Although migrants constitute an important proportion of the European population, little is known about migrant sexual health. Existing research mainly focuses on migrants’ sexual health risks and accessibility issues while recommendations on adequate sexual health promotion are rarely provided. Hence, this paper explores how refugees, asylum seekers and undocumented migrants in Belgium and the Netherlands define sexual health, search for sexual health information and perceive sexual health determinants.
Applying Community-based Participatory Research as the overarching research approach, we conducted 223 in-depth interviews with refugees, asylum seekers and undocumented migrants in Belgium and the Netherlands. The Framework Analysis Technique was used to analyse qualitative data. We checked the extensiveness of the qualitative data and analysed the quantitative socio-demographic data with SPSS.
Our results indicate that gender and age do not appear to be decisive determinants. However, incorporated cultural norms and education attainment are important to consider in desirable sexual health promotion in refugees, asylum seekers and undocumented migrants in Belgium and the Netherlands. Furthermore, our results demonstrate that these migrants have a predominant internal health locus of control. Yet, most of them feel that this personal attitude is hugely challenged by the Belgian and Dutch asylum system and migration laws which force them into a structural dependent situation inducing sexual ill-health.
Refugees, asylum seekers and undocumented migrants in Belgium and the Netherlands are at risk of sexual ill-health. Incorporated cultural norms and attained education are important determinants to address in desirable sexual health promotion. Yet, as their legal status demonstrates to be the key determinant, the prime concern is to alter organizational and societal factors linked to the Belgian and Dutch asylum system. Refugees, asylum seekers and undocumented migrants in Belgium and the Netherlands should be granted the same opportunity as Belgian and Dutch citizens have, to become equally in control of their sexual health and sexuality.
Sexual health; Sexuality; Health determinants; Migrants; Refugees; Asylum seekers; Undocumented; Health locus of control; Community-based participatory research
Somatisation is particularly challenging in multicultural contexts where patients and physicians often differ in terms of their illness-related beliefs and practices and health care expectations. This paper reports on a exploratory study aimed at better understanding how asylum seeker and refugee patients from the former country of Yugoslavia who were identified by their physicians as somatising make sense of their suffering.
We conducted semi-structured interviews with 26 asylum seeker and refugee patients from the former country of Yugoslavia who attended the general medicine outpatient clinic of a Swiss teaching Hospital and were identified as presenting with somatisation. Interviews explored patients' illness perspectives and health care expectations. Interviews were audio taped, transcribed verbatim and analyzed to identify key themes in patients' narratives.
Patients attributed the onset of symptoms to past traumatic experiences and tended to attribute their persistence to current living conditions and uncertain legal status. Patients formulated their suffering in both medical and social/legal terms, and sought help from physicians for both types of problems.
Awareness of how asylum seeker and refugee patients make sense of their suffering can help physicians to better understand patients' expectations of the clinical encounter, and the particular nature and constraints of the patient-provider relationship in the context of asylum.
There has been much debate regarding the refugee health situation in the UK. However most of the existing literature fails to take account of the opinions of refugees themselves. This study was established to determine the views of asylum seekers and refugees on their overall experiences in primary care and to suggest improvements to their care.
Qualitative study of adult asylum seekers and refugees who had entered the UK in the last 10 years. The study was set in Barnet Refugee Walk in Service, London. 11 Semi structured interviews were conducted and analysed using framework analysis.
Access to GPs may be more difficult for failed asylum seekers and those without support from refugee agencies or family. There may be concerns amongst some in the refugee community regarding the access to and confidentiality of professional interpreters. Most participants stated their preference for GPs who offered advice rather than prescriptions. The stigma associated with refugee status in the UK may have led to some refugees altering their help seeking behaviour.
The problem of poor access for those with inadequate support may be improved by better education and support for GPs in how to provide for refugees. Primary Care Trusts could also supply information to newly arrived refugees on how to access services. GPs should be aware that, in some situations, professional interpreters may not always be desired and that instead, it may be advisable to reach a consensus as to who should be used as an interpreter. A better doctor-patient experience resulting from improvements in access and communication may help to reduce the stigma associated with refugee status and lead to more appropriate help seeking behaviour. Given the small nature of our investigation, larger studies need to be conducted to confirm and to quantify these results.
Dealing with pregnancy, childbirth and the care of newborn babies is a challenge for female asylum seekers and their health care providers. The aim of our study was to identify reproductive health issues in a population of women seeking asylum in Switzerland, and to examine the care they received. The women were insured through a special Health Maintenance Organisation (HMO) and were attending the Women's Clinic of the University Hospital in Basel. We also investigated how the health professionals involved perceived the experience of providing health care for these patients.
