Housing Commons vs. State Spatial Policies of Refugee Camps in Athens and Thessaloniki

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-7635

Article | Open Access

Housing Commons vs. State Spatial Policies of Refugee Camps in Athens and Thessaloniki


  • Charalampos Tsavdaroglou Department of Planning and Regional Development, University of Thessaly, Greece
  • Konstantinos Lalenis Department of Planning and Regional Development, University of Thessaly, Greece


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Abstract:  Since the European Union’s agreement with Turkey on March 18, 2016, more than 70,000 refugees have been trapped in Greece. Most have been settled in state-run camps on the perimeters of Athens and Thessaloniki. However, these state-run camps do not meet international standards and are located at significant distances from urban centres, within industrial zones where residential use is not permitted. At the same time, a number of self-organized and collective refugee housing projects have been created within the urban fabric of Athens and Thessaloniki. In the context of these projects, refugees develop forms of solidarity, mutual help, and direct democracy in decision-making processes. There is a significant volume of bibliography which studies the NGOs’ activities and state migration policies. However, little attention has been given to the various ways by which refugees create self-managed and participatory structures to meet their needs. This article aims to fill the gap in the research concerning the production of housing common spaces by the refugees themselves. Based on the current discussions on the Lefebvrian ‘right to the city’ and the spatialities of ‘commons’ and ‘enclosures,’ the article aims to compare and contrast refugee housing commons with state-run refugee camps. Using qualitative methods, including ethnographic analysis and participatory observation, the main findings show that refugees attempt not only to contest state migration policies but also negotiate their multiple identities. Consequently, refugees collectively attempt to reinvent a culture of togetherness, to create housing common spaces, and to claim the right to the city.

Keywords:  Athens; Greece; housing policy; mobility; refugees; Thessaloniki

Published:   28 July 2020


DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/up.v5i3.2924


© Charalampos Tsavdaroglou, Konstantinos Lalenis. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.