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Hostile asylum seeker polices making people sick

7 June 20180 comments

Hostile government policies aimed at deterring asylum seekers can compound the psychological trauma already suffered by migrants, according to two new studies.

A research paper published in the journal American Psychologist says that about “half of all Latino immigrants have experienced at least one form of trauma before arriving to US”.

“Once in US, some might experience additional traumas, but more importantly, as this paper argues, the majority will experience conditions that worsen their previous traumas, conditions in part created by biased immigration policies,” according to the study titled ‘Immigration policy, practices, and procedures: The impact on the mental health of Mexican and Central American youth and families’.

“Some US policies create a ‘hostile and discriminatory environment’ for Latino/a migrants—many of whom have already experienced traumas—but in general, for all Latino/a individuals regardless of their documentation status,” the study says.

“Discrimination (or perceived discrimination) is one of the main reasons that longer residence in U.S. is linked with increased mental health problems among immigrants,” it says.

“Discrimination also contributes to poverty. Presently, 20 per cent of all immigrants live in poverty, but the percentage of Latino/a immigrants residing in poverty is 30 per cent – almost 60 per cent live in ‘near poverty’,” the study says.

“Discrimination and poverty are exacerbated by the mistrust of government, and by fears and uncertainties regarding potential deportation,” it says.

The study says deportation “significantly damages long-term mental health among children, many of whom are U.S. citizens, and is undoubtedly traumatic across the family”.

The study claims that a number of US policies have “significant negative mental health-related implications” for immigrants.

It says “discrimination, limited access to services, poverty, fear and distrust, detention and deportation, and family separation increase the risk for poor mental health functioning among immigrants who may have already experienced traumas before and/or during the migration process”.

Meanwhile, in the UK the ‘hostile environment’ for migrants created by Prime Minister Theresa May when she was Britain’s Home Secretary is having unintended consequences, according to a report.

Under the policy, it was thought that making it difficult, if not impossible, for migrants to to see a National Health Service (NHS) doctor would deter migration.

The result has been that many migrants are so nervous about seeking attention that they avoid the NHS under any circumstances.

They are allowing themselves to become so ill that when they have no choice but to see a doctor, the NHS has to spend even more to deal with them than would have been the case had they been treated earlier.

And those with infectious or communicable illnesses, including HIV, have put the wider public at risk, in an unnecessary way, and with potentially lethal results.





Laurie Nowell
AMES Australia Senior Journalist