A mixed methods approach combined the analysis of quantitative descriptive data and qualitative data obtained from semi-structured interviews with health care providers and from patients' files. We analysed the records of 80 asylum-seeking patients attending the Women's Clinic insured through an HMO. We conducted semi-structured interviews with 10 care providers from different professional groups. Quantitative data were analysed descriptively. Qualitative data analysis was guided by Grounded Theory.
The principal health problems among the asylum seekers were a high rate of induced abortions (2.5 times higher than in the local population), due to inadequate contraception, and psychosocial stress due to the experience of forced migration and their current difficult life situation. The language barriers were identified as a major difficulty for health professionals in providing care. Health care providers also faced major emotional challenges when taking care of asylum seekers. Additional problems for physicians were that they were often required to act in an official capacity on behalf of the authorities in charge of the asylum process, and they also had to make decisions about controlling expenditure to fulfil the requirements of the HMO. They felt that these decisions sometimes conflicted with their duty towards the patient.
Health policies for asylum seekers need to be designed to assure access to adequate contraception, and to provide psychological care for this vulnerable group of patients. Care for asylum seekers may be emotionally very challenging for health professionals.
Human rights violations have adverse consequences for health. However, to date, there remains little empirical evidence documenting this association, beyond the obvious physical and psychological effects of torture. The primary aim of this study was to investigate whether Australian asylum policies and practices, which arguably violate human rights, are associated with adverse health outcomes.
We designed a mixed methods study to address the study aim. A cross-sectional survey was conducted with 71 Iraqi Temporary Protection Visa (TPV) refugees and 60 Iraqi Permanent Humanitarian Visa (PHV) refugees, residing in Melbourne, Australia. Prior to a recent policy amendment, TPV refugees were only given temporary residency status and had restricted access to a range of government funded benefits and services that permanent refugees are automatically entitled to. The quantitative results were triangulated with semi-structured interviews with TPV refugees and service providers. The main outcome measures were self-reported physical and psychological health. Standardised self-report instruments, validated in an Arabic population, were used to measure health and wellbeing outcomes.
Forty-six percent of TPV refugees compared with 25% of PHV refugees reported symptoms consistent with a diagnosis of clinical depression (p = 0.003). After controlling for the effects of age, gender and marital status, TPV status made a statistically significant contribution to psychological distress (B = 0.5, 95% CI 0.3 to 0.71, p ≤ 0.001) amongst Iraqi refugees. Qualitative data revealed that TPV refugees generally felt socially isolated and lacking in control over their life circumstances, because of their experiences in detention and on a temporary visa. This sense of powerlessness and, for some, an implicit awareness they were being denied basic human rights, culminated in a strong sense of injustice.
Government asylum policies and practices violating human rights norms are associated with demonstrable psychological health impacts. This link between policy, rights violations and health outcomes offers a framework for addressing the impact of socio-political structures on health.
In a human rights based approach, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has recently released a resolution about migrants and refugees and the fight against HIV . It states that “an HIV positive migrant should never be expelled when it is clear that he will not receive adequate health care and assistance in the country to which he is being sent back. To do otherwise would amount to a death sentence for that person.” Nevertheless, in Belgium, for the last 2 years, none of the HIV-infected migrants in care in the AIDS Reference Centers (ARC) received the right to stay in Belgium for medical reasons.
We identified all HIV-infected asylum seekers in care between 1 July 2012 and 1 July 2014 in the ARC of Charleroi, Belgium, and we analyzed their medical and social files.
Among the 302 patients in active follow up in our ARC, 45 HIV positive asylum seekers were in care during the last 2 years. Male/female ratio was 0/96. Mean age was 35 years. Countries of origin and reasons for migration are detailed in the Table 1. 18% (8/45) knew their seropositivity before arriving in Europe. All the patients introduced an asylum request, 29 (64%) have received a negative answer and an order to leave the territory, 4 (9%) were regularized for non-medical reasons (see Table 1), 4 (9%) are waiting for an answer and for 8 (18%) outcome is unknown due to lost follow up (LFU). 31 (69%) patients have also introduced a request to stay for medical reasons: 18 (58%) have received a refusal, 7 (23%) are still waiting for an answer, and 6 (19%) are LFU. Only 23 (51%) patients are still in care in our ARC on 1 July 2014 (see Table 1). The immigration office bases its decisions on availability of the treatment in the country even if accessible only to a limited number of patients.
Decisions taken by the Belgian authorities for the last two years concerning HIV-infected asylum seekers do not guarantee the continuity of care of those patients and push them towards illegality. Such decisions ignore the international commitments of Belgium in the fight against HIV  and are contradictory with the recommendations of the recent resolution of the Council of Europe . An approach more respectful of Human Rights in the decisions concerning the seropositive asylum seekers patients taken by the authorities is urgently needed in Belgium. We invite our European colleagues to describe the situation of the HIV asylum seekers in their countries.
