A Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) report demonstrates that the poor living conditions and the insecure situation in which migrants and asylum seekers find themselves in Belgium and Europe damages their mental health.

All 47 migrants and asylum seekers interviewed for the report have witnessed or were victims of violence in their country of origin and/or on their way to Europe and/or in Europe and 25 per cent stated that their mental health problems continue to worsen and is directly linked to their situation in Europe and in Belgium. The mental health of the migrants interviewed is negatively affected by a combination of fear of Dublin transfers and police interventions, inhumane living and reception conditions, discrimination and violence, and the lack of opportunities and support.

The interviewed migrants and asylum seekers have no or limited contact with the outside world, there is a lack of trust towards governmental agencies and other organisations, and they do not have access to information on their rights or the asylum procedure nor access to medical and mental health care. With deterrence policies and lack of support they find themselves in what MSF calls “an endless escape”. One of the estimated 700 migrants residing around the Maximillian Park and at the Brussels Northern Train Station states: “I just want to find a place where I will be treated as a human being, regardless of its location.”

MSF conducted the interviews for the report as part of the “humanitarian hub” in Brussels where Belgian humanitarian organisations and citizen’s initiatives provide support and assistance to migrants and asylum seekers. Based on the research findings the report offers concrete recommendations for the relevant stakeholders and decision-makers including: ensuring that the access to mental and physical care services is provided, creating open reception and guidance centres in Belgium for refugees and irregular migrants, protecting people in need by using the discretionary clause enshrined in Article 17 of the Dublin regulation, implementing legal and safe pathways to Europe (e.g. through family reunification, humanitarian visas, resettlement) and promoting a safe and respectful environment for migrants.

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Photo: (CC) Matthias Ripp, September 2017

This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin . You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.