Concrete walls and drones: Greek refugee camp plan condemned by refugees news

Athens, Greece – Parwana Amiri initially noticed the concrete wall she had built around a refugee camp in mainland Greece a few weeks ago in the morning.

The 16-year-old Afghan refugee told Al Jazeera: “It feels like they spread their wings when we sleep.”

“I think we can’t even see cars driving across the road, nor can we see the grass in nature. We will see the surrounding walls, which is a suffocating feeling.”

A three-meter (10-foot) gray wall is being built around the Ritsona refugee camp near Athens, and there are plans to build a separation wall around another 24 refugee camps in mainland Greece.

Amiri claimed that the authorities had told camp residents that the wall was to protect themselves.

She said: “They told us it was for your safety.” “They said it won’t change your life.”

Although it is guaranteed that daily life in refugee camps will not change, the tender document issued by the government shows that extensive measures have been taken to expand security measures in refugee camps in Greece.

Aerial patrol drones, magnetic shutters with integrated thermal imaging cameras, X-ray machines and security cameras at entrances and exits are just some of the tools planned.

According to the Ministry of Immigration, there is also a proposal to close the camp gate around 9pm to prevent people from leaving.

According to the phone, these surveillance systems will be installed in 39 refugee camps across the continent and the Greek Islands; the European Internal Security Fund will bear 75% of the cost.

The wall alone cost about 28.4 million euros ($34.8 million), mostly funded by the European Commission.

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

“On the contrary, we need to invest in a better future for these people. Walls around the camp will only lead to less integration with the local community, less censorship by NGOs and journalists, and worse camp conditions. It’s actually very simple: becoming a refugee is not Should lead to imprisonment.”

Camp gates in certain locations will be closed at night to prevent people from leaving [Alexandros Avramidis/Al Jazeera]

Some residents of the besieged refugee camps described a higher sense of imprisonment.

“I am a person and I don’t need a wall. They make me feel like a prisoner,” said 36-year-old Diar, who originally came from Iraq.

He has been living in the Diavata camp in Thessaloniki for three years.

“Some people are afraid [but] Some people say this is great because we will be protected. “

Like Ritsona, the walls around Diavata are almost finished.

Amiri worries that the wall will deepen the differences between refugees and locals.

“What I worry about is that I am a student and I go to school [outside the camp] What is the student’s opinion? What will they say to us? They will learn from their parents that Ritsona is a place surrounded by walls, it is a closed place, and we come from such a place. “

Petra Molnar, deputy director of the Canada-based Refugee Law Laboratory Think Tank, told Al Jazeera that the new security system is in line with “the danger of strengthening border industrial zones through intrusive surveillance technology and physical separation walls. trend”.

She is particularly worried about the planned use of drones.

She said: “Autonomous technologies such as drones have also created a panoramic view of surveillance, and more and more immigration management is turning to technical solutions instead of relying on humanized responses to understand the complexity of people’s migration process.”

The Ministry of Asylum and Immigration told Al Jazeera that the decision to “enclose the wall” has been approved by the European Commission, and the initial part of the project has been implemented by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

A spokesperson for the ministry said: “The main purpose of the fence project and the integrated digital electronic and physical security management system is to protect local communities and residents.”

“This is the necessary supervision of the structure, safety, prevention of violations, fires and other unforeseen factors. This is the greatest possible control over who enters and who leaves the structure. Greece initially installed barbed wire, but the residents of the building It has been repeatedly damaged and continues to destroy the barbed wire. This is why it was decided to upgrade the fence.”

The ministry added that everyone, including residents and NGO staff, must go through security checks at the camp’s entrance. They said that drones should only be used in the event of an “unforeseen event.”

Greece is home to thousands of refugees and immigrants [File: Giannis Papanikos/AP Photo]

The International Organization for Migration told Al Jazeera that under the decision of the Greek Ministry of Refugees, the construction of a separation wall around the camp is in support of the project.

“The reason surrounding the wall is also to increase the safety of residents by preventing unauthorized individuals from entering or occupying the space reserved for asylum seekers, while still retaining free activities for residents. The vast majority of open camps in Greece Always surrounded by walls/metal mesh or a combination of the two.”

The International Organization for Migration stated that it only participated in the “fence” project and did not participate in the use of any drone equipment.

With the approach of aerial patrol and surveillance by drones, people play volleyball outside the Diavata camp, which is now almost completely enclosed by a wall.

Diyar echoes life in many refugee camps across Greece.

He said: “I just want a home.”

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