The article explores some of the issues surrounding access to mental health care for asylum seekers, using Belgium as a case in point. Asylum and immigration issues have become increasingly pressing in Europe, with member states seeking a common European Asylum System and establishing minimum standards for the reception of asylum seekers. The EU measures have fallen short of providing and implementing clear guidelines. Significant discrepancies continue to exist between member states, notably policies on health care for refugees, and in particular mental healthcare. Access to mental health care is identified as crucial, yet for many the right to access is theoretical only, and in reality care is often inaccessible. Access should refer not only to the availability, but also the quality and efficacy of care. Refugees are a particularly vulnerable population, and access in the fullest sense of the term should be an essential element in the reception of asylum seekers.
Asylum seeker; refugee; mental health; reception conditions
Refugee and asylum-seeking women in Canada may have significant harmful childbearing health outcomes and unmet health and social care needs. The most vulnerable of these women are: those who have left their countries by force (e.g., war, rape or abuse histories), are separated from their families, have limited knowledge of the host country languages, and are visible minorities. Asylum-seekers face additional stresses related to their unknown future status and are marginalized with regards to access to provincial health care systems. The prevalence and severity of health issues in this population is not known nor is the extent of response from social service and health care systems (including variation in provincial service delivery). Understanding the magnitude of health and social concerns of newcomers requires data from a representative sample of childbearing refugee and asylum-seeking women resettling in Canada to permit comparisons to be made with non-refugee immigrant and Canadian-born women. Our research questions are: (1) Do refugee or asylum-seeking women and their infants, experience a greater number or a different distribution of harmful health events during pregnancy, at birth, and during the postpartum period than non-refugee immigrant or Canadian-born women? (2) Are the harmful health events experienced postpartum by asylum-seeking women and their infants, addressed less often (compared to refugees, non-refugee immigrants, and Canadian-born women) by the Canadian health care system as delivered in each of the three major receiving cities for newcomers?
This is a four-year multi-site prospective cohort study (pregnancy to 4 months postpartum). We will seek to recruit 2400 women [200 in each of 4 groups (refugees, asylum-seekers, non-refugee immigrants, and Canadian-born) from 1 of 12 postpartum hospital units across the 3 largest receiving cities for newcomers to Canada – Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver].
Knowledge of the extent of harmful health events occurring to asylum-seeking, refugee, immigrant, and Canadian-born women, and the response of the health care system to those events and group differences, if they exist, will inform immigration and health policy makers as well as providers of services.
Adult refugees and asylum seekers living in Western countries experience a high prevalence of mental health problems, especially post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety. This study compares and contrasts the prevalence of health problems, and potential risk factors as well as the utilisation of health services by asylum seekers and refugees in the Irish context.
Cross sectional study using validated self reported health status questionnaires of adult asylum seekers (n = 60) and refugees (n = 28) from 30 countries, living in Ireland. Outcome measures included: general health status (SF-36), presence of PTSD symptoms and anxiety/depression symptoms. Data on chronic conditions and pre or post migration stressors are also reported. The two groups are compared for utilisation of the health care system and the use of over the counter medications.
Asylum seekers were significantly more likely than refugees to report symptoms of PTSD (OR 6.3, 95% CI: 2.2–17.9) and depression/anxiety (OR 5.8, 95% CI: 2.2–15.4), while no significant difference was found in self-reported general health. When adjusted by multivariable regression, the presence of more than one chronic disease (OR 4.0, 95%CI: 1.3–12.7; OR 3.4, 95% CI: 1.2–10.1), high levels of pre migration stressors (OR 3.6, 95% CI: 1.1–11.9; OR 3.3, 95% CI: 1.0–10.4) or post migration stressors (OR 17.3, 95% CI: 4.9–60.8; OR 3.9, 95% CI: 1.2–12.3) were independent predictors of self reported PTSD or depression/anxiety symptoms respectively, however, residence status was no longer significantly associated with PTSD or depression/anxiety. Residence status may act as a marker for other explanatory variables; our results show it has a strong relationship with post migration stressors (χ2 = 19.74, df = 1, P < 0.001).
In terms of health care utilisation, asylum seekers use GP services more often than refugees, while no significant difference was found between these groups for use of dentists, medication, hospitalisation or mental health services.
Asylum seekers have a higher level of self reported PTSD and depression/anxiety symptoms compared to refugees. However, residence status appears to act as a marker for post migration stressors. Compared to refugees, asylum seekers utilise GP services more often, but not mental health services.
The provision of healthcare for asylum seekers is a global issue. Providing appropriate and culturally sensitive services requires us to understand the barriers facing asylum seekers and the facilitators that help them access health care. Here, we report on two linked studies exploring these issues, along with the health care needs and beliefs of asylum seekers living in the UK.
