Does overcrowding in hotspots generate mental disorders in migrants?

Does overcrowding in hotspots generate mental disorders in migrants?

This is stated in a recently published study, which shows that those who live in the reception camps with more than a thousand migrants, such as Cara di Mineo, have mental disorders with effects equal to those of mistreatment and imprisonment

(The camp di Moria. Photo: Nicolas Economou / NurPhoto / Getty Images) The humanitarian organization Doctors for Human Rights (Medu) conducted a research, published in the International Journal of Social Psychiatry, on the presence of symptoms of post-traumatic stress ( pstd) in refugees and asylum seekers housed in large reception centers. The study focused, specifically, on one of the most representative structures in this area: the Cara di Mineo which, before its closure, came to welcome 4 thousand migrants in Sicily. The researchers found that "precarious living conditions in large and overcrowded reception centers produce negative effects on the mental health of refugees and asylum seekers on a par with violence in their countries of origin or along the migratory route".

The patients followed, in fact, presented "a clinical picture of Pstd significantly more severe than others coming from smaller reception centers". The same incidence was also found in another camp, that of Moria in Lesbos, which, before being destroyed by a fire, received nearly 13,000 people, four times the capacity allowed.

The data from the study

The research was conducted on 122 people including asylum seekers and refugees. The former represent almost all of the interviewees (94%), but like the latter (6%) they had relatively recently arrived in Italy (more or less 11 months, on average). The origin was also homogeneous: 91% from West Africa, 6% North Africa and 3% Horn of Africa. Virtually everyone reached our country by sea, with precarious boats that sailed for days in the Mediterranean, and were detained for months in Libyan prisons. “79.5% of the participants presented a probable diagnosis of Ptsd”, reads the document with reference to the post-traumatic stress syndrome. In fact, a high incidence of traumatic events was found: a large number of migrants were tortured (82%), arbitrarily detained (68%), physically assaulted (65%) and were forced to witness the death of a or more people (51%). The observed range includes about 18 such situations, such as sexual assault or kidnapping. All circumstances that have led to “negative thoughts and emotions, insomnia, self-harming behaviors or outbursts of anger” which should be treated by specialists once they reach the reception centers. Instead, there are rarely such approaches, and being forced to stay for long periods in overcrowded centers only amplifies and aggravates these behaviors. It was noted that a more serious clinical picture appeared in those centers with more than a thousand migrants, just like the Cara.

“The mega centers where asylum seekers and refugees are crowded have not only proved harmful to the health of migrants but ultimately also represent a short-sighted choice from a purely utilitarian point of view as the consequences produce heavy economic and social costs in the medium and long term for the entire community ”, write the researchers of the Medu. The appeal to the Italian government and to the European institutions, despite the changes being discussed in the Berlin Treaty and the security decrees, is to completely revise the first reception model.

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