Conditions are so bad for young refugees stranded in Greece, many pay smugglers to help them leave.

ATHENS, Greece—Hunched over the balcony railing, Aisha Mahmoud* watches as the street lamps below flicker to life one by one in the swiftly descending darkness. It is nearly dinnertime for the residents at the City Plaza hotel—an abandoned hotel in central Athens that is now home to 400 refugees from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan—and the din of the cooks is louder than usual.

Unlike the other squats in the area, at the City Plaza hotel each family has its own private room with a bathroom, refrigerator, and linens they are responsible for washing—usually by hand in their sinks or bathtubs. The single men sleep three or four to a room, though there aren’t many single men at the City Plaza. There is Wi-Fi in the bar and common area, and breakfast, lunch, and dinner—cooked by the refugees on a rotating schedule—are served every day. The hotel is managed by volunteers but run by the refugees themselves, and it is sustained through private donations.

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