Two qualitative methods were employed: focus groups facilitated by members of the asylum seeking community and interviews, either one-to-one or in a group, conducted through an interpreter. Analysis was facilitated using the Framework method.
Most asylum seekers were registered with a GP, facilitated for some by an Asylum Support nurse. Many experienced difficulty getting timely appointments with their doctor, especially for self-limiting symptoms that they felt could become more serious, especially in children. Most were positive about the health care they received, although some commented on the lack of continuity. However, there was surprise and disappointment at the length of waiting times both for hospital appointments and when attending accident and emergency departments. Most had attended a dentist, but usually only when there was a clinical need. The provision of interpreters in primary care was generally good, although there was a tension between interpreters translating verbatim and acting as patient advocates. Access to interpreters in other settings, e.g. in-patient hospital stays, was problematic. Barriers included the cost of over-the-counter medication, e.g. children's paracetamol; knowledge of out-of-hours medical care; and access to specialists in secondary care. Most respondents came from countries with no system of primary medical care, which impacted on their expectations of the UK system.
Most asylum seekers were positive about their experiences of health care. However, we have identified issues regarding their understanding of how the UK system works, in particular the role of general practitioners and referral to hospital specialists. The provision of an Asylum Support nurse was clearly a facilitator to accessing primary medical care. Initiatives to increase their awareness and understanding of the UK system would be beneficial. Interpreting services also need to be developed, in particular their role in secondary care and the development of the role of interpreter as patient advocate.
Procedures for determining refugee status across Europe are being speeded up, despite the high prevalence of mental health difficulties among asylum seekers. An assurance given is that ‘‘vulnerable applicants’’ will be identified and excluded from accelerated procedures. Although experts have recommended assessments to be undertaken by experienced clinicians, this is unlikely to happen for political and financial reasons. Understanding how non-clinically qualified personnel perform assessments of mental health issues is timely and crucial. Misrecognition of refugees due to the inappropriate use of accelerated procedures involves the risk of returning the very people who have the right to protection from further persecution.
To examine the decision making of immigration lawyers, who are an example of a group of nonclinicians who decide when and whether to refer asylum-seekers for psychiatric assessment.
Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 12 legal representatives working with people seeking refugee or human rights protection in the United Kingdom. The resultant material was analysed using Framework Analysis.
Themes clustered around the legal case, the client, the representative and the systems, all with sub-themes. A mapping exercise integrated these themes to show how representatives brought together questions of (1) evidential reasons for a report, influenced by their legal, psychological and case law knowledge, and (2) perceived evidence of mental distress, influenced by professional and personal experiences and expectations.
The legal representatives interviewed were well-informed and trained in psychological issues as well as clearly dedicated to their clients. This helped them to attempt quasi-diagnoses of common mental health problems. They nonetheless demonstrated stereotypical understanding of post-traumatic stress disorder and other possible diagnoses and the role of subjectivity. The study has implications for other groups – particularly those less trained and compassionate – who are required to make clinical judgments without the necessary expertise.
Refugees; asylum; decision-making; psychological assessment; vulnerability assessment
The UK government has recently consulted on proposals to prohibit access to health care for some asylum seekers. This discussion paper considers the wider ethical, moral, and political issues that may arise from this policy. In particular, it explores the relationship between immigration and health and examines the impact of forced migration on health inequalities. It will be argued that it is both unethical and iniquitous to use health policy as a means of enforcing immigration policy. Instead, the founding principle of the NHS of equal access on the basis of need should be borne in mind when considering how to meet the needs of this population.
emigration and immigration; medical ethics; primary health care; refugees
Refugees and asylum seekers experience language barriers in general practice. Qualitative studies have found that responses to language barriers in general practice are ad hoc with use of both professional interpreters and informal interpreters (patients' relatives or friends). However, the scale of the issues involved is unknown. This study quantifies the need for language assistance in general practice consultations and examines the experience of, and satisfaction with, methods of language assistance utilized.
Data were collected by telephone survey with general practitioners in a regional health authority in Ireland between July-August 2004. Each respondent was asked a series of questions about consulting with refugees and asylum seekers, the need for language assistance and the kind of language assistance used.
There was a 70% (n = 56/80) response rate to the telephone survey. The majority of respondents (77%) said that they had experienced consultations with refugees and asylum seekers in which language assistance was required. Despite this, general practitioners in the majority of cases managed without an interpreter or used informal methods of interpretation. In fact, when given a choice general practitioners would more often choose informal over professional methods of interpretation despite the fact that confidentiality was a significant concern.
The need for language assistance in consultations with refugees and asylum seekers in Irish general practice is high. General practitioners rely on informal responses. It is necessary to improve knowledge about the organisational contexts that shape general practitioners responses. We also recommend dialogue between general practitioners, patients and interpreters about the relative merits of informal and professional methods of interpretation so that general practitioners' choices are responsive to the needs of patients with limited English.
