Intended for healthcare professionals

Editorials Christmas 2015

Responding to the needs of refugees

BMJ 2015; 351 doi: (Published 16 December 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h6731
  1. Frank Arnold, convenor, anti-torture initiative1,
  2. Cornelius Katona, lead23,
  3. Juliet Cohen, head of doctors4,
  4. Lucy Jones, UK programme manager5,
  5. David McCoy, director16
  1. 1Medact, London, UK
  2. 2Royal College of Psychiatrists Asylum Mental Health Working Group, London, UK
  3. 3Helen Bamber Foundation, London, UK
  4. 4Freedom from Torture, London, UK
  5. 5Doctors of the World, London, UK
  6. 6Queen Mary University London, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to: D McCoy d.mccoy{at}

Knowledge of and skills in human rights medicine will be needed

At the time of writing it is unclear how many people will eventually receive refuge in Britain from encampments in countries surrounding Syria through the UN vulnerable persons relocation scheme. The government’s current commitment to receive a maximum of 20 000 over five years, if delivered at a constant rate, would result in 4000 arrivals a year.1 It is also unclear when they will arrive and what financial and other arrangements are being made for local councils to support them. But even if the UK maintains its decision to opt out of the EU refugee sharing scheme, the number of asylum seekers reaching the UK by other routes may increase, given that more than half a million people seeking protection arrived in Europe by sea in 2015.

Whatever the numbers, many will have high levels of complex physical, psychological, social, and legal needs arising from their experiences in their countries of origin …

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