope and will try again. Back in Iran, his home country, he faces the threat of jail for installing satellite dishes. He cannot go back and he cannot go forward.
*Mehdi’s name was changed to protect his identity.