Squats are attempts of reclaiming the public space away from the meaningless dipole of state-private property. Those self-organized movements, although frequently presented as extreme and marginal by the media propaganda, are true manifestations of a democratic imaginary, in terms of political targeting and operating framework. Apart from their theoretical targets, squats also serve specific practical needs (e.g. housing squats). Such examples are the housing squats that have appeared lately in Greece in solidarity with the refugees and immigrants who arrive at the country. One of those is Notara 26, which is located in the politically significant district of Exarcheia. We had the chance to speak with a member of Notara 26, who shared with us interesting facts and stories about the squat.
Photo taken just after the occupation of the building
Evangelos Tsirmpas: How many immigrants and refugees are living in the squat right now?
N26: At the moment 108 people are living in the squat Notara 26. Most of them are families, people that belong to vulnerable groups, asylum seekers etc. The time of their stay is flexible and is adapted according to the conditions. For example, during the first months of our project most of the immigrants used to stay at the squat for an average of two or three days, in order to get some rest and supplies from the squat's warehouse before they continued their trip to the borders. Right now there are many asylum seekers who are living in the squat for already more than one month. Throughout the four months of its function, the Housing Squat for Refugees and Immigrants Notara 26 has already hosted more than 3000 people and continues, always on the direction of practical solidarity and self-organization.
The playground of Notara 26
E.T.: How does the squat function, both on a theoretical and a practical level? How do you perceive and how do you realize self-organization on an existent, daily basis?
N26: With anti-hierarchy, self-organization and practical solidarity as building blocks, we have chosen our assembly (every Tuesday and Friday at 20.00) as the only decisive instrument of our project. The assembly is and will be open to anyone who is willing to participate; within its framework, decisions are made collectively by the immigrants and the members of the squat. On a practical level, there are three-hour shifts for the function of the building, apart from the six-hour night shift. As far as the food part is concerned, the task of preparing meals for the residents of the squat has been undertaken by solidarity kitchen projects from all around the city of Athens that have created a successful and functional network of intercommunication (Nosotros kitchen, El Chef, collective kitchen of Analipsi Squat, Kitchen of the Autonomous Haunt and others).
At the first period of function of our squat, when the average stay of the immigrants was two or three days, their participation was quite difficult. But at this moment we can say that the members of the squat and the immigrants clean together, eat together, organize the warehouse together etc. It's not only the members of the squat who participate in the shifts, but the residents of the squat as well. Inside the building of the squat there is also a medical center that is functioning with the support of solidarious doctors and nurses who, despite all difficulties, manage to cover all the days of the week with shifts. Finally, many of the above and even the assembly itself could many times not have happened without the everyday and necessary participation of the solidarious translators. Against exploitation and charity, in Notara 26 we, people who practically show solidarity and refugees/immigrants, shape our common future in terms of equality.
E.T.: With what other initiatives are you coordinated and how do you perceive the social and political extensions of your action?
N26: Since the first assembly of Notara 26, we are continuously trying to preserve a communication network with many infrastructures for refugees all around Greece, from Lesvos, Kos, Kalymnos, Chios to Athens, Thessaloniki etc. Additionally, social spaces, squats and cooperative cafes offer financial aid coupons of Notara 26 (Athens, Thessaloniki, Patra, Komotini, Alexandroupoli etc.). Understanding the importance of the network but also intending to multiply such projects, the Housing Squat for Refugees and Immigrants Notara 26 along with the Self-organized Initiative of Solidarity with Refugees and Immigrants and the Open Assembly of Brahami Residents started organizing an open assembly in the National Technical University of Athens (Polytechneio) after a call in 16/12. Notara 26 has conquered its position in the social space and stands everyday against the political conditions of conservatism and exploitation of immigrants, participates in demonstrations and protests against Fortress Europe claiming open borders, free transportation, legalization of all immigrants, grant of citizenship and asylum to anyone who wishes it. The highlight of this activity was our participation in the mobilization against the Evros fence last October, as well as in the march for the World Refugee Day in the center of Athens.
Solidarity with refugees march, December 2015
Notara will continue to create fractures of freedom in the existent system of totalitarianism. Territorializing solidarity at an everyday level and making this suggestion a practical example of self-organization in order to make the refugee’s Odyssey of survival, a journey of humanity towards freedom!