People seeking refugee protection in Scotland are experiencing increased levels of loneliness, stress and anxiety as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Research carried out by Scottish Refugee Council asked people to rate their physical and mental health as the country emerged from lockdown.

  • One in three people with refugee status reported that their recent mental health had been poor or very poor.
  • Among people still waiting for a decision on their claim for asylum this figure was higher, with 40% of people in the asylum system reporting poor or very poor mental health.
  • Many related their feelings of poor mental health to loneliness and isolation. 37% of those in the asylum system surveyed said they had contact with friends or relatives just a few times a month.

Food poverty is another major and worrying concern. 70% of people surveyed said that not having enough money to buy food was a serious or moderate problem.

See all key findings in English, Arabic, Farsi and Kurdish Sorani.

Wafa Shaheen, Head of Integration at Scottish Refugee Council said:

“What people are telling us here mirrors the wider pattern we’re seeing with Covid, that the less money and fewer resources you have, the more exposed you are to the pandemic’s adverse effects.

“People who are waiting for a decision on their asylum claim live with a massive amount of day to day anxiety and uncertainty about their futures. As well as coping with family separation and all the stress and challenges of the asylum system itself, people have to find a way to live in enforced poverty on around £5 per day. Our research suggests that all these stressors have been exacerbated and intensified by Covid.

“Even at the best of times people tell us they are lonely and often struggle to make social connections in Scotland. There’s no doubt isolation has a significant impact on mental health and wellbeing. We’ve also seen some awful tragedies in the refugee community in Glasgow over the last five months. Local charities and communities have done everything they can to step in and help but we really need to see the Home Office and the Scottish Government working together to provide the necessary mental health support. Everyone should be protected during this pandemic, not left to struggle and cope on their own.”

The data collection period was from 8 July to 26 July 2020.

Read the full report

English: The impact of COVID-19 on refugees and refugee-assisting organisations in Scotland.


Chris Afuakwah
Author: Chris Afuakwah