Bronze / 2012 / Press / Feature Story

Athens Ghetto

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  • Photographer
    Nikos Pilos
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The once historic center of Athens, has slowly but steadily turned into a region of poverty, race conflict, drug use and trafficking. This report that lasted almost a month walking among some of the poorest and disreputable neighborhoods in Athens, portrays the harsh life of Greeks and foreigners alike, be it in line at the kitchen soup that is funded by the municipality of Athens and the church, or down in the streets where the cartons that accommodate the homeless multiply day by day. Meanwhile, the unprecedented influx of illegal immigrants continues to flood the city center with people, who are essentially trapped because the state cannot or will not accommodate, legalize or formally absorb them into the workforce, forcing them to lead a life in squalor, either by sharing a small space in an old industrial building that�s been turned into an illegal hotel, by working illegally for Greeks or other foreigners for a petty wage, or by being engulfed by the gangs that swarm the city. In this ill environment, delinquency is in constant rise, with drug trafficking happening in every corner, followed by prostitution, theft and violence. The local and foreign criminal networks that have spread in the city streets plague almost every activity and illegal trade is a common sight in certain spots. The police, while retaining a strong presence in the city center, seem unable to control the situation. Attacks on citizens with the intent of theft and incidents of burglary in shops around the center are an everyday theme of the daily life, discouraging from people walking the streets especially at night, automatically turning the region slowly but steadily into a ghetto swarmed by gangs and drug traffickers. Extremist groups of the far right take advantage of the situation to portray their racist ideas by attacking immigrants and sparking social distress. In May, the violent murder of a Greek man to steal his camera, triggered an unprecedented outrage from extremists who patrol the streets day and night to spot and hunt down illegal immigrants, as revenge. The murder of a Bangladeshi man a few days later is suspected to be linked to the immigrant pogrom. laif/for stern and Kappa magazine

Nikos Pilos is an award-winning photojournalist currently based in Athens, Greece, and one of Europe’s noted feature photographers. He has traveled extensively to document war, natural disasters, poverty, socioeconomic struggle and cultural shifts. His work appears regularly in top international newspapers and magazines and has been exhibited throughout Europe.
Since his first assignment in Lebanon in 1988, he has covered major historical events such as the overthrow of Nicolae Ceausescu in Romania, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the wars in former Yugoslavia, the war in Iraq where he spent 100 days without being embedded and the latest Lebanese conflict. Most recently, he documented the humanitarian crisis on the Libya-Tunisia border in 2011, when hundreds of thousands of refugees fled Libya during the civil war. For the past three years, he has been mainly covering the Greek and the Cypriot recession, the Istanbul uprisings, the rise of nationalism in Europe and the current refugee crisis.
His photos have been featured, among others, in The New York Times, TIME, Newsweek, Stern, Der Spiegel, Die Zeit, The Financial Times, The International Herald Tribune, The Sunday Times, The Independent, The Guardian, XL Semanal, Gente, Bloomberg, Internazionale, L'Esspreso etc.