The importance of the relationship between health and migration has been recognised for a long time with a more recent focus on refugee health. The experience of life threatening situations in countries of origin, the flight itself, but also the legal status of a refugee in the destination country brings about many health-related challenges. One area, in which these challenges become particularly visible, is the housing situation of refugees. In contrast to many voluntary migrants, refugees are often required to live in shared accommodations. These can be flats but also buildings constructed for other purposes, such as old factories, gyms, or hotels, container buildings, or tents. Thus, the living conditions of refugees in destination countries are often below the average housing standard of the native population. This situation can on the one hand reinforce challenges to refugees’ physical, psychological and social health, and on the other hand it can hinder the good provision of healthcare at home.
This workshop addresses these challenges for the case of Germany - which had the highest number of asylum applications between 2015 and 2017 - by analysing different aspects of refugee health from an interdisciplinary perspective. The contributions bring together the results from theoretical/philosophical reflections, as well as qualitative and quantitative empirical data, including the perspective of refugees and health care providers. The contributions raise questions about the characteristics of accommodations that affect the subjective well-being and health of refugees. The results show that there are particular challenges for health and healthcare provision related to the general situation of accommodation of refugees in Germany. These include the potential transmission of germs and related risks for the physical health of refugees, the creation of a situation of exclusion from society which can worsen psychological stressors, as well as the distance from worshipping places, which can hinder the beneficial effects of communities of faith for the social health of refugees. In addition, the possibilities of maternity care in shared accommodations are often limited due to the lack of privacy, which can represent a stressor for pregnant women and young families.
The results presented in this workshop are the outcomes of some projects developed in the graduate school “Challenges and Opportunities of Global Refugee Migration for Healthcare in Germany - FlüGe”. FlüGe encompasses 12 doctoral students, supervised by 12 professors from five faculties at Bielefeld University. It covers a broad range of disciplines (public health, psychology, microbiology, theology, and law) with an active involvement of practice partners, such as clinical and governmental institutions. In taking this approach, the graduate school aims to identify the short-, medium-, and long-term challenges and opportunities posed to global migration for healthcare in Germany and seeks to develop practical solutions.
Despite the diversity in refugee accommodation in Germany, shared housing in general negatively affects refugee health in various ways. The accommodation of refugees poses challenges to the physical, mental and social health of refugees and to the efficient provision of healthcare at home.