NEWS

Exarchia residents issue cry of despair

TANIA GEORGIOPOULOU

TAGS: City Life, Crime

With reports of lawlessness in the inner-city neighborhood of Exarchia mounting, an Athens prosecutor’s office launched a preliminary investigation on Wednesday to ascertain the veracity of claims made in a letter of complaint it received from some 400 residents of the area – a traditional bastion of self-styled anarchists.

In the three-page letter, the “real residents and honest professionals” said that police are essentially banned from entering Exarchia, allowing for an unprecedented wave of “criminality and barbarism” – with people being attacked and killed, drug dealers plying the streets, while businesses are regularly raided and robbed with impunity.

The residents claim the neighborhood is turning into a ghetto and that an increasing number of locals are moving away, as the informal status of the area as an “autonomous statelet” and base for various criminal elements is being consolidated.

“The situation for us who live here is continuously deteriorating,” City of Athens councilor and Exarchia resident Giorgos Apostolopoulos told Kathimerini, adding that, as of late, attacks on the streets are proliferating “by the day.”

“A few days ago, Mr K.S. was robbed at gunpoint. [His muggers] were content, fortunately, with 20 euros. A year ago his car was torched and destroyed,” he added.

The signatories to the letter, which was submitted two months ago but made public on Wednesday, remain confidential.

“No resident in the area will risk being targeted,” one of them told Kathimerini.

“You can’t seek justice because you are in danger. The people around here are nihilists who see everyone as an enemy and are linked to the underworld,” the resident added.

The letter also noted that various state bodies that had been based in the area have relocated, along with a number of private companies.

In recent years, residents said that branches of the OTE phone company, National Bank, Piraeus Bank and the ELTA post office have all moved from the area, while stores and offices of big companies such as Plaisio, Livanis, Germanos, IBM, Apple, Vodafone, Wind and others have also been targeted. Most of these have shut down.

The dire situation has also affected transport, with buses being diverted to different routes after being targeted by arsonists.

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