In recent years, Northern Ireland has seen an increase in the numbers of asylum seekers and refugees. Given its status as a post-conflict region, this is a relatively new phenomenon for the area. Northern Ireland is also the only part of the United Kingdom (UK) without a refugee integration strategy. In 2016, we conducted an extensive study for the racial equality unit of the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister in Stormont on the everyday life experience of asylum seekers and refugees in Northern Ireland with view to understanding how service delivery and notions of integration/inclusion impact.
This was a mixed methods study using quantitative survey methods and in-depth semi-structured interviews with service providers, asylum seekers, refugees and new UK citizens. We examined a range of service provision such as education, labour, legal provision, housing and health.
This article examines the issue of mental health with respect to asylum seekers and refugees in Northern Ireland. The results delineate how asylum seekers and refugee’s mental health is dramatically impacted by the asylum system in SaveNorthern Ireland (and hence, the UK) and the dearth thereof, of particular and necessary supports and access issues in the space of health and mental health in Northern Ireland. We describe how post-migration stressors experienced through the UK asylum system further compound mental health issues. The findings provide a focus on the asylum system, housing and employment.
Our research found a dearth of mental health supports in Northern Ireland and concluded that the asylum system in the UK (as a form of post-migration stressor) further exacerbates and contributes to poor mental health and well-being for many asylum seekers and refugees.