Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has spoken out against a new center for asylum seekers that was opened by the EU and the Greek government on September 18 on the Greek island of Samos, saying that it is "like a prison".
A new center for asylum seekers, which was opened by the EU and the Greek government on September 18 on the Greek island of Samos, has been compared with a prison by Doctors Without Borders (MSF).
The new center is located in a remote location called Zervou and there "is no doubt that this new center will only further dehumanize and marginalize people seeking protection in the European Union," MSF said in a statement on the eve of the opening.
The center will host the approximately 500 inhabitants of the Vathy camp.
Patrick Wieland, MSF Field Coordinator on Samos, commented by saying that: "How audacious that while we see what's happening in countries like Afghanistan, the EU and Greece are busy inaugurating a new prison for asylum seekers on the island of Samos? Maybe the barbed wire is shiny and new in their centre but this cannot be sold as an improvement. This is the perfect illustration of how criminal the EU policy on migration is -- holding and detaining people who are escaping violence and punishing them for wanting to be safe. It is a disgrace."
MSF patient said he 'was a refugee, now I am going to be a prisoner'
A 19 year-old MSF patient from Mali, who had been stuck on Samos for two years already, was forced to leave home a few years ago because he was being tortured.
"He began his journey to Europe with hope for a better life and for safety," an MSF statement said. "But now he is experiencing extreme frustration and doubts his very existence. His concerns about the new center have already provoked a series of psycho-emotional reactions."
"When we ask him what he would like to have, his answer is, 'My freedom. Until now I was a refugee, now I am going to be a prisoner too', " MSF said.
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'Europe is breaking' asylum seekers
The NGO underscored that: "Millions of euros have been spent on the construction of this facility that comes with military-grade barbed wire fences and advanced surveillance systems. All of this to detain people whose only 'crime' is seeking safety and stability."
"For months now, the patients in our Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) clinic on Samos come to their appointments with the fear of being locked-up in the new centre, feeling completely abandoned and helpless. For those who have survived torture, the new, highly controlled centre will mean not only the loss of freedom but also re-living past traumatic experiences," the statement added.
"The majority of our mental health patients on Samos present symptoms of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Between April and August 2021, a shocking 64% of new patients that reached our mental health clinic presented thoughts of suicide, and 14% were at an actual risk of suicide," the MSF statement noted.
"The opening of the new prison camp is changing the collective identity of the refugees, their self-esteem and image: their dignity. Europe is breaking them," wrote Eva Papaioannou, MSF psychologist on Samos.
The organization has asked the EU and Greece to "first ensure dignified alternatives to camps, allow access to a fair and dignified asylum procedure, and ensure adequate and tailored healthcare adapted to the needs of people fleeing violence, conflict and trauma."