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MSF in France, 2009
Field Staff: 11
Reason for Intervention:
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Many asylum seekers and non-French-speaking people have problems accessing medical and psychological care in France. Many migrants have escaped violence and deprivation in their home countries only to find themselves homeless and destitute in France. Undocumented asylum seekers are extremely vulnerable, and may be susceptible to psychological disorders as a result of the stress of their experiences. In 2009, MSF continued to provide asylum seekers with medical assistance, psychological care and social support.
MSF runs a center in Paris that offers psychological care to people in distress who have come to France seeking asylum and protection. There are a variety of reasons why asylum seekers have difficulty accessing psychological care and services, including their undocumented status, the language barrier, and the nature and intensity of their psychological distress.
Psychotherapy is complemented with medical care, legal referrals and advice. Since the center opened in 2007 more than 690 people have received care and more than 11,000 consultations have been given. Psychological care is essential if mental health is deteriorating: of the patients attending the center, 41 per cent reported that they had experienced suicidal thoughts.
Healthcare on Mayotte Island
In May, MSF opened a healthcare center in a shantytown in the capital of the French island territory of Mayotte in the Indian Ocean. Free healthcare was given to people living in precarious conditions, many of whom are migrants (mostly from the Comoros) who have no valid papers or are waiting to receive them. Among those waiting for their papers are people who were born in Mayotte but are unable to prove it. MSF teams noted two significant obstacles to obtaining medical treatment: first, those without papers are afraid of being arrested and expelled, and second, healthcare is not free and most people cannot afford to pay for it.
MSF gave more than 10,000 consultations in the healthcare center, 35 per cent of which were for children under the age of five. An additional 340 were conducted in remote villages. The main medical complaints were upper respiratory tract infections and gynecological problems. Doctors also checked the children’s vaccination and nutritional status, and 1,500 people were seen for accidental injuries.
MSF has worked in France since 1987.