Forced migration and refugee health

Refugees and asylum seekers are people who have left their countries of origin fleeing war, human rights violations or persecution.

The loss of caregivers is often an additional reason why unaccompanied minors flee. Unaccompanied minors are children and young people under 18 seeking asylum without parents or other persons with parental responsibility.

People seeking asylum in Norway face a number of challenges related to separation, loss and traumatic events before and during their flight, as well as exile-related stress. The asylum-seeking process entails uncertainty, and starting a new life in an unfamiliar society is demanding.

Refugees may have been subjected to torture and violence as well as potentially traumatic events throughout their lifetime. They may also have parents who are traumatized. This kind of experiences may lead to the development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which can debilitate refugees’ daily functioning in various ways.

In our research we study which factors are associated with mental health problems and the severity of them, as well as the different life trajectories that both adults and children with refugee experience follow. Our research involves surveys, studies on prevention, intervention and treatment, as well as qualitative studies that focus on refugees’ adaptation and inclusion in Norwegian society.

Several studies focus particularly on unaccompanied minors, both during the reception phase and upon resettlement in a municipality, that is, after their asylum application is approved and they are granted residence in Norway. Other studies involve young refugees in general, whether they come alone or with their family, and are concerned with their views and experiences of growing up in exile, particularly in relation to school. This research also addresses the views of significant adults (e.g. teachers and caregivers) on how best to provide for the needs of young refugees.

The Norwegian Centre for Violence and Traumatic Stress Studies, NKVTS, collaborates with national and international researchers and research groups in developing and conducting research on refugees. We have also taken the initiative to establish the Nordic research network NordURM (Nordic Network for Research Cooperation on Unaccompanied Refugee Minors). The Nordic research project CAGE (Coming of Age in Exile), which examines the living conditions and well-being of young refugees growing-up in Norway, Denmark, Finland and Sweden, has developed through this network collaboration.

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