The length of stay in asylum centres is generally mentioned as a possible health risk to asylum seekers. Medical staff working with asylum seekers has claimed that long lengths of stay in asylum centres might cause or aggravate mental disorders. We used records from a large, multiethnic group of asylum seekers to study if the incidence of mental disorders increased with length of stay.
The study population was asylum seekers in Danish asylum centres run by the Danish Red Cross. General medical care was provided by Red Cross staff who could refer selected cases to medical specialists. If an asylum seeker needed more than three specialist consultations for mental illness or five consultations for physical illness the referrals had to be approved by The Danish Immigration Service. Between July 2001 – December 2002 the Red Cross prospectively registered health related data on all new applications (n = 4516) to the Immigration Service regarding referrals to medical specialists. We used these records to analyse the association between length of stay in the asylum centres and overall rate of referral for mental disorders. Data was analysed using weighted linear regression.
We found that referrals for mental disorders increased with length of stay in asylum centres in a large, multiethnic population of asylum seekers. The association was found in all the categories of psychiatric illness studied and for a majority of the nationality groups studied.
Length of stay in asylum centres was associated with an increase in referrals for mental disorders in a large, multiethnic group of asylum seekers. The present study supports the view that prolonged length of stay in an asylum centre is a risk factor for mental health. The risk of psychiatric illness among asylum seekers should be addressed by political and humanitarian means, giving prevention of illness the highest priority.
This article discusses the design of a study on the prevalence of health problems (both physical and mental) and the utilisation of health care services among asylum seekers and refugees in the Netherlands, including factors that may be related to their health and their utilisation of these services.
The study will include random samples of adult asylum seekers and refugees from Afghanistan, Iran and Somali (total planned sample of 600), as these are among the largest groups within the reception centres and municipalities in the Netherlands.
The questionnaire that will be used will include questions on physical health (chronic and acute diseases and somatization), mental health (Hopkins Symptoms Checklist-25 and Harvard Trauma Questionnaire), utilisation of health care services, pre- and post-migratory traumatic experiences, life-style, acculturation, social support and socio-demographic background. The questionnaire has gone through a translation process (translation and back-translation, several checks and a pilot-study) and cross-cultural adaptation. Respondents will be interviewed by bilingual and bicultural interviewers who will be specifically trained for this purpose.
This article discusses the selection of the study population, the chosen outcome measures, the translation and cross-cultural adaptation of the measurement instrument, the training of the interviewers and the practical execution of the study. The information provided may be useful for other researchers in this relatively new field of epidemiological research among various groups of asylum seekers and refugees.
The UK has substantial minority populations of short-term and long-term migrants from countries with various types of healthcare systems.
This study explored how migrants' previous knowledge and experience of health care influences their current expectations of health care in a system relying on clinical generalists performing a gatekeeping role.
Design of study
Two qualitative methods.
Focus groups or semi-structured interviews were conducted with 52 asylum seekers. Analyses identified several areas where previous experience affected current expectations. An overview of health systems in each country of origin was established by combining responders' accounts with World Health Organization statistics.
Asylum seekers had previous experience of a diverse range of healthcare systems, most of which were characterised by a lack of GPs and direct access to hospital-based specialists. For some responders, war or internal conflict resulted in a complete breakdown of healthcare systems. Responders' accounts also highlighted the difficulties that marginalised groups had in accessing health care. Although asylum seekers were generally pleased with the care they received from the NHS, there were areas where they experienced difficulties: confidence in their GP and access to hospital-based specialists and medication. These difficulties encountered might be explained by previous experience.
GPs and other healthcare professionals need to be aware that experience of different systems of care can have an impact on individuals' expectations in a GPled system. If these are not acknowledged and addressed, a lack of confidence and trust in the GP may undermine the effectiveness of the clinical consultation.
asylum seekers; general practice; health care needs; trust
Medical care for asylum seekers is a complex and critical issue worldwide. It is influenced by social, political, and economic pressures, as well as premigration conditions, the process of migration, and postmigration conditions in the host country. Increasing needs and healthcare costs have led public health authorities to put nurse practitioners in charge of the management of a gatekeeping system for asylum seekers. The quality of this system has never been evaluated. We assessed the competencies of nurses and physicians in identifying the medical needs of asylum seekers and providing them with appropriate treatment that reflects good clinical practice.
