Build Schools Not Walls!

Parwana Amiri first noticed the concrete walls being built around her refugee camp on the Greek mainland one morning a few weeks ago.

Photo by Anna Alboth

“It was a feeling that when we were sleeping, they closed our wings,” the 16-year-old Afghan refugee told Al Jazeera.

The grey walls, three metres high, being built around the Ritsona and Diavata camp are almost finished. Construction has started at the Polykastro, Malakasa and Nea Kavala refugee camp and there are plans to construct walls around several other camps on the Greek mainland.

The cost for the walls is about 28.4 million euros, according to Al Jazeera, and is largely funded by the European Commission.

Janka Ochojska, Polish MEP, protests together with activists against the concrete walls and has met the Greek Minister of Migration and IOM to push for the stop of the construction of the walls around the camps and improvement of the conditions inside. 

– People came here hoping for a better life and security, because they did not have this security in their countries, said Janina Ochojska visiting in the Ritsona camp in Greece.

– So, look what is being done in Europe for their safety: such 3-meter walls are being built.

Petra Molnar, researcher at the Migration and Technology Monitor, made the following statement according to Greek Reporter: “Greece’s decision to close the camps is in line with a global trend of criminalizing migration and turning to containment and detention in place of humane policies that respect people’s dignity and their internationally protected right to seek asylum.”

Tineke Strik, a European Member of Parliament (MEP) from the Greens/EFA Group, told Al Jazeera: “We cannot accept that EU money is being used to build concrete walls around refugee camps.

“Instead we need to invest in a better future for these people. Putting walls around camps only leads to less integration into the local community, less scrutiny by NGOs and journalists and worse conditions in the camps. It’s actually very simple: being a refugee shouldn’t lead to incarceration.”

Yet, the plans are being executed with full support of IOM and the EU.

Salam Lab Poland, together with Polish MEP Janka Ochojska, Anna Alboth, Karol Grygoruk has started the petition: “Build Schools not Walls”.

For just 2500 euros (collected in Poland), Parwana Amiri opened the only school for children forced to live in the Ritsona camp. How many schools, how many children, could be taught for 28.4 million euros?

The walls will:

  • deepen divisions between people: it will make the interaction between refugees and the local community even more difficult, if not impossible.
  • make it even harder for journalists and NGO’s to monitor the situation in the camp
  • put the residents of the camps in danger in case of fire.

As EU citizens we cannot allow that innocent people are being locked behind the walls, in the middle of nowhere. Being a refugee is not a crime. Seeking asylum is a human right.

Democracy and freedom cannot be built with concrete walls.

Let’s tell the EU to #buildschoolsnotwalls, sign the petition and share! Thank you!

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