Question: Construction of walls around Greek refugee camps

The Greek government is building more and more walls around the mass camps. This separates the refugees from the local population and the camps look more and more like prisons. That is why I together with other Members, asked the Commissionwhat its position is on the construction and whether it will be supported by EU funds. The Commission replies insisted that it supported the construction because it would improve the safety of residents and employees. The commission also recommended a „mixed solution“ of concrete walls and wire mesh fences. After many visits to different camps, I am not convinced by this rationale because most refugees feel confined by the walls and not better protected. Moreover, Greek government officials also openly say that the walls serve to separate the refugees from the population.

My request

Subject: Construction of walls around Greek refugee camps

When the residents of the Ritsona refugee camp in Greece woke up on 4 May 2021, they found that a three-metre-high concrete wall of the type used by the military had been built around their accommodation. This is to separate the 3,000 refugees there from the local population, although the camp is far from Greek towns. According to an advertisement on the Greek website the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), 7 000 refugees in three other camps will be treated in the same way. The wall is being built with funds from the Commission's programme to 'assist the Greek authorities in the management of the national system for the reception of asylum-seekers and migrants in need of protection'. The aim of this programme is actually to promote educational measures and contacts with the locals as part of the integration process. Walls achieve exactly the opposite, as bricklayers serve to separate. They turn the refugee camps into de facto prisons, and the refugees' mental health deteriorates considerably as a result. Against this background, the Commission is asked to answer the following questions:

Is the Commission aware of these developments? If so, does it support the construction of concrete walls to enclose Greek refugee camps? Is this construction work in line with the EU's values and objectives and the above programme?

What amount of EU funding is being made available for the construction of concrete walls in Ritsona and other Greek refugee camps?

Answer given by Ylva Johansson on behalf of the European Commission on 06/07/2021

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) is implementing the EU-funded emergency project "Support to the Greek authorities in the management of the national system for the reception of asylum seekers and migrants in need of protection", which covers, inter alia, the establishment and operational needs of reception centres in mainland Greece. The project includes the construction or maintenance of fences at the Diavata, Ritsona, Malakasa and Nea Kavala sites, as required by the Greek authorities, aimed at improving the safety of residents and staff.

The Commission and the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) were consulted on the technical specifications before the fences were built. The fencing must take into account a number of parameters, in particular fire protection, natural light, non-obstruction of visibility and sufficient distance from the accommodation units. A mixed solution will be implemented, alternating concrete and wire mesh fencing.

The amount contracted for the implementation of the overall project is around EUR 180 million for the period from 1 January 2020 to 30 June 2021, of which around EUR 9 million is for works at the centres (including cleaning, maintenance, repairs and fencing).