This cross-sectional descriptive study evaluated the appropriateness of care provided to asylum seekers by trained nurse practitioners in nursing healthcare centers and by physicians in private practices, an academic medical outpatient clinic, and the emergency unit of the university hospital in Lausanne, Switzerland. From 1687 asylum seeking patients who had consulted each setting between June and December 2003, 450 were randomly selected to participate. A panel of experts reviewed their medical records and assessed the appropriateness of medical care received according to three parameters: 1) use of appropriate procedures to identify medical needs (medical history, clinical examination, complementary investigations, and referral), 2) provision of access to treatment meeting medical needs, and 3) absence of unnecessary medical procedures.
In the nurse practitioner group, the procedures used to identify medical needs were less often appropriate (79% of reports vs. 92.4% of reports; p < 0.001). Nevertheless, access to treatment was judged satisfactory and was similar (p = 0.264) between nurse practitioners and physicians (99% and 97.6% of patients, respectively, received adequate care). Excessive care was observed in only 2 physician reports (0.8%) and 3 nurse reports (1.5%) (p = 0.481).
Although the nursing gatekeeping system provides appropriate treatment to asylum seekers, it might be improved with further training in recording medical history and performing targeted clinical examination.
Psychiatrists have long had involvement with the political process, both individually and as a profession. They have made valuable contributions to debate over such issues as war, conflict, terrorism, torture, human rights abuse, drug abuse, suicide and other public health issues. However, they have also been complicit in some gross atrocities. Over several years there has been debate over the Australian Government’s treatment of asylum seekers, and the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists took the unusual step of publicly criticizing the Australian Government’s policy on grounds of its toxicity leading to a diagnosis of collective depression syndrome, particularly among child detainees, but also adult detainees. The official Ministerial response was to deny that collective depression exists and to assert that the concept is meaningless. Can this intervention by psychiatrists be interpreted as a product of earlier political behaviors by psychiatrists? The willingness of psychiatrists to cooperate with other professions, notably psychologists, pediatricians, physicians and lawyers, is noted, as is presence of minority voices within the Australian psychiatric profession. The significance of the debate over the mental condition of asylum-seeking detainees is that its outcome has implications for how Australia sees itself and is seen by the rest of the world, that is, its national identity.
collective depression syndrome; psychiatric profession; political intervention; asylum seeker; Australian national identity
There are more than 100,000 asylum seekers registered in Germany, who are granted limited access to health services. This study aims to provide a systematic overview of the empirical literature on the health status of and health-care provision to asylum seekers in Germany in order to consolidate knowledge, avoid scientific redundance, and identify research gaps.
A systematic review and evidence mapping of empirical literature on the health status of and health-care provision to asylum seekers in Germany will be performed. We will apply a three-tiered search strategy: 1. search in databases (PubMed/MEDLINE, Web of Science, IBSS, Sociological Abstracts, Worldwide Political Science Abstracts, CINAHL, Sowiport, Social Sciences Citation Index, ASSIA, MedPilot, DNB), dissertation and theses databases, and the internet (Google); 2. screening references of included studies; 3. contacting authors and civil society organizations for grey literature. Included will be studies which report quantitative and/or qualitative data or review articles on asylum seekers in Germany, published in German or English language. Outcome measures will include physical, mental, or social well-being, and all aspects of health-care provision (access, availability, affordability, and quality). Search results will be screened for eligibility by screening titles, abstracts and full texts. Data extraction comprises information on study characteristics, research aims, and domains of health or health-care services analyzed. The quality of studies will be appraised and documented by appropriate assessment tools. A descriptive evidence map will be drawn by categorizing all included articles by research design and the health conditions and/or domains of health-care provision analyzed. The body of evidence will be evaluated, and a narrative evidence synthesis will be performed by means of a multi-level approach, whereby quantitative and qualitative evidence are analyzed as separate streams and the product of each stream is configured in a final summary.
This systematic review will provide an evidence map and synthesis of available research findings on the health status of and health-care provision to asylum seekers in Germany. In anticipation of identifying areas which are amenable to health-care interventions, deserve immediate action, or further exploration, this review will be of major importance for policy-makers, health-care providers, as well as researchers.
Systematic review registration
PROSPERO 2014: CRD42014013043
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/2046-4053-3-139) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Asylum seekers; Refugees; Germany; Health status; Health-care provision; Access; Health services; Systematic review; Evidence mapping
This paper is a part of the work of the group that carried out the report "The state of the mental health in Europe" (European Commission, DG Health and Consumer Protection, 2004) and deals with the mental health issues related to the migration in Europe.
The paper tries to describe the social, demographical and political context of the emigration in Europe and tries to indicate the needs and (mental) health problems of immigrants. A review of the literature concerning mental health risk in immigrant is also carried out. The work also faces the problem of the health policy toward immigrants and the access to health care services in Europe.
Migration during the 1990s has been high and characterised by new migrations. Some countries in Europe, that have been traditionally exporters of migrants have shifted to become importers. Migration has been a key force in the demographic changes of the European population. The policy of closed borders do not stop migration, but rather seems to set up a new underclass of so-called "illegals" who are suppressed and highly exploited. In 2000 there were also 392.200 asylum applications.
