Migration detention, mental health, and its relations to torture: A scoping review


Migration detention may have a negative impact on the mental health of detainees. One factor may be experiences of torture or cruel, degrading, or inhuman treatment. However, there have been few systematic attempts to map these experiences. This scoping review aimed to explore global evidence of torture in migration detention and its impact on mental health. It asks whether the negative impact of migration detention is linked to detainees being survivors of torture prior to detention or if torture might happen within detention centers. Eligibility criteria included migration-related detention and torture experienced either in the country