Accommodation for asylum seekers is “unsafe” due to inadequate medical care, while poor living conditions are exacerbating or creating mental and physical health problems, according to a new report from Doctors of the World.
The charity’s research, published on Wednesday, details the barriers to healthcare and medication for asylum seekers in initial accommodation across the UK.
Evidence compiled by Doctors of the World shows that the failure to meet basic human standards in hotels and former military barracks such as Napier in Folkestone has exacerbated depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health problems among asylum seekers.
Ara* described waking up in a cold sweat every night since she arrived in Napier. He is sometimes lying in a tight ball and shivering, terrified that he is back in a prison cell.
“It’s always the same: I wake up, I’m screaming, remembering,” he said. “I have bad nightmares. I need sleeping pills but the GP told me ‘Go to YouTube, it will tell you how you can sleep’. don’t have [a] phone, so how can I see that? I asked for help, but nobody helps me.”
For those who have fled torture and imprisonment, as Ara did, the detention-like conditions at Camp Napier mean they relive their earlier trauma, with many saying their mental health is deteriorating further.
“Others in my room [shared with 13 other men], they are waking up,” said Ara. “It is impossible to sleep. We all need a doctor, we came out of the war, but there is no one to help us”.
Another asylum seeker said he had to wait more than a month to receive medical attention, despite reporting a severe toothache that prevented him from eating.
“We don’t have a good nurse in the camp,” he said. “She needed immediate help, she couldn’t eat well, she was in a lot of pain, but they refuse to do it. [anything]. They said there is no dentist, it will get better on its own.”
In several cases, asylum seekers said staff were unhelpful and treated as if they had lied about their medical conditions. Some of those identified in the report said they were unable to buy medicine, toiletries, clothing or food, while others said the food was not culturally appropriate. Of those interviewed, 43% said that they had lost weight because they could not eat the food provided to them, which was not well cooked or fresh.
Another man at the Napier camp said he had experienced severe stomach pains from the food at the camp, but had not been referred to a doctor. “I’m so sick I can’t eat. The nurse, she is never there and nobody does. [anything].”
A Home Office spokesman said: “We reject these claims. Napier Barracks is secure and we treat the welfare of those in our care with the utmost importance and sensitivity.”
Asylum seekers supported by the Home Office are entitled to access the NHS low-income scheme for help with health costs, including prescriptions, optometry charges and dental care.
However, accommodation providers are not required to directly support access to healthcare or register asylum seekers with a GP, unless the person has an “obvious and urgent” need for healthcare, such as a large loss of blood, severe chest pain, pregnancy complications, or suicide. He tried.
In its report published last week, following a visit to the Napier barracks in February, the all-party parliamentary group on immigration detention described conditions at Napier as “near detention” and said the barracks were “fundamentally unsuitable for its use as asylum accommodation.
An earlier visit by the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration found that most residents had experienced depression and a third had felt suicidal, with people at risk of self-harm placed in decrepit isolation blocks.
Despite inspections showing the inadequacy of accommodation like Napier, the Home Office recently extended the contract until 2025. In the Nationality and Borders Bill currently before parliament, the Home Office described the former military barracks as a “prototype” of how reception centers work. can operate in the future.
Under Home Secretary Priti Patel’s plans to change the asylum system, the Home Office says it will develop more large-scale asylum accommodation in remote areas, including the former RAF airbase at Linton-on- Ouse in North Yorkshire.
Anna Miller, head of policy and advocacy at Doctors of the World, said: “Sadly, plans to develop new military-style accommodation sites are just one of many aspects of the nationality and borders bill currently being passed in parliament, which will cause a lasting and lasting loss”. profound harm to the health and well-being of people seeking refuge in the UK.
“We urge the government to completely rethink its plans to reform the asylum system and prioritize the health and well-being of people seeking refuge in the UK.”
In addition to rejecting the claims, the Home Office said: “There is 24/7 medical support for asylum seekers at Napier Barracks, including a prescribing nurse, on-site dental care and access to local GP services, which includes mental health support. People at all of our immigration removal centers come to the attention of medical staff and, once screened, can receive clinical pathways to health care services based on their needs.”
* Names have been changed and countries of origin omitted to protect the identity of asylum seekers.