The EU and the Greek government opened a new centre in Zervou for the 500 asylum seekers who were transferred from the old Vathy camp.
Migrants have told Euronews conditions are better in the new facility but NGO Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said it was “nothing more than a prison for people whose only crime is seeking safety”.
“There is no doubt that this new centre will only further dehumanise and marginalise people seeking protection in the European Union,” MSF said in a statement.
Greek authorities have rejected this claim, adding that “the migrants’ stay at the centre is only meant to be temporary while asylum requests are being considered by the EU”.
Guylian Ngawuma is one of the refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo staying at the centre. The 29-year-old was granted asylum and will soon leave for France, but he says he will never forget having to live among rodents.
“I was in the old camp and it was very bad, very, very bad. Here the conditions are good. We have a place to sleep and, well, we don’t have mice, like we had in the old camp,” Ngawuma told Euronews.
A Kurdish family living in one of the containers has asked to be transferred to the mainland as soon as possible.
“The new camp is good, but we want an answer, a decision to our asylum case. I want my children to have a home. They deserve more. My daughter loves school and enjoys learning foreign languages. I want my son to have a future,” revealed Mohammed Mohammed, a Kurdish asylum seeker.
His daughter Raz Mohammed told Euronews that she wanted to stay in Greece, to learn and speak the language properly.
“It’s not easy but I’m trying. I want to say in this country, for this I’m sure.”
Greece has been criticised for the poor living conditions in camps on the Aegean islands, but Athens hopes the opening of this new centre will close that dark and unpleasant chapter.
“Everyone who has visited the old camp agrees that it was a shameful situation for Greece. It could accommodate 680 people and it reached more than 7,000. This shame is over,” Manos Logothetis, from the General Secretariat for Reception of Asylum Seekers, told Euronews.
The new modern structure can accommodate up to 3,000 people and is situated in a remote location, far from urban centres. However, a possible new wave of migrants from Afghanistan could cause complications and bring back memories from 2015.
Doctors Without Borders has asked the EU and Greece to 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.