Mental health of applicants and reception

EASO Mental health of applicants for international protection in Europe - 19
3. Mental health of applicants and reception
While reception facilities across Europe are overall trying their best to accomodate the needs of all
applicants in their facilities, there seems to be annectotal evidence that some facilities are stretched in ter ms
of human resources and funds to cater for applicants in ne ed. Most EU+ countries indicated to have a
somewhat functioning system in place when it comes to identifi cation, assessment, referral, specialised
support and case management of applicants with special needs such as those presenting with mental health
concerns. However, it is also evident that a holistic, coordinated and timely response is still lacking in some
EU+ countries. A good number of applicants have suffered trauma either in their coun try of origin, during
transit or in the country of asylum.
Mental health, however, is not (yet) seen as a priority for many authorities even though it is evident from
the feedback received that when mental health concerns are negle cted, the consequences not only
negatively impact the affected applicant but the whole system. The initial symptoms further deteriorate,
aggressiveness increases in applicants with a low tolerance to violence and conflict, and that has the
potential to affect all residents and staff alike. Integration into the reception facility, community or host
community becomes even more challenging. Misuse of medicatio n, substance abuse, suicidal behaviour are
consequences, as well as dropping out of asylum procedures. Applicants struggling eve n more to remember
key past events for their scheduled personal interviews are other apparent consequences .
According to a report by the Fundamental Rights Agency (F RA) from 2017, most cases of trauma, torture
and/or drug abuse take place in countries of origin. Incidents do also occur , however, both in transit
countries and within the EU28.
Professionals working in the field of reception ask for a stronger focus on prevention compar ed to response.
Further, it was stressed that the working environment needs to allow the first-line officers to provide
appropriate care to applicants in need. Sticking to a tight tim eline in terms of procedure combined with
targeted, relevant and clear information on the process are seen as important for all applicants, but
especially for applicants with special needs. Legal advice and psychosocial support services are to be free
and streamlined. Accelerated procedures are seen as challenging since they do not allow for a proper
assessment of vulnerabilities. Applicants with mental health concerns who may potentially hide their
problems for cultural or religious reasons and find themselves in accelerated procedures are particularly
28 FRA, Current migration situation in the EU: Torture, trauma and its possible impact on drug use, February 2017.
‘Reception is so much more than just a bed!’
20 - EASO Mental health of applicants for international protection in Europe
According to respondents, while children, men and women migh t have different ways of showing mental
health concerns and will need a gender and age-appropriate respons e, it is also clear that in Europe more
support programmes for young, single men are needed.
3.1 General Findings
Approximately 43 % of respondents working for reception authorities were specialised professionals such as
psychologists, psychiatrists or other health officers. Another 38 % hold managerial roles such as team
leaders, coordinators and programme managers. The other respondents consider themselves first-line
reception officers and other support staff. Four of the respondents did not answer this question or it was not
applicable. Most respondents are involved on a regular basis with the identification of vulnerable applicants
including those with a mental health concern. 86 % of respondents stated additional responsibilities (e.g.
information provision to applicants on services available, etc.). The actual or official assessment and
identification of applicants and their relevant needs is conducte d only by 35 % of respondents, while
referring and managing cases is completed by approximately 48 % and 53 % respectively.
Interestingly, slightly over 50 % shared that service provision in their respective EU+ country i s being
outsourced to social workers from the public sector or vulnerability focal persons working with
international, local non-governmental organisations (NGOs) or contractors for the purpose of identification
and assessment or needs including case management. The outs ourcing of services is important to note,
since this may add a layer of complexity. Not only in terms of division of roles and responsibilities but also in
terms of communication.
Therefore, clear and regular communication between the tea ms involved who jointly care for the same
applicants is recommended. This is to ensure a holistic, timely and professional appro ach without duplicating
efforts and putting applicants in a position where they are re-traumatis ed by repeating their concerns to
multiple people on several occasions.

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