The need for mental health and psychosocial support for migrants and refugees in Europe

The need for mental health and psychosocial support for migrants and refugees in Europe


Date of publication:  20 Oct 2016 Publisher:  Mental Heatth Europe Publication type:  Report / Study / Data

Following the unprecedented increase in the flow of migration towards Europe and in light of the recent proposal to reform the Common European Asylum System, Mental Health Europe (MHE)1 is calling on the EU and Member States to ensure access to quality mental health services and support for migrants and refugees. All migrants, irrespective of their status and nationality, are entitled to their fundamental rights including the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. Migrants and refugees face a variety of challenges which can negatively impact their mental health. Unfortunately, MHE and our members on the ground 2are concerned that despite this heightened risk of developing mental health problems, migrants and refugees may not have access to quality mental health support. Mental healthcare is too often seen as a luxury even though mental health is central to good health and wellbeing and access to quality mental healthcare is a fundamental part of the obligations owed under the right to health. This position paper outlines the reasons why the provision of appropriate mental healthcare and support to migrants and refugees is not just a human rights obligation but is imperative to social cohesion as well as beneficial for European economies. It is MHE’s view that in the long-term, the unwillingness of European States to provide mental healthcare and support will lead to greater challenges for migrants and refugees, the EU and European States. As a result, MHE has formulated the following recommendations: 

  • The European Union must ensure a coordinated European response that addresses the humanitarian and protection needs of migrants and refugees in line with the recommendation received by the EU from the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities;  
  • States must fulfil their obligations under the international and European human rights and refugee frameworks which includes providing access to quality mental healthcare and support regardless of status; 
  • States must strengthen national and local capacity to ensure access to long-term health and social services, to support social inclusion for refugees and migrants and to monitor the reception centres and the quality of the services received;
  • States must invest in the development of culturally appropriate and accessible mental health support in a manner that respects the principle of non-discrimination and with specific attention to the needs of migrant and refugee women and children; 
  • States should ensure that all personnel who come into contact with migrants and refugees such as police, immigration officials, medical professionals and social workers are given basic mental health and cultural training which helps them to better identify, understand and support people experiencing mental distress; 
  • States must ensure access to information regarding health care, social support and inclusion programmes for migrants and refugees as well as professionals including by guaranteeing that such information is provided in different languages and in accessible formats. 

(text taken from executive summary)

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European Union

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