The reviewed literature among mental health risk in some immigrant groups in Europe concerns: 1) highest rate of schizophrenia; suicide; alcohol and drug abuse; access of psychiatric facilities; risk of anxiety and depression; mental health of EU immigrants once they returned to their country; early EU immigrants in today disadvantaged countries; refugees and mental health
Due to the different condition of migration concerning variables as: motivation to migrations (e.g. settler, refugees, gastarbeiters); distance for the host culture; ability to develop mediating structures; legal residential status it is impossible to consider "migrants" as a homogeneous group concerning the risk for mental illness. In this sense, psychosocial studies should be undertaken to identify those factors which may under given conditions, imply an increased risk of psychiatric disorders and influence seeking for psychiatric care.
Comments and Remarks
Despite in the migrants some vulnerable groups were identified with respect to health problems, in many European countries there are migrants who fall outside the existing health and social services, something which is particularly true for asylum seekers and undocumented immigrants. In order to address these deficiencies, it is necessary to provide with an adequate financing and a continuity of the grants for research into the multicultural health demand. Finally, there is to highlight the importance of adopting an integrated approach to mental health care that moves away from psychiatric care only.
Many western countries have policies of dispersal and direct provision accommodation (state-funded accommodation in an institutional centre) for asylum seekers. Most research focuses on its effect on the asylum seeking population. Little is known about the impact of direct provision accommodation on organisation and delivery of local primary care and social care services in the community. The aim of this research is to explore this issue.
In 2005 a direct provision accommodation centre was opened in a rural area in Ireland. A retrospective qualitative case study was designed comprising in-depth interviews with 37 relevant stakeholders. Thematic analysis following the principles of framework analysis was applied.
There was lack of advance notification to primary care and social care professionals and the community about the new accommodation centre. This caused anxiety and stress among relevant stakeholders. There was insufficient time to plan and prepare appropriate primary care and social care for the residents, causing a significant strain on service delivery. There was lack of clarity about how primary care and social care needs of the incoming residents were to be addressed. Interdisciplinary support systems developed informally between healthcare professionals. This ensured that residents of the accommodation centre were appropriately cared for.
Direct provision accommodation impacts on the organisation and delivery of local primary care and social care services. There needs to be sufficient advance notification and inter-agency, inter-professional dialogue to manage this. Primary care and social care professionals working with asylum seekers should have access to training to enhance their skills for working in cross-cultural consultations.
Many refugees arrive in Australia with complex health needs. In South Australia (SA), providing initial health care to refugees is the responsibility of General Practitioners (GPs) in private practice. Their capacity to perform this work effectively for current newly arrived refugees is uncertain. The aim of this study was to document the challenges faced by GPs in private practice in SA when providing initial care to refugees and to discuss the implications of this for policy relating to optimising health care services for refugees.
Semi-structured interviews with twelve GPs in private practice and three Medical Directors of Divisions of General Practice. Using a template analysis approach the interviews were coded and analysed thematically.
Multiple challenges providing care to refugees were found including those related to: (1) refugee health issues; (2) the GP-refugee interaction; and (3) the structure of general practice. The Divisions also reported challenges assisting GPs to provide effective care related to a lack of funding and awareness of which GPs required support. Although respondents suggested a number of ways that GPs could be assisted to provide better initial care to refugees, strong support was voiced for the initial care of refugees to be provided via a specialist refugee health service.
GPs in this study were under-resourced, at both an individual GP level as well as a structural level, to provide effective initial care for refugees. In SA, there are likely to be a number of challenges attempting to increase the capacity of GPs in private practice to provide initial care. An alternative model is for refugees with multiple and complex health care needs as well as those with significant resettlement challenges to receive initial health care via the existing specialist refugee health service in Adelaide.
Cultural and linguistic diversity is a core feature of the Australian population and a valued element of national identity. The proportion of the population that will be overseas-born is projected to be 32% by 2050. While a very active process of mental health system reform has been occurring for more than two decades - at national and state and territory levels - the challenges presented by cultural and linguistic diversity have not been effectively met. A key area in which this is particularly an issue is in the collection, analysis and reporting of mental health data that reflect the reality of population diversity. The purpose of this study was to examine: what is known about the mental health of immigrant and refugee communities in Australia; whether Australian mental health research pays adequate attention to the fact of cultural and linguistic diversity in the Australian population; and whether national mental health data collections support evidence-informed mental health policy and practice and mental health reform in multicultural Australia.
The study consisted of three components – a brief review of what is known about mental health in, and mental health service use by, immigrant and refugee communities; an examination of national data collections to determine the extent to which relevant cultural variables are included in the collections; and an examination of Australian research to determine the extent to which immigrant and refugee communities are included as participants in such research.
