Unaccompanied asylum seeking minors: emotional and mental health issues and service provision

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Unaccompanied asylum seeking minors: emotional and mental health issues and service provision (0)

Background:
Every year, thousands of unaccompanied children under the age of 18 arrive in the UK hoping for a better life. Although almost half of all refugees seeking asylum globally are children, unaccompanied minors remain
a hidden group within these statistics. Separation of children from their families and guardians is seldom an event that takes place without the occurrence of other desperate circumstances such war, death, sexual violence and persecution. Exposure to such horrifying events, in addition to feelings of grief and displacement, make this group extremely vulnerable in terms of emotional and mental health problems.
Aims:
To explore current literature on the topic of child and adolescent refugee health, with a specific focus on
unaccompanied minors. This is with a view to discovering their pre-flight experiences, their well-being and
health upon settling in a new country, and the provision of care afforded them.

Method:
A variety of primary and secondary sources were explored to gain a working knowledge of the subject. A
literature review utilising Medline, EMBASE, CINAHL and PsychINFO amongst others enabled
identification of the most relevant and up-to-date articles. Additionally, the experience of talking to members
of various organisations as well as asylum seekers themselves, proved invaluable in formulating the paper.

Results:
It is evident that this particular group of asylum seekers are more vulnerable than most in terms of
exploitation, health and general well-being. The children have often experienced more pre-flight trauma and
loss than their accompanied counterparts, and consequently have very high levels of severe anxiety,
depression and post traumatic stress in addition to their high levels of internalising. Girls, those with lowsupport
living arrangements and those who experienced the greatest numbers of traumatic events were
particularly vulnerable, high-risk groups. Services to meet these specific needs are lacking.

Conclusion:
Being unaccompanied is a significant risk factor for emotional and mental morbidity. It is therefore essential
that appropriate care and services are provided to help deal with these complex needs. Furthermore, it is
essential that this group are treated, ultimately, as children and not merely as ‘asylum seekers’.

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