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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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
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
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.
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.
Legal status and other resettlement stressors are known to impact mental health of asylum seekers and refugees. However, the ways in which they interact with treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with these populations is still poorly understood. The aim of this study was to examine whether legal status and other resettlement stressors influence outcomes of a trauma-focused group PTSD treatment within a day-treatment setting with asylum seekers and refugees.
Sixty six male Iranian and Afghan patients with PTSD residing in the Netherlands were assessed with self-rated symptom checklists for PTSD, anxiety and depression, and a demographic questionnaire one week before and two weeks after the treatment. Multivariate linear regression analysis was used to examine the impact of legal status and living arrangements on the treatment outcomes per symptom domain.
The results suggest that both asylum seekers and refugees can be helped with their mental health complaints with a trauma-focused group therapy for PTSD regardless of their legal status. Obtaining a refugee status in a course of the treatment appears to improve the treatment outcomes.
Legal status is impacting outcomes of group therapy for PTSD with male asylum seekers and refugees. Asylum seekers may benefit from group treatment regardless of unstable living conditions.
Post-traumatic stress disorder; Asylum seekers; Refugees; Group therapy; Resettlement stress; Iran; Afghanistan
Although women, young people and refugees are vulnerable to sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) worldwide, little evidence exists concerning SGBV against refugees in Europe. Using community-based participatory research, 223 in-depth interviews were conducted with refugees, asylum seekers and undocumented migrants in Belgium and the Netherlands. Responses were analysed using framework analysis. The majority of the respondents were either personally victimised or knew of a close peer being victimised since their arrival in the European Union. A total of 332 experiences of SGBV were reported, mostly afflicted on them by (ex-)partners or asylum professionals. More than half of the reported violent experiences comprised sexual violence, including rape and sexual exploitation. Results suggest that refugees, asylum seekers and undocumented migrants in Belgium and the Netherlands are extremely vulnerable to violence and, specifically, to sexual violence. Future SGBV preventive measures should consist of rights-based, desirable and participatory interventions, focusing on several socio-ecological levels concurrently.
sexual violence; refugees; Europe; risk factors; prevention
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.
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.
Language barriers have a major impact on both the quality and the costs of health care. While there is a growing body of evidence demonstrating the detrimental effects of language barriers on the quality of health care provision, less is known about their impact on costs. This purpose of this study was to investigate the association between language barriers and the costs of health care.
The data source was a representative set of asylum seekers whose health care was provided by a Swiss Health Maintenance Organisation (HMO). A cross-sectional survey was conducted: data was collected on all the asylum seekers' health care costs including consultations, diagnostic examinations, medical interventions, stays in the clinic, medication, and interpreter services. The data were analysed using path analysis.
Asylum seekers showed higher health care costs if there were language barriers between them and the health professionals. Most of these increased costs were attributable to those patients who received interpreter services: they used more health care services and more material. However, these patients also had a lower number of visits to the HMO than patients who faced language barriers but did not receive interpreter services.
Language barriers impact health care costs. In line with the limited literature, the results of this study seem to show that interpreter services lead to more targeted health care, concentrating higher health care utilisation into a smaller number of visits. Although the initial costs are higher, it can be posited that the use of interpreter services prevents the escalation of long-term costs. A future study specially designed to examine this presumption is needed.
Traumatised asylum seekers and refugees are clinically considered a complex population. Discussion exists on whether with this population treatment guidelines for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) should be followed and Trauma-Focused Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (TF-CBT) or Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) should be applied, or whether a phased model starting with stabilisation is preferable. Some clinicians fear that trauma-focused interventions may lead to unmanageable distress or may be ineffective. While cognitive-behavioural interventions have been found to be effective with traumatised refugees, no studies concerning the efficacy of EMDR with this population have been conducted as yet.
In preparation for a randomised trial comparing EMDR and stabilisation with traumatised refugees, a pilot study with 20 participants was conducted. The objective was to examine feasibility of participation in a randomised trial for this complex population and to examine acceptability and preliminary efficacy of EMDR.
