Covid-19 increases stress for refugees

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Many of those with refugee status, or who have applied for asylum, have described their mental health as poor or very poor 

10th September 2020 by Gareth Jones 0 Comments

Covid-19 is leading to increased levels of stress, anxiety and loneliness amongst refugees – new research has shown.

A study by the Scottish Refugee Council found one in three people with refugee status reported their recent mental health had been poor or very poor. The figure was 40% among people still waiting for a decision on their claim for asylum.

Many related their feelings of poor mental health to loneliness and isolation. 37% of those in the asylum system surveyed said they had contact with friends or relatives just a few times a month.

And the majority of those polled (70%) said they had experienced problems with not having enough money to buy food.

Wafa Shaheen, head of integration at Scottish Refugee Council, said: “People who are waiting for a decision on their asylum claim live with a massive amount of day to day anxiety and uncertainty about their futures. As well as coping with family separation and all the stress and challenges of the asylum system itself, people have to find a way to live in enforced poverty on around £5 per day. Our research suggests that all these stressors have been exacerbated and intensified by Covid.

“Even at the best of times people tell us they are lonely and often struggle to make social connections in Scotland. There’s no doubt isolation has a significant impact on mental health and wellbeing. We’ve also seen some awful tragedies in the refugee community in Glasgow over the last five months. Local charities and communities have done everything they can to step in and help but we really need to see the Home Office and the Scottish Government working together to provide the necessary mental health support. Everyone should be protected during this pandemic, not left to struggle and cope on their own.”

The survey polled 290 people of more than 30 nationalities between 8 and 26 July.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government has made it clear that refugees and people seeking asylum are entitled to free healthcare in Scotland, and this includes mental healthcare.

“This is in line with the approach of the New Scots refugee integration strategy.

“We would urge anyone who is feeling anxious or worried about their mental health to seek help.”