Refugees and asylum seekers sheltered in a former tax office in the Athens Exarcheia neighbourhood on New Year’s Eve.
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.
Children play in one of the rooms at 26 Notara Street, Athens, the former tax office that now houses refugees now trapped in Greece. [Ioana Moldovan/Al Jazeera]
A big banner hangs from the front of the tax office offering refugees shelter in the building now taken over by squatters. [Ioana Moldovan/Al Jazeera]
Mohamed, 42 from Afghanistan holds his daughter in their room in Notara. He, his wife and two children are waiting for money from home to continue their journey to Germany. [Ioana Moldovan/Al Jazeera]
A Moroccan asylum seeker sleeps in one of the improvised dormitories in Notara building. [Ioana Moldovan/Al Jazeera]
Greek volunteers and helpers from other countries cook daily to feed those sheltering in Notara, as well as for refugees staying in Victoria square. [Ioana Moldovan/Al Jazeera]
Hadis, 6 from Iran came to Greece with her father one months ago. They found out about the place in Notara one week ago from an Iranian friend who has been long time living in Athens. [Ioana Moldovan/Al Jazeera]
Behnam, 20, left, plays ball in the main room on the ground floor of Notara. ‘If I can’t go further and I have to go back to Iran, I will hang myself,’ he said. [Ioana Moldovan/Al Jazeera]
Drawings posted on the walls in the squatted building on Notara street. [Ioana Moldovan/Al Jazeera]
Little refugee girl sleeping in one of the rooms in the Notara building. The chambers of the former tax administration building have been transformed into dormitories for refugees. [Ioana Moldovan/Al Jazeera]
Hadis, aged six, brushes her father Iman’s hair. A single parent, Iman, 31, left Iran because he and his daughter are Christians. When the borders closed, he sought asylum in Greece but may in a few years’ time move to Finland where his sister lives. [Ioana Moldovan/Al Jazeera]
An asylum seeker keeps warm on New Year’s Eve by a heater in the main room of the Notara building. [Ioana Moldovan/Al Jazeera]
Moroccan refugees prepare to go out and see the New Year in Athens’ Victoria Square. [Ioana Moldovan/Al Jazeera]
Iranian refugees get into the party mood by listening to Persian dance music playing on YouTube as the New Year . [Ioana Moldovan/Al Jazeera]
Nabi Ab Almazi, from Algeria, was attacked by a gang of five people in Greece. His medical report, issued in Idomeni, states: ‘History: supposedly beaten by”‘extremists”, cannot remember details.’ [Ioana Moldovan/Al Jazeera]
Refugees in Athen’s Victoria Square eat soup cooked by volunteers on New Year’s Eve. [Ioana Moldovan/Al Jazeera]
An Algerian asylum seeker sleeping in Notara on the first day of 2016. Smugglers are demanding 1,000 euros ($1,084) to get him to France, his desired destination, he says. [Ioana Moldovan/Al Jazeera]