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A crisis of protection and safe passage: violence experienced by migrants/refugees travelling along the Western Balkan corridor to Northern Europe

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ABSTRACT

Background: Pushed by ongoing conflicts and pulled by the desire for a better life, over one million migrants/refugees transited Balkan countries and arrived in Europe during 2015 and early 2016. To curb this influx, European countries instituted restrictive migration policies often characterized by building of razor-wire border fences and border closures. Among migrants/refugees who received mental health care in Serbia while travelling through Balkan countries to Northern Europe, we assessed the prevalence and patterns of violent events experienced including physical trauma.

Methods: A mixed methods study among migrants/refugees attending mobile mental health clinics run by Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) between July 2015 and June 2016, in Serbia – a main transit hub to European countries. Clinics were conducted according to MSF guidelines by experienced psychologists who were supported by cultural mediators. The main outcome measures were violent events and associated physical trauma.

Results: Of 992 migrants/refugees attending MSF mental health clinics, the majority (72%) were from Syria and Afghanistan and included vulnerable groups (14%) such as unaccompanied minors and pregnant women. The most frequent mental health symptoms/signs were anxiety (29%) and adjustment reactions (26%). Of the 992 migrants/refugees, 270 (27%) had experienced violent events during their journey. Signs of physical trauma due to acts of violence were seen in 223(22%) of the 992 individuals, 144 (65%) being perpetrated by State authorities and involving women (11%) and children (13%).

Results: Border closures along the Balkan route were associated with a dramatic decrease in registered migrants/refugee arrivals in Serbia. Conversely, among those that made it across the borders, an increasing linear trend in reported violent events was observed at MSF mental health clinics (X2 for linear trend, P <0 · 001). Qualitative evidence corroborated with quantitative findings.

Conclusions: Nearly one-in-three migrants/refugees seen in MSF clinics experienced violent events including physical trauma along their journey. State authorities, including those in European countries were the perpetrators in over half of such events which were associated with border closures. There is “a crisis of protection and safe passage” which needs to change towards one of respect for the principles of international human rights and refugee law.

No MeSH data available.


Related in: MedlinePlus

Trend in migrant/refugee arrivals and violent events/100 consultations in Serbia in relation to Balkan border closures (2015–2016)
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Fig3: Trend in migrant/refugee arrivals and violent events/100 consultations in Serbia in relation to Balkan border closures (2015–2016)

Mentions: A total of 270 (27%) individuals out of the 992 migrants/refugees reported having experienced violent events during their journey. Border closures along the Balkan route were associated with a dramatic decrease in numbers of arrivals in Serbia (the main transit hub to Europe) with very few arriving from March to June 2016 (Table 1 and Fig. 3). Conversely, the rate of violent events (per 100 consultations) experienced by those who made it across the borders to Serbia increased in a linear manner over time (chi square for linear trend: 37, P <0 · 001).Fig. 3


A crisis of protection and safe passage: violence experienced by migrants/refugees travelling along the Western Balkan corridor to Northern Europe
Trend in migrant/refugee arrivals and violent events/100 consultations in Serbia in relation to Balkan border closures (2015–2016)
© Copyright Policy - OpenAccess
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License 1 - License 2
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC5392386&req=5

Fig3: Trend in migrant/refugee arrivals and violent events/100 consultations in Serbia in relation to Balkan border closures (2015–2016)
Mentions: A total of 270 (27%) individuals out of the 992 migrants/refugees reported having experienced violent events during their journey. Border closures along the Balkan route were associated with a dramatic decrease in numbers of arrivals in Serbia (the main transit hub to Europe) with very few arriving from March to June 2016 (Table 1 and Fig. 3). Conversely, the rate of violent events (per 100 consultations) experienced by those who made it across the borders to Serbia increased in a linear manner over time (chi square for linear trend: 37, P <0 · 001).Fig. 3

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

ABSTRACT

Background: Pushed by ongoing conflicts and pulled by the desire for a better life, over one million migrants/refugees transited Balkan countries and arrived in Europe during 2015 and early 2016. To curb this influx, European countries instituted restrictive migration policies often characterized by building of razor-wire border fences and border closures. Among migrants/refugees who received mental health care in Serbia while travelling through Balkan countries to Northern Europe, we assessed the prevalence and patterns of violent events experienced including physical trauma.

Methods: A mixed methods study among migrants/refugees attending mobile mental health clinics run by M&eacute;decins sans Fronti&egrave;res (MSF) between July 2015 and June 2016, in Serbia &ndash; a main transit hub to European countries. Clinics were conducted according to MSF guidelines by experienced psychologists who were supported by cultural mediators. The main outcome measures were violent events and associated physical trauma.

Results: Of 992 migrants/refugees attending MSF mental health clinics, the majority (72%) were from Syria and Afghanistan and included vulnerable groups (14%) such as unaccompanied minors and pregnant women. The most frequent mental health symptoms/signs were anxiety (29%) and adjustment reactions (26%). Of the 992 migrants/refugees, 270 (27%) had experienced violent events during their journey. Signs of physical trauma due to acts of violence were seen in 223(22%) of the 992 individuals, 144 (65%) being perpetrated by State authorities and involving women (11%) and children (13%).

Results: Border closures along the Balkan route were associated with a dramatic decrease in registered migrants/refugee arrivals in Serbia. Conversely, among those that made it across the borders, an increasing linear trend in reported violent events was observed at MSF mental health clinics (X2 for linear trend, P &lt;0&thinsp;&middot;&thinsp;001). Qualitative evidence corroborated with quantitative findings.

Conclusions: Nearly one-in-three migrants/refugees seen in MSF clinics experienced violent events including physical trauma along their journey. State authorities, including those in European countries were the perpetrators in over half of such events which were associated with border closures. There is &ldquo;a crisis of protection and safe passage&rdquo; which needs to change towards one of respect for the principles of international human rights and refugee law.

No MeSH data available.


Related in: MedlinePlus