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Marcos Andronicou | Athens: Life in the Broken City

ATHENS, GREECE – September 2012. Immigrants loiter on Athinas street in central Athens. Most of Athens’ immigrant population finds refuge, legal and illegal employment in the city’s historic center.

A volatile air of misery and uncertainty has plagued the Greek capital since the onset of the Global Economic Crisis in 2008. It has transformed a city renowned for its historic beauty and unique culture into the epicentre of all the horrors associated with what we have now established as the Eurozone Debt Crisis.

Contemporary Athens often evokes nothing but violent riots and people struggling to accept and survive a harsh range of austerity measures imposed by the troika lenders (EUIMFECB). Over the last 4 years, the scenes of urban squalor, human rootlessness and outright despair playing out daily in the city’s historic centre would have been simply unimaginable just 5 years ago.

Among an overall homeless population of 13,000, trapped and dispossessed immigrants hustle a formidable existence alongside increasingly HIV-positive prostitutes and heroin addicts who score fixes and clients (often both) around the clock. Nearly a third of all businesses are now closed in central Athens, national unemployment is predicted to reach 29% by 2013 (currently 55% of youth is unemployed), and suicides in the city alone have increased by 25% from 2011. Greece is also the home of 80% of the EU’s detected illegal immigration – all of which is encouraged by authorities to dwell in Athens while awaiting processing – adding further strain to the city’s already dilapidated and underfunded social services.

And yet it can all seem misleading. Along with all the grim faces and endless struggle, Athens life undoubtedly flows on revealing serene pockets of love, empathy and solidarity, and above all, a hope for a finer tomorrow. Enchanted tourists are still wandering about, friends and couples still fall in and out of love, and children are still laughing and playing.

ATHENS, GREECE – 26th September 2012. Young protester sat on a police barrier shouts against the government during a national general strike in central Athens.

ATHENS, GREECE – September 2012. A foreign prostitute dissuades a potential client once several policemen appear on Sokratous street in central Athens. According to data released this year by the Center for Control and Prevention of Diseases, 17 prostitutes working in illegal brothels in central Athens were found to be HIV-positive. There are approximately 315 illegal brothels in the surrounding area alone.

ATHENS, GREECE – September 2012. Shop owner watches street traffic on Panepistimiou street. Almost a third of all businesses are now closed in central Athens.

ATHENS, GREECE – September 2012. A young couple in the historic neighborhood of Plaka.

ATHENS, GREECE – A group of friends chat over coffee in Syntagma square. The square and its adjacent avenues are often where violent riots erupt.

ATHENS, GREECE – September 2012. Homeless man in Monastiraki square in central Athens. The city’s current homeless population is estimated at 13,000.

ATHENS, GREECE – September 2012. A very young Gypsy boy busks on Ermou street in central Athens.

ATHENS, GREECE – September 2012. A wounded heroin addict watches pedestrians on 3is Septemvriou street in central Athens. Intravenous drug use has steadily increased since the onset of the crisis and is directly associated with a sharp rise in HIV-positive cases.

ATHENS, GREECE – September 2012. Children play around Monastiraki Square in central Athens.

ATHENS, GREECE – September 2012. Immigrant mother carries her son on Geraniou Street. Several abandoned buildings on and off the street are inhabited by immigrants who mostly live in formidable and unsanitary conditions.

ATHENS, GREECE – September 2012. A retired couple walks through P. Tsaldari street in central Athens. Greece’s pensioners have been hit particularly hard by the austerity measures demanded by the Troika lenders.

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