Athens. March 2009. Overlooking the Acropolis, on a parcel of land just five minutes from the city center, Albanian Roma families living since 2006 in filthy conditions, have made their houses out of planks and pieces of wood. There is no water, no electricity, no sewage network. The smell of plastic from burning wires covers the air.
This is the Votanikos settlement at Orfeos street. Forgotten for years, but yet remembered, as this piece of land the Albanian Roma families are sitting on, is private. Promoters and residents put pressure on the government to urge their removal from the area, as importants constructions plans are on the way. The law though is pretty clear: a removal without any suitable relocation is illegal.
A suitable relocation was never to be found and three years later, on the evening of the 14th of August 2012, day of the year when 99.9% of the athenian population is out of town, an intense smell of burning garbage together with toxic pollutants spread throughout the city of Athens.
According to the police, the fire broke out around 8pm within the Roma settlement and spread very quickly, completely destroying 80% of the hand-made houses. The fire department said that the fire was caused by the Roma themselves while trying to burn caoutchouc tires and cables. No-one bothered to investigate any further.
The images below are a glimpse of the settlement before it burnt to the ground.