Big demonstrations welcomed around 500 refugee children to school in the port city of Piraeus, near Athens in Greece, last Tuesday.
Teachers, parents, anti-racists, trade unionists from the local councils and all the left wing parties came together. It was fantastic to see local trade unionists taking children’s hands and bringing them into school.
Because of campaigning, about 500 refugee children started school last October and hundreds more will follow over the coming weeks.
The government initially planned to set up schools inside the refugee camps.
But there was a great pressure from teachers and the anti-racist movement to bring the children into the schools.
In teachers’ union meetings socialists argued for this position and the anti-racist movement Keerfa has done a lot of campaigning round it. Many union branches ended up voting for this position.
The government is doing it very slowly, saying they don’t want problems with the tiny minority of racist parents who don’t want refugees.
But there’s a very strong mood to support refugees after the majority of people, including many union branches, spent months last year collecting for them.
In the Peristeri area of Athens the Tory mayor opposed letting refugees into the school. But 300 people from Keerfa and the left parties occupied the council building last week.
He changed his mind and now refugee children will start in Peristeri’s schools next week.
The fascist party Golden Dawn was the last straw for many people.
The ministry of education organised school meetings with parents and teachers in Piraeus last month about the arrival of refugee children. Police escorted a Golden Dawn MP into one of them, where he and his thugs attacked people—and were caught on video.
Piraeus is where three of Golden Dawn’s most notorious attacks took place in 2013, including the murder of musician Pavlos Fyssas. The trial of Golden Dawn is currently making sure everyone remembers this, so there is a really strong mood against them.
When Golden Dawn tried to stop refugee children getting into schools there was an explosion.
Everywhere people said that’s enough, bring the children, we have no problem with them.
The government still refuses to teach the refugee children alongside Greek children. They don’t start school until an hour after the Greek children leave. This is discrimination.
Teachers’ union branches are demanding that they start in the morning, with more staff and food for all the children—refugee and Greek.
There are also about 20,000 refugee children stuck in Greece.
Too many people are still living in winter conditions in tents and without cooking equipment. Five people died in the camps this week—including a two month old child who couldn’t get to a hospital.
A protest is planned outside the immigration ministry to demand that the camps are closed and the public buildings closed during the cuts are reopened for refugees.
We have to keep pressuring the government to give the schools more money, to let in all the refugee children and to close the cruel camps. But we have made a good start.