Ellinikon

Ellinikon Airport, Athens

Ellinikon Airport

Until the early 2000’s Ellinikon Airport was Athens’ international airport. As part of the building spree in the run-up to the 2004 Athens Olympics Ellinikon was replaced by a new, much larger airport and sat empty for several years, mired in a dispute over its fate. A coalition of local groups and residents fought to turn the site into a park, while other interests wanted the state to sell the property for development. When austerity hit Greece, the EU ordered the sale of many of Greece’s state-owned assets, including Ellinikon. Before this could be completed the tide of refugees began to overwhelm Greece, and by late 2015 Ellinikon had become a semi-official refugee camp. At its height, the camp housed nearly 5000 people, living cheek-by-jowl in tents inside and outside the abandonned terminal buildings. NGO services, never sufficient to the needs of the refugees, were cut off entirely this spring, as the government moved to close a site that had become a public disgrace. Authorities began evacuating refugees in May, 2017, and by the time we visited in early June, the population had declined to less than a thousand persons. We were not allowed to enter the buildings, so for two days we spent time interviewing residents outside.

We visited Ellinikon in early June, 2017. We were refused entry by the police, who were very much in evidence around the site. We were able, however, to remain outside the gates over two days and interview numerous residents.

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