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MSF in France, 2008
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In response to the difficulties some asylum seekers and non-French-speaking patients face in accessing psychological care in France, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) set up a new program in Paris in 2007. It aims to provide medical and psychological care, as well as social support, to this migrant population.
The Paris center offers psychological care to people in distress who came to France seeking asylum and protection. Most of them have fled from political violence or a conflict zone. Some arrived in France only recently, while others have been living in the country for some time. For MSF patients, as for asylum seekers in general, access to existing psychological care and services is hindered by a combination of several factors including the nature and intensity of their psychological distress, social and administrative insecurity, and the language barrier.
The MSF center can offer assistance tailored to each patient. Therapeutic care is complemented with medical, social, and legal referrals and advice. Since the center opened almost two years ago, it has conducted more than 7,000 consultations. Half of these were related to psychological care, a quarter to medical care, and the remaining quarter to social assistance. Psychological care has been given to 365 people and 160 are still receiving it.
The precarious conditions in which people without valid immigration papers live, combined with what they went through in their home countries, make them extremely vulnerable. They are likely to suffer from high levels of anxiety. Psychological care is therefore essential to avoid a deterioration of their condition, which can lead to suicidal behavior. Of the patients attending the center, 41 percent reported that they have suicidal thoughts.
MSF has worked in France since 1987.