Three Palestinians burned down a school for refugee children in Greece started by Jewish and Arab Israelis.
Greek authorities arrested three Palestinians for arson at a refugee camp, according to Greek news outlet Sto Nisis. They burned the One Happy Family (OHF) offices at the community center and the International School of Peace for refugee children on the Greek Island of Lesvos on March 7. The school was created through a joint effort by Israeli Jews and Arabs.
Nearly 22,000 refugees and migrants live in Lesvos’ refugee camps, though they are designed to house only three thousand people, according to News Observatory. The refugees stem from various Middle Eastern and African countries. The extreme overcrowding, caused by a deal between the European Union and Turkey that blocks refugees from continuing their journey to mainland Europe, has led to rising tempers and riots.
One of the Palestinians arrested for the arson attack has a Greek passport and lives in Mytilene, the capital of Lesvos. The other two Palestinians live in Athens and traveled to Mytilene, according to the News Observatory report. The group was arrested after local police viewed video footage taken from nearby businesses.
Following the arson attack, the school posted on its Facebook page that “tens of thousands of people” had passed through its gates. “The school belongs to all who decide to lift their heads up high, to cling to hope and act, the school belongs to us: students and teachers, people from Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, Israel, Iraq, Kurdistan, Congo, Somali, Ghana, and Angola who decide day by day to shatter the walls of fear between us, hold hands and work together for peace.”
Anat Sharon, a member of the school’s staff, blamed Turkey for the rise of tensions. She said, “Erdogan opens the borders to allow refugees to move into Greece, creating a boiling point that causes a lot of frustration for the local residents, and encourages far right groups to raise their heads, act violently and terrorize the police, the aid organizations and the refugees,” reported Haaretz.
Sharon’s team faced violence as well as threats even before the arson attack.
OHF officials said they would rebuild after the devastating fires. “
Our aim is to give a measure of dignity and self-determination back to the thousands of people who are stuck on Lesvos,” they stated, according to the Jewish Press. “In the center, there are many projects, which have been built upon the request and initiative of the refugees.”