The review of Australian research on mental health of immigrant and refugee communities and their patterns of mental health service use generated findings that are highly variable. The work is fragmented and usually small-scale. There are multiple studies of some immigrant and refugee communities and there are no studies of others. Although there is a broadly consistent pattern of lower rates of utilisation of specialist public mental health services by immigrants and refugees the absence of adequate population epidemiological data prevents judgments about whether the observed patterns constitute under-utilisation. There are virtually no data on quality of service outcomes. The examination of national data collections revealed multiple gaps in these data collections. The review of papers published in four key Australian journals to determine whether immigrants and refugees are included in mental health research studies revealed a high rate (9.1%) of specific exclusion from studies (usually due to low English fluency) and a much higher rate of general neglect of the issue of population diversity in study design and reporting.
While there are many positive statements of policy intent in relation to immigrant and refugee communities in national mental health policies and strategies there is virtually no reporting by Commonwealth or State and Territory governments of whether policies that are relevant to immigrant and refugee communities are effectively implemented. It is not possible, on the basis of the data collected, to determine whether immigrant and refugee communities are benefiting from the mental health system reforms that are being actively carried out. The majority of Australian mental health research does not adequately include immigrant and refugee samples. On the basis of the findings of this study eight strategies have been recommended that will contribute to the development of a culture of inclusion of all Australians in the national mental health research enterprise.
Changing immigration trends pose new challenges for the UK's open access health service and there is considerable speculation that migrants from resource-poor countries place a disproportionate burden on services. Data are needed to inform provision of services to migrant groups and to ensure their access to appropriate health care. We compared sociodemographic characteristics and impact of migrant groups and UK-born patients presenting to a hospital A&E/Walk-In Centre and prior use of community-based General Practitioner (GP) services.
We administered an anonymous questionnaire survey of all presenting patients at an A&E/Walk-In Centre at an inner-city London hospital during a 1 month period. Questions related to nationality, immigration status, time in the UK, registration and use of GP services. We compared differences between groups using two-way tables by Chi-Square and Fisher's exact test. We used logistic regression modelling to quantify associations of explanatory variables and outcomes.
1611 of 3262 patients completed the survey (response rate 49.4%). 720 (44.7%) were overseas born, representing 87 nationalities, of whom 532 (73.9%) were new migrants to the UK (≤10 years). Overseas born were over-represented in comparison to local estimates (44.7% vs 33.6%; p < 0.001; proportional difference 0.111 [95% CI 0.087–0.136]). Dominant immigration status' were: work permit (24.4%), EU citizens (21.5%), with only 21 (1.3%) political asylum seekers/refugees. 178 (11%) reported nationalities from refugee-generating countries (RGCs), eg, Somalia, who were less likely to speak English. Compared with RGCs, and after adjusting for age and sex, the Australians, New Zealanders, and South Africans (ANS group; OR 0.28 [95% CI 0.11 to 0.71]; p = 0.008) and the Other Migrant (OM) group comprising mainly Europeans (0.13 [0.06 to 0.30]; p = 0.000) were less likely to have GP registration and to have made prior contact with GPs, yet this did not affect mode of access to hospital services across groups nor delay access to care.
Recently arrived migrants are a diverse and substantial group, of whom migrants from refugee-generating countries and asylum seekers comprise only a minority group. Service reorganisation to ensure improved access to community-based GPs and delivery of more appropriate care may lessen their impact on acute services.
No recent Australian studies or literature, provide evidence of the extent of coverage of multicultural health issues in Australian healthcare research. A series of systematic literature reviews in three major Australian healthcare journals were undertaken to discover the level, content, coverage and overall quality of research on multicultural health. Australian healthcare journals selected for the study were The Medical Journal of Australia (MJA), The Australian Health Review (AHR), and The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health (ANZPH). Reviews were undertaken of the last twelve (12) years (1996-August 2008) of journal articles using six standard search terms: 'non-English-speaking', 'ethnic', 'migrant', 'immigrant', 'refugee' and 'multicultural'.
In total there were 4,146 articles published in these journals over the 12-year period. A total of 90 or 2.2% of the total articles were articles primarily based on multicultural issues. A further 62 articles contained a major or a moderate level of consideration of multicultural issues, and 107 had a minor mention.
The quantum and range of multicultural health research and evidence required for equity in policy, services, interventions and implementation is limited and uneven. Most of the original multicultural health research articles focused on newly arrived refugees, asylum seekers, Vietnamese or South East Asian communities. While there is some seminal research in respect of these represented groups, there are other communities and health issues that are essentially invisible or unrepresented in research. The limited coverage and representation of multicultural populations in research studies has implications for evidence-based health and human services policy.