Participants were randomly allocated to 11 sessions of either EMDR or stabilisation. Symptoms of PTSD (SCID-I, HTQ), depression and anxiety (HSCL-25), and quality of life (WHOQOL-BREF) were assessed at pre- and post-treatment and 3-month follow-up.
Participation of traumatised refugees in the study was found feasible, although issues associated with complex traumatisation led to a high pre-treatment attrition and challenges in assessments. Acceptability of EMDR was found equal to that of stabilisation with a high drop-out for both conditions. No participants dropped out of the EMDR condition because of unmanageable distress. While improvement for EMDR participants was small, EMDR was found to be no less efficacious than stabilisation. Different symptom courses between the two conditions, with EMDR showing some improvement and stabilisation showing some deterioration between pre-treatment and post-treatment, justify the conduct of a full trial.
With some adaptations in study design, inclusion of a greater sample is justifiable to determine which treatment is more suitable for this complex population.
Complex trauma; PTSD; feasibility; trauma-focused therapy; torture; cross-cultural psychiatry; randomised
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.
To describe the health effects of the political system in Zaïre on asylum seekers seen at the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture a retrospective study was performed of the records of 92 asylum seekers from Zaïre who were seen for medical reports at the medical foundation in 1993 and 1994. Eighty one had been imprisoned; the others had been severely treated at home by the security services. Sixty six had been detained for up to one year. Prison conditions were invariably unsanitary, and food of poor quality when provided. All had been beaten on arrest, and all but two had been beaten repeatedly in prison. Nearly all the women and some of the men described sexual abuse. Almost all left prison through bribery or because a guard had a similar background. Seventy two asylum seekers had scarring, consider to be consistent with the history, and 70 were considered to have suffered persistent psychological damage. Asylum seekers from Zaïre will have health effects from experiences unimaginable to the ordinary Briton. An understanding of the background will help clinicians manage them.
Afghan and Iraqi refugees comprise nearly half of all those currently under United Nations protection. As many of them will eventually be resettled in countries outside the region of origin, their long term health and settlement concerns are of relevance to host societies, and will be a likely focus for future research. Since Australia and New Zealand have both accepted refugees for many years and have dedicated, but different settlement and immigration policies, a study comparing the resettlement of two different refugee groups in these countries was undertaken. The purpose of this article is to describe the instrument selection for this study assessing mental health and psychological well being with Afghan and Kurdish former refugees, in particular to address linguistic considerations and translated instrument availability. A summary of instruments previously used with refugee and migrant groups from the Middle East region is presented to assist other researchers, before describing the three instruments ultimately selected for the quantitative component of our study.
The Kessler-10 Psychological Distress Scale (K10), General Perceived Self-Efficacy Scale (GPSE), and Personal Well-Being Index (PWI) all showed good reliability (Cronbach's alphas of 0.86, 0.89 and 0.83 respectively for combined language versions) and ease of use even for pre-literate participants, with the sample of 193 refugees, although some concepts in the GPSE proved problematic for a small number of respondents. Farsi was the language of choice for the majority of Afghan participants, while most of the Kurds chose to complete English versions in addition to Farsi. No one used Arabic or Turkish translations. Participants settled less than ten years were more likely to complete questionnaires in Farsi. Descriptive summary statistics are presented for each instrument with results split by gender, refugee group and language version completed.
This paper discusses instrument selection for Farsi and Arabic speaking refugee participants from the Middle East and Afghanistan, concluding that the Kessler-10, GPSE scale and PWI were suitable for use with these groups. Suitable language translations are freely available. Our experience with these instruments may help inform other studies with these vulnerable groups.
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
The war in former Yugoslavia, which commenced in 1990, caused the biggest refugee crisis in Europe since World War II. There are numerous research investigations into the trauma and associated problems. However, there is no available publication concerning refugees’ own perception of the provided support in host countries.
To investigate how refugees evaluated support received (helpful or detrimental) and what kinds of support they wish to receive in the future.
The study participants were 854 refugees from former Yugoslavia settled in the United Kingdom, Germany, and Italy. Alongside demographic data, they were assessed using International Neuropsychiatric Interview (MINI), Life Stressor Checklist–Revised (LSC–R), Manchester Short Assessment of Quality of Life (MANSA), Matrix for Recording Health Care, Social Interventions (MACSI), and an open questions interview.
Data revealed that 99.3% of refugees received some kind of support. The most frequent support (98.7%) was primary health care and the least frequent (34.7%) was support in employment and further training. The most helpful (27.5%) was primary health care, and the most detrimental (11.6%) was legal support. The most desired types of support were help in employment (31.8%) and further education/training (20.5%). The educational level of refugees affected their perceptions of support as detrimental or desired.
There are different levels of received and desired support among host countries. There are also differences in the perception of received and desired support with regard to the refugees’ educational levels.
War; trauma; refugees; support
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
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.
A small body of evidence demonstrates the challenges faced by migrant communities living with HIV but has yet to consider in-depth the experience of asylum seekers whose residency status is undetermined. The overall aim of our study was to explore the experiences of those who are both living with HIV and seeking asylum. This paper focuses on the stressors precipitated by the HIV diagnosis and by going through the asylum system; as well as participants’ resilience in responding to these stressors and the consequences for their health and wellbeing.
We conducted an ethnographic study. Fieldwork took place in the UK between 2008–2009 and included: 350 hours of observation at voluntary services providing support to black and minority ethnic groups living with HIV; 29 interviews and four focus group discussions with those who were seeking asylum and living with HIV; and 15 interviews with their health and social care providers. Data were analysed using the constant comparative method.
There were three main stressors that threatened participants’ resilience. First, migration caused them to leave behind many resources (including social support). Second, stigmatising attitudes led their HIV diagnosis to be a taboo subject furthering their isolation. Third, they found themselves trapped in the asylum system, unable to influence the outcome of their case and reliant on HIV treatment to stay alive. Participants were, however, very resourceful in dealing with these experiences. Resilience processes included: staying busy, drawing on personal faith, and the support received through HIV care providers and voluntary organisations. Even so, their isolated existence meant participants had limited access to social resources, and their treatment in the asylum system had a profound impact on perceived health and wellbeing.
Asylum seekers living with HIV in the UK show immense resilience. However, their isolation means they are often unable to deal with their treatment in the asylum system, with negative consequences for their perceived health and wellbeing.
UK; Asylum seeker; HIV; Stress; Resilience
Most new cases of active tuberculosis in Norway are presently caused by imported strains and not transmission within the country. Screening for tuberculosis with a Mantoux test of everybody and a chest X-ray of those above 15 years of age is compulsory on arrival for asylum seekers.
We aimed to assess the effectiveness of entry screening of a cohort of asylum seekers. Cases detected by screening were compared with cases detected later. Further we have characterized cases with active tuberculosis.
All asylum seekers who arrived at the National Reception Centre between January 2005 - June 2006 with an abnormal chest X-ray or a Mantoux test ≥ 6 mm were included in the study and followed through the health care system. They were matched with the National Tuberculosis Register by the end of May 2008.
Cases reported within two months after arrival were defined as being detected by screening.
Of 4643 eligible asylum seekers, 2237 were included in the study. Altogether 2077 persons had a Mantoux ≥ 6 mm and 314 had an abnormal chest X-ray. Of 28 cases with tuberculosis, 15 were detected by screening, and 13 at 4-27 months after arrival. Abnormal X-rays on arrival were more prevalent among those detected by screening. Female gender and Somalian origin increased the risk for active TB.
In spite of an imperfect follow-up of screening results, a reasonable number of TB cases was identified by the programme, with a predominance of pulmonary TB.