The everyday struggle for Croydon’s asylum seekers leaves no room to worry about their health and wellbeing, a new report suggests.
Healthwatch Croydon’s report found that, while adult asylum seekers do have access to primary and emergency care services, it is not their greatest need.
It is not sustainable for local charities to solely support them while facing day-to-day struggles, according to the report.
Healthwatch is calling for a more integrated approach by Croydon Council, NHS providers and local charities to support asylum seekers and refugees arriving in the borough.
Refugees who are new mothers or children, who are given social protection including welfare and accommodation, Healthwatch say can be “radically” different to single adults.
Adults are often unable to work, although desperate to, without official documentation and can find themselves homeless, according to the study.
Healthwatch, whose specialists heard accounts of exploitation, violence, malnutrition and constant tiredness from the borough’s refugees, said this cycle leaves them trapped.
The report recommends that patients on waiting lists should receive timely support from local groups
As part of its research, Healthwatch spent the autumn interviewing refugees and asylum seekers in the borough – visiting local organisations such as the Croydon Refugee Centre.
The challenges they face were laid bare in anonymous interviews.
On homelessness, one said: “When on the street, you become a ‘street person’ and nobody wants this. In the night we don’t get much sleep – my back is killing as it’s hard on the pavement and the wildlife and cleaners wake us up at 5am.
“In early morning there are no toilets – this is not trivial as it’s an £80 fine for anyone caught going in public.
“In the day time there’s nowhere to chill and relax, so we’re constantly tired. When we do get money, it doesn’t last long.”
They added that many of the borough’s refugees and asylum seekers are forced to rely on the soup kitchen in Queen’s Gardens – run by Croydon Nightwatch.
“A lot of us rely on the Queen’s Garden soup kitchen, which comes in the evening,” they said.
“Without that I don’t know what we’d do. Even refugees have dignity and feel shame, but at least my family back in Sri Lanka don’t know it’s come to this.”
Jai Jayaraman, interim Healthwatch Croydon chief executive, said recommendations made in the report are limited to short-term health-related actions.
He said: “The issues raised in this report overlap on policy areas of welfare, housing and health, however given our remit, we limit our recommendations to health related actions that are achievable in the short term.
“These include improving information in appropriate languages and formats; developing better customer service for those with low levels of English; and encouraging community mental health providers to work closely with charity partners to spend more time on the most vulnerable.
“An integrated approach on these solutions between Croydon Council, NHS providers and charities will deliver a better service for those who need it."
Dr Tony Brzezicki, clinical chairman for NHS Croydon Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said he welcomes the report.
He said: "We welcome Healthwatch Croydon’s report and their focus on access to healthcare services for refugees in the borough.
“As the report highlights, we recognise the value in continuing to work with our partners across Croydon to reach those who are in the greatest need of care.”
Read the full report here.