Refugee and Asylum

Background and Health Concerns

Advancing the Rights and Well-Being of Asylum Seekers and Refugees

Learn more about the background and health concerns of Asylum Seekers and Refugees

The majority of asylum seekers and refugees come from developing countries where there is abuse of human rights, war and conflict and limited basic resources such as access to health care, safe drinking water, accommodation, food supply and education (UNHCR, 2011)1. The countries have a limited capacity to treat those with acute health concerns, chronic diseases and provide immunisation. In addition, many asylum seekers and refugees will spend many days, weeks, months, and years travelling trying to reach a safe place. This increases risks of physical and mental health problems, sexual violence and makes them vulnerable to psychological trauma. Often, they will stay in overcrowded camps, with a very poor hygiene, lack of sanitation and exposure to disease (Brannan et al, 2016)2. Water, food and shelter are usually limited in the camps during migration. As a result of all the above issues, many asylum seekers and refugees have had poor access to health care prior to arriving in the UK. The health concerns of the asylum seekers and refugees can be seen in the health concerns of young people and asylum seekers pdf

The health concerns of children, young people and adults seeking asylum and refugees can be grouped into three categories. Category 1: Health concerns’ on arrival in UK, Category 2: Health concerns at Settlement stage and Category 3: Long-term Health concerns. These categories generally reflect the health needs of adult asylum seekers and refugees from arrival in UK to long-term needs.

As stated above asylum seekers, refugees are at increased risk of physical, and psychological health problems, so early screening, assessment and holistic interventions are necessary. Early identification and providing treatment are less costly and beneficial to individuals. This approach should adopt screening and assessment tools appropriate for adults and children3, 4,5.

The following attached files contain the hand held records for adults and children, these were developed by the department of health in 20046 these can still be used to assist health care practitioners identifying physical and psychological problems and provide the possible holistic support. Hand held records are available on the web archive.

Some of the issues described by respondents were quite similar to the physical health needs of asylum seekers and refugees outlined by Dr Angela Burnett and Yohannes Fassil7, champions of the health needs for asylum seekers and refugees in their 2002 resource pack entitled “Meeting the health needs of Refugee and Asylum seekers in the UK”. However, the findings of this project highlights the psychological and mental health needs which have hitherto received less attention. We therefore hope that local services would be able to adapt their assessment and screening to incorporate both physical and mental health issues to ensure that asylum seekers and refugees can be assessed and receive timely treatment.


  1. Equality Act 2010 (Commencement No. 1) Order 2010 (SI 2010/1736). (Accessed: 20 July 2017).
  2. United Kingdom: Human Rights Act 1998 [United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland], 9 November 1998, [accessed 20 July 2017]
  3. NHS England (2015) Guidance on Equality and Diversity, London.
  4. UN General Assembly, Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, 28 July 1951, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 189, p. 137, [accessed 20 July 2017]
  5. European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, Nov. 4, 1950, 213 U.N.T.S. 222, archived at The European Convention on Human Rights was incorporated into the national legislation of the United Kingdom by the Human Rights Act 1998, c. 42,, archived at
  6. Feikert-Ahalt, C. (2016), The Asylum Process, accessed June 2017
  7. Global health Summit (2016) the members of the M8 Alliance