NEWS

Increase in Athens homeless this winter

Authorities in Athens have put into action a scheme to provide basic assistance to the capital's homeless amid concerns that recent police and municipal operations to remove mostly immigrant squatters from abandoned buildings has led to a rise in the number of people living on the city's streets. The City of Athens has sent out 14 employees and some 40 volunteers to record the whereabouts of the city's homeless population and to assess their needs ahead of the onset of winter. «Our capabilities were tested this summer,» said Deputy Mayor Eleftherios Skiadas. «The evacuation roughly doubled the number of people at our meal centers.» During the summer, six buildings in central Athens were cleared out. It is estimated that well over 200 people were removed from five of these buildings. The biggest cleanup was at the abandoned appeals court building on Socratous Street, where more than 500 illegal immigrants are though to have lived at one point. Authorities also removed squatters from another 40 smaller buildings. It is not clear what has happened to the people that were forced out of these buildings but it appears that many of them are congregating at several squares in central Athens, such as in Koumoundourou, Asomaton and Aghios Georgios, where conditions are becoming unhygienic. «Over the last three months, Koumoun-dourou Square has turned into an open-air hotel for immigrants, homeless people and drug addicts,» said the Panathinaia residents' group in a letter to Alternate Interior Minister Christos Markoyiannakis. According to older figures published by the government, there were more than 5,000 homeless people in Attica but it is thought that this number is much higher now.

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