The tall spindly man sits on the stairs in front of a door. He bends forward, stretches his arm in its full length, and turns the inner side up. Then he sticks an injection into a vein. His dirty hair hangs down his thin face.
Used drug injections with traces of old blood is seen everywhere in this area, lying in the gates, next to the staircases, in the streets. Addicts take quite openly their drugs and a smell of old urine and garbage hangs in the air. The heat makes the acrid smell excruciating.
The battered bins are filled, and during the night starving rats and cats have eaten leftovers. Thin Greek plastic bags together with paper and foil trails is spread in the streets. Graffiti everywhere. Women in mini skirts are hanging around on the corners or trying – desperate for money to the next fix – to look attractive in front of one of the many brothels.
Not to mention all the men, the women and the children. From Iraq, from Syria and from Afghanistan. Men hanging out in front of the small shabby hotels, given to them by Greek authorities for accommodation. Women and children hiding in the rooms. Time passes by smoking and talking – just waiting. Five month have passed like this. Killing time. Soon one year has passed. Two years? Perhaps more? Who knows? Everybody hoping for the miracle that will never happen: Europe opening its borders.
I am going to see a Syrian family. The family has problems. Everybody have in this huge city. The family live in one of the shabby hotels, but the GPS on my phone is not working, and I can not find the place. I pass one hotel after the other. The streets all look the same, old cars, cracked paving stones, and lots of houses in ruins. A board turned in with nails in front of the door prevents – sometimes – the huge number of homeless people to move in – and then graffiti everywhere.
I pass a Middle Eastern looking cafe. Men sitting at tables, drinking tea, playing cards or smoking the shisha. Looking up at the small balconies, I see laundry hanging, and I see women wearing the scarf.
A bit desperate I ask a group of Middle Eastern looking men. Hanging out in front of one of the hotels they know, where the hotel King Jason is. Or they know a hotel, where Syrian people are living, a man from Iraq tells me in excellent english. He offers to show me the way. Knowing that this area is no good for a woman on her own, I say thank you, and the whole group of men are joining us.
The Iraqi man lived for five years in Great Britain and now he is on his way back, he tells me – not mentioning the fact that he and 60.000 other refugees are stuck in Greece.
-It is too dangerous in Iraq now, he says.
Now his pregnant wife and two children, five and nine years old spend all the time in the hotel room. The family arrived to Athen a month ago from the North of Greece, and Greece has big problems providing accommodation for all the stranded refugees.
-The children are bored, because they never go out. My wife gets depressed. It is too dangerous for women and children here in this area. You see the drug addicts? In the morning there are injection needles everywhere.
We pass three homeless men sitting on a dirty mattress on the pavement. Behind them on the wall graffiti. One man has found a red chair lacking a leg and one in a worn out T shirt is fiddling with a barbecue. Nobody notice our passing, they just sit there, dirty, bad smelling and with these empty eyes, probably leaning of morphine.
So much human misery here that it is unbearable.
Down the road the hotel, where Syrian people are living. The usual group of men are hanging out here. Talking. Waiting. Just another refugee hotel.
I walk inside the small dark reception. A tall man with long oily hair stands behind the reception desk. On a red couch in a dark corner a woman dressed in tight trousers is sitting. The man behind the disk can not help me, he say and ask me to leave the reception and go back into the street. I thought I had found the right hotel, so my new friends have left.
But the hotel is not King Jason. Nearly giving up, I finally find the hotel. The sun is going down, and I have a quick talk with the family. I want to get out of here as soon as possible.
Back at my favorite cafe on Victoria Square I am told that I have just been in one of the most dangerous areas in Athen. There are places in this city where not even the Greek comes. While I sit quiet and safe, drinking my ice coffee, I wonder, why Europe do not have other places than an area for drug addicts and prostitutes to place women and children fleeing from war?
Greece is a poor and chaotic country and can not manage this huge problem on its own.
And the problem is getting worse – for the Greeks. Every day new boats filled with refugees arrive on the Greek islands. The camps there are overcrowded with people, there is a lack of everything and tension is rising. At the same time Germany is threatening to use the Dublin regulation and send back asyleum seekers to Greece.
Tonight at Victoria Square there are many afghan women. They sit in groups. Dressed colorful and with the scarf loosely round the hair, they sit chatting. In March Victoria Square was filled with refugees. The borders north had just closed, and men, women, children, all from Afghanistan slept at the place, carrying their luggage and their hopes for the border to reopen. It seems they still sit here. Carrying the same hopes.