Asylum, destitution and harmful alcohol use
By Dr Steph Grohmann, Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at the Centre for Homelessness and Inclusion Health (CHIH), University of Edinburgh
“If somebody has no hope for tomorrow it becomes unbearable, yeah. If he’s been waiting for years and no answer, no decision, no nothing, you don’t know what it’s for and about what, that is a bad situation. It’s a mental torture at one point, so that can cause somebody to switch on something which is wrong” Former UK asylum seeker
In 2019, more than 70 million people globally were forcibly displaced by armed conflict or natural disasters. As a signatory to the 1951 Convention on Refugees, the UK is legally obliged to admit any persons seeking asylum at its borders, currently roughly 35.000 persons a year. Most of those claiming asylum in the UK have already gone through traumatic experiences in their countries of origin or on the journey. Once arrived, they find that despite their hopes of finally having reached safety, they are only at the start of a years-long process of waiting and hoping for a positive asylum decision. Despite these many stressors, however, very little data exists on what role, if any, harmful alcohol use plays in this population.