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The balance between struggles and practical solidarity is one of the main – and possibly the most difficult – issues that the antiracist movement faces. By this we mean the way these elements are combined and feed in to each other, so as solidarity does end up in paying back the state, or becoming an individualized humanitarianism, and in order for our claims not to end up just ideological babbling. We took risks in the past and we keep on risking, with social centers, solidarity schools, solidarity kitchens, housing squats for the refugees etc.
We encountered such a difficult risk 7 years ago with the Refugee Shelter of Thessaloniki (Siatistis str). This Refugee Shelter has been the only refugees’ accommodation in Thessaloniki for several years until January 2010 when it unexpectedly shut down. At that point, we had no choice but to step in and keep the Shelter alive, since we were the ones demanding hosting for the refugees. The Refugee Shelter worked quite exemplarily, managed by the joint assembly of tenants and activists, for about a year. The shelter’s material support was based only on the Antiracist Initiative and the solidarity of dozens of other people and collectives, who offered volunteer work, first aid items and money. Afterwards, the Antiracist Initiative resigned from the co-management of the Shelter, given that from the first moment our decision was that of temporary support, until the Shelter returns to a scheme of public funding and management. However, that was not the case and so, by the end of 2014, the Shelter shut down permanently and the last tenants were transferred to flats.
Taking this risk, we gained a lot: comrades, experience and joy. The tenants also gained something as they found shelter and support. However, a huge problem remained a debt of 85,000 euros. In the summer of 2010, the Public Power Corporation (PPC, or DEI in Greek) stopped the power supply. Despite the continuing efforts to reconnect to the network, that was technically impossible. Meanwhile, not a single public institution accepted to do anything about it. So the only solution, in order for the tenants not to become homeless, was to bear the electricity connection into the legal entity representing the Social Center/Migrants’ Place (Steki). In the meantime, from 2010 to 2014 and although we were well aware that we were being charged with the electricity bills, we could not request a power disconnection as long as there were still refugees, families and children accommodated inside the building. When the Refugee Shelter was eventually evacuated from the tenants and we stopped the power supply, the PPC transferred the Refugee Shelter’s debt to the Social Center’s (Steki) bill and, despite our constant interventions, it was made clear to us that there is no chance of cancelling this debt. Consequently, if we do not pay it back, the Social Center will be shut down, without this guaranteeing that we will get rid of the debt. In addition, we will also experience a political defeat of the Antiracist Initiative of Thessaloniki and the solidarity movements.
Facing these threats, we decided to recognize the debt and request the arrangement of the repayment: monthly installments of € 1,200. For a year now, we set up a campaign for the financial support and for the first time in our history we asked solidary collectives, comrades and friends, to help us #KeepStekiPluggedIn. We also clarified that only for this reason we will accept money from the state and other stakeholders, despite that it is Steki’s and the Antiracist Initiative’s statutory decision not to accept any private or state funding for their activities. However, this debt is not ours and the only possible way for anyone who shares the responsibility to contribute is through our own account. Therefore, we decided that any donation will be published and, of course, it will be directed only to the payment of the debt.
A year later, we publish the first financial report of our campaign. During this time, we received €15,000 from «Solidarity for All», €1,200 from Thessaloniki Port Authority, €2,400 from Hellenic Petroleum, €1,000 from the Association of Hospital Doctors in Thessaloniki, €1,200 from the Social Solidarity Clinic of Thessaloniki, €300 from «Asamblea apoyo migrantes Salamanca «, €300 from comrades from the Basque Country, €150 from Portuguese social centers, €280 from the RedNoteBook website, €420 from the Radical Left Network, €2,600 from individual contributions and €2,800 from our crowdfunding webpage at keepstekipluggedin.com. From the total of 27,668 euros, 12 installments (€14,400) and €7,000 in interest have been already paid. At this point, we need to stress that for no other reason we would ever accept some of the above amounts, such as the ones coming from companies, except for the repayment of the Refugee Shelter’s debt.
In conclusion, we are still plugged-in and we keep up the struggle, but we still need the solidarity of all of you:
– Visit the keepstekipluggedin.com webpage and make a donation through our crowdfunding platform. Any amount, even two or five euros, is valuable and encouraging for us. You can also repeat these donations whenever possible for you.
– Contact us for a regular subscription through a bank order.
– Spread this message wherever and whenever you can.
– Organize in your social centers, your areas and neighborhoods and towns an event for the financial support of Steki.
– Join our events in Thessaloniki starting next Sunday, 12th of November, from 7 pm and on at Steki (Ermou 23). This event will open with a presentation of the Refugee Shelter project and the #KepStekiPluggedIn campaign, together with a presentation for City Plaza squat, the new initiative for the refugees’ housing in Athens. A concert of “Pleeri Ntaksi” will follow, accompanied by a free contribution bazaar (such as paintings, books, discs, clothes and so on) for the financial support of the campaign.
Social Center – Migrants’ Place (Steki)
Ermou str. 23, Thessaloniki