Greek Govt Moves Against ‘Anarchist’ Exarcheia, Refugees First

People familiar with the neighbourhood see a plot to drive out residents and gentrify Exarcheia in the interests of foreign investors and big real estate firms, which, they say, are buying up properties at prices kept low by politicians perpetually linking the district with drug-dealing and petty crime.

Eirini Vlachou, a lawyer who has dealt with humanitarian issues and lived in Exarcheia between 2004 and 2018, said it was a "no-brainer" that, in an area where impoverished outsiders and criminal gangs come into contact, "some migrants or refugees will end up involved."

But, she warned, "the manipulation of this sensitive detail by strong political agendas and economic interests is a much bigger problem and Exarcheia has been used in order to perform this manipulation."


A refugee couple in central Athens, Greece, 2019. Photo: EPA-EFE/ORESTIS PANAGIOTOU

For decades, Exarcheia has been a hub for radical, anti-establishment activists in Greece, and has long been hostile to police. The district grabbed international headlines in 2008 when the killing of a 15-year-old boy by police in Exarcheia touched off nationwide riots.

That has not stopped the growth of short-term tourist rentals, however, with Exarcheia, situated at the heart of the capital, one of the areas of Athens most affected.

According to data analysed by a popular house rental site, since mid-2018 there has been an increase in rental rates in central Athens of 10.2 per cent, mainly due to short-term leasing and a Golden Visa programme offering residence permits to people who spend more than 250,000 euros to buy an apartment.

The Bank of Greece estimates that in the first six months of 2019 incoming capital for real estate...

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