'Bring an end to the inhuman disregard…'

The treatment of refugees violates Human Rights, dehumanizes refugees and endangers European values and security, argue a group of psychologists in an open letter.

This open letter is addressed to

Dr Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission and the heads of the governments of the EC states

Mr António Costa, President of the Council of the EU

David Maria Sassoli, President of the European Parliament

Mr Guy Parmelin, President of the Swiss Confederation

Mr Boris Johnson, Prime Minster of the United Kingdom

Re: Psychologists in Europe call for a revision of the European detention policy against refugees - psychological consequences are destructive for everyone

The burning of the refugee camp in Moria in October 2020 had drawn attention to the horrendous treatment that refugees are experiencing at the boundaries of Europe: Barred from crossing borders, the refugees are held in overcrowded camps under extremely poor conditions. In sharp contrast to the announcements of the European Community and leading European politicians, nothing has changed at the southern European borders. The relocation of refugees from the camps at the European south to other European countries remains far below the promised numbers – even though these numbers had been embarrassingly low from the beginning. In addition, the reports from Kara Tepe, from the new camp that replaced Moria, and other places describe the situation as worse than before. Politicians in Europe deny any responsibility and point their fingers at fellow politicians whom they say have to move first. Psychologists call such behaviour diffusion of responsibility or even moral disengagement.

The treatment of refugees as currently envisaged and implemented by the European Union and its politicians has negative psychological consequences for all. Subjected to trauma in their countries of origin and often the target of violence during flight, the experience of the refugees and their children is dramatically reinforced by the physical hardship and injustice in the European refugee camps. From a psychological perspective, the ongoing violation of their Human Rights has consequences for their physical and mental health. Depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress symptoms and increased suicidality that manifest now or occur over time have been flagged up by more than one study (1).

In addition, given the feelings of rejection and exclusion that characterise refugees' experiences in the camps, it is no wonder that refugees may become reluctant to identify with the culture that they seek to join (2). Psychological studies unequivocally show that feelings of social exclusion and alienation are among the major preconditions for political extremism and the emergence of terrorist violence (3).Thus, the current European policy, brutal in its rejection of refugees, facilitates political extremism and thereby endangers Europe itself and its inhabitants.

Finally, the current treatment of refugees reaching the borders of Europe is not without strong impact and consequence for European democracy and the values that underpin it. The public read about and see news stories that reveal the orchestrated political diffusion of responsibility - stories that undermine trust in national governments and the European Community. In addition, continuously witnessing the ongoing injustice and mistreatment of refugees diminishes trust in European values. Psychologically one can predict that, faced with the dissonance between their values and observations, the likelihood of the citizens of Europe blaming refugees for their fate and devaluing them rises (4). Put simply, the ongoing mistreatment of refugees can significantly undermine trust and belief in the workings and values of European democracy and lead to a further increase in racism and hate crimes.

From a psychological perspective, the current treatment of refugees reaching the European border has negative consequences for all: for refugees, for European security and the European democratic political system. We therefore strongly recommend that all people involved in the political process of decision making adopt a renewed perspective and act responsibly to bring an end to the inhuman disregard for the human rights that refugees experience.


(1) Amiri, S. (2020). Prevalence of suicide in immigrants/refugees: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Archives of Suicide Research, DOI 10.1080/13811118.2020.1802379
Barol, O., Grot, S. Oh, H. et al., (2020). Perceived ethnic discrimination as a risk factor for psychotic symptoms: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Psychological Medicine, 50 (7), 1077-1089.
Blackmore, R., Gray, K., Boyle, J.A., et al. (2020). Systematic review and meta-analysis: The prevalence of mental illness in child and adolescent refugees and asylum seekers. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Vol 59(6), 705-714.
Ziersch, A. (2018). A mixed methods systematic review of studies examining the relationship between housing and health for people from refugee and asylum seeking backgrounds. Social Science & Medicine, 213, 199-219.
(2) Gerber, J., & Wheeler, L. (2009). On being rejected: A meta-analysis of experimental research on rejection. Perspective on Psychological Science, 45, 468-488.
(3) Doosje, B., Moghaddam, F.M., Kruglanski, A.W., de Wolf, A., Mann, L., & Feddes, A.R. (2016). Terrorism, radicalization and de-radicalization. Science Direct, 11, 79‒84. doi: 10.1016/j.copsyc.2016.06.008
Pfundmair, M., Aydin, N., & Frey, D. (2017). Whatever? The effect of social exclusion on adopting persuasive messages. The Journal of Social Psychology, 157, 181-193.
Wagner, U. & Lemmer, G. (2019). Extremistische Gewalt. Praxis der Rechtspsychologie, 29, 5-22.
(4) Lerner, M. (1989). The belief in a just world. New York: Springer.

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1. Prof. em. Dr Ulrich Wagner, Marburg, Germany, Social Psychologist, [email protected] , Phone: Germany 0171 380 8830
2. Dr Derek Indoe, Bath, England, Consultant Clinical and Forensic Psychologist BABCP Accredited Cognitive Behavioural Therapist and European Accredited EMDR Consultant
3. Prof. Dr Hanna Christiansen, Marburg, Germany, Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychologist
4. Prof.em.Dr. Jorge Vala, Lisboa, Portugal, Social Psychologist
5. Assistant Prof. Dr Marlena Plavšić, Pula, Croatia, Psychologist
6. Prof. Dr Teresa Garcia-Marques, Lisboa, Portugal, Social Psychologist
7. Prof. Dr. Klaus Boehnke, Bremen, Germany, Social Science Methodology
8. Prof. Dr. Maarten van Zalk, Osnabrück University, Germany, Developmental Psychologist
9. Prof. Dr. Eva Walther, Trier, Germany, Social Psychologist
10. Prof. Dr. Julia Becker, Osnabrueck, Germany, Social Psychologist
11. Prof. Dr. Andreas Zick, Director of the Institute for Interdisciplinary Research on Conflict and Violence at Bielefeld University
12. Maria-Therese Friehs, M. Sc., Landau, Germany, Social, Educational and Developmental Psychologist
13. Prof. Dr. Kai Sassenberg, Tübingen, Germany, Social Psychologist
14. Prof. Dr. Mathias Kauff, Hamburg, Germany, Social psychologist
15. Dr. Helen Landmann, Berlin, Germany, Community Psychologist
16. Prof. Dr. Christopher Cohrs, Marburg, Germany, Social Psychologist
17. Prof. Dr. Juliane Degner, Hamburg, Germany, Social Psychologist
18. Prof. em. Håkan Stattin, Uppsala, Sweden, Psychology
19. Drs. Polli Hagenaars, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Private practice, licensed health psychologist
20. Prof.Dr. Rolf van Dick, Frankfurt, Germany, Social Psychologist
21. Associate professor Dr. Anna Kende, Budapest, Hungary, Social Psychologist
22. Prof. Dr. Gerhard Reese, Landau/Berlin, Germany, Environmental and Social Psychologist
23. Dr. Judith Lanphen, Mönchengladbach, Germany, School Psychologist
24. Dr. Luca Caricati, Social Psychologists, Parma, Italy
25. Dr. Michał Bilewicz, Warsaw, Poland, Social Psychologist
26. Adrian Rothers (MSc / PhD candidate), Marburg, Germany, Social Psychology
27. Prof. dr. Susan Branje, Utrecht, The Netherlands, Developmental Psychology/Educational Science
28. Dr. Patrick Kotzur, Durham, UK, Social Psychologist
29. Pr. Vincent Yzerbyt, Brussels, Belgium, Social Psychologist
30. Dr. Mathias Schmitz, Leuven, Beligum, Social Psychologist
31. Carmen Lienen, Frankfurt, Germany, Social Psychologist
32. Prof. Dr. Frank Asbrock, Chemnitz, Germany, Social Psychologist
33. Dr. Franziska Ehrke, Landau, Germany, Social Psychologist
34. M.Sc. Zahra Khosrowtaj, Marburg, Germany, Psychologist
35. Dr. Nadine Knab, Tel Aviv, Israel, Social Psychologist 
36. Prof. em. Gert Sommer, Marburg, Germany, Clinical Psychologist
37. Prof. i.R. Dr. Karin Schermelleh-Engel, Frankfurt, Germany, Quantitative Psychologist
38. Dr. Klaus Harnack Münster, Germany, I&O-Psychologist
39. Rupert Brown, Brighton, UK, Emeritus Professor of Social Psychology
40. Prof. Dr. Markus Hausmann, Durham, UK, Psychologist
41. Prof. Dr. Sarah Teige-Mocigemba, Marburg, Germany, Psychological Diagnostics
42. Dr. Rita R. Silva, Lisbon, Portugal, Social Psychologist
43. Prof. Melanie Steffens, Landau, Germany, Social Psychologist
44. MSc, Inga Lisa Pauls, Marburg, Germany, Social Psychologist
45. Prof. em. Dr. Ewa Drozda-Senkowska, Paris, France, Social Psychologist
46. Dr Jens H. Hellmann, Münster, Germany, Social Psychologist
47. Dr. Silvana Weber, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany, Social Psychology
48. Elena Ball, PhD student, Landau, Germany, Social Psychology
49. Juma Kalyegira, Bremen, Germany, Clinical Psychologist
50. Dr. Mariana Miranda, Lisbon, Portugal, Social Psychologist
51. Stefanie Richters, Osnabrück, Germany, Social Psychologist
52. Dr. Maja Kutlaca, Durham, UK, Social Psychologist
53. Dr. Ulrich Klocke, Berlin, Germany, Social Psychologist.
54. Dr. Sarina Schäfer, Hagen, Germany, Social Psychologist
55. Prof. Dr. David D. Loschelder, Lüneburg, Germany, Social Psychologist
56. Prof. Dr. Michaela Pfundmair, Berlin, Germany, Psychologist of Intelligence and Security Studies
57. Dr. Ralf Wölfer, Oxford, UK & Berlin, Germany, Social Psychology
58. M. Sc. Paul Bacher, Marburg, Germany, Social Psychologist
59. M.Sc. Katja Wehrle, Giessen, Germany, Work and Organizational Psychologist
60. Dr. Jost Stellmacher, Marburg, Germany, Pedagogical and Social Psychologist
61. Dr. Gunnar Lemmer, Marburg, Germany, Social Psychologist and Statistician 
62. Prof. Dr. Oliver Christ, Osnabrück, Germany, Social Psychologist
63. Prof. Dr Juan M. Falomir-Pichastor, Geneva, Switzerland, Social Psychologist"
64. M. Sc. Christine Ebbeler, Cologne, Germany, Social Psychologist
65. Dr. Lea Hartwich, Osnabrück, Germany, Social Psychologist
66. MSc Larissa Knöchelmann, Marburg, Germany, Social Psychologist
67. Prof. Dr Eva G.T. Green, Lausanne, Switzerland, Social psychologist
68. Nils Tobias Henschel, Bremen, Germany, Social Psychologist
69. Dr. Emanuele Politi. Leuven, Belgium. Social psychologist 
70. Karel Héritier, Lausanne, Switzerland, Social Psychologist
71. PD Dr. Daniela Niesta Kayser, Potsdam, Germany, Social Psychologist
72. Orgun Oezcan, Cologne, Germany, Social Psychologist
73. Dr Masi Noor, Keele, UK, Social Psychologist
74. Prof. Dr. Erik M. Müller, Marburg, Germany, Differential Psychology
75. Prof. Dr. Tobias Banaschweski, Mannheim, Germany, child and adolescent psychiatrist
76. Prof. Dr. Barbara van den Hoofdakker, Groningen, The Netherlands, clinical psychologist
77. Prof. Dr. Jan Buitelaar, Nijmegen, The Netherlands, child and adolescent psychiatrist
78. Prof. Dr. Rita Rosner, Eichstätt-Ingolstadt, Germany, clinical psychologist
79. Dr. Heidi Aase, Director Norwegian Institute of Public Health, psychologist
80. Prof. Dr. Marjolein Luman, Amsterdam, psychologist, clinical neuropsychology
81. Prof. Dr. Alessandro Zuddas, Cagliari, child and adolescent psychologist
82. Prof. Dr. Søren Dalsgaard, Aarhus, Denmark, Psychiatric epidemiology, Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist
83. PD Dr. Björn Albrecht, Marburg, Germany, Psychologist
84. Prof. Dr. Ursula Pauli-Pott, Marburg, Germany, child and adolescent psychologist
85. Prof. Dr. Louise Poustka, Göttingen, Germany, child and adolescent psychiatrist
86. Prof. Dr. David Daley, University of Nottingham, UK, psychologist
87. PD Dr. Sarah Hohmann, Mannheim, Germany, child and adolescent psychiatrist
88. Dr. Maite Ferrin, University of Southamptom, UK, child and adolescent psychiatrist
89. Dr. Mira-Lynn Chavanon, Marburg, Germany, clinical child and adolescent psychologist
90. Prof. Dr. Daniel Brandeis, Mannheim, Germany, psychologist
91. Prof. Dr. Therese van Amelsvoort, Maastricht University, The Netherlands, psychiatrist
92. Prof. Dr. Philip Asherson, London, UK, psychologist
93. Prof. Dr. Sarah Curran, London, UK, child and adolescent psychiatrist
94. Prof. Dr. Chris Hollis, Nottingham, UK, child and adolescent psychiatrist
95. Prof. Dr. Catharina Hartmann, Groningen, The Netherlands, psychologist
96. Prof. Dr. Daniel Heck, Marburg, Germany, psychologist
97. Prof. Dr. Emily Simonoff, London, UK, child and adolescent psychiatrist
98. Prof. Dr. Corinna Reck, München, Germany, clinical child and adolescent psychologist
99. Prof. Dr. Ana Miranda, Valencia, Spain, psychologist
100. Dr. Kristin Gilbert, Marburg, Germany, clinical psychologist
101. Prof. Dr. Christina Schwenck, Gießen, Germany, clinical child and adolescent psychologist
102. Prof. Dr. Alexandra Philipsen, Bonn, Germany, psychiatrist
103. Prof. Dr. Giovanni de Girolamo, Brescia, Italy, psychiatrist
104. Prof. Dr. Ulrike Lüken, Berlin, Germany, clinical psychologist
105. Prof. Dr. Jürgen Margraf, Bochum, Germany, clinical psychologist
106. Prof. Dr. Barbara Franke, Nijmegen, The Netherlands, psychiatry
107. Prof. Dr. Roeljan Wiersema, Ghent, Belgium, psychologist
108. Dr. Cornelia Soff, Marburg, Germany, clinical child and adolescent psychologist
109. Prof. Dr. Herbert Roeyers, Ghent, Belgium, clinical psychologist
110. Prof. Dr. Anselm B. Fuermeier, Groningen University, The Netherlands, psychologist
111. Prof. Simona Giordano, Manchester, UK, Professor of Bioethics
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113. Dr. Alexander Häge, Mannheim, Germany, child and adolescent psychiatrist
114. Prof. Dr. Martin Hotlmann, Bochum, child and adolescent psychiatrist
115. Dr. Jakob Fink-Lamotte, Leipzig, Deutschland, Klinische Psychologie und Psychotherapie
116. Dr. Julie, Van de Vyver, Durham, UK, social psychology
117. Alejandro Arias Vásquez, PhD, Radboud university medical centre, The Netherlands, Psychatrist
118. Dr. Kate Langley, Cardiff, UK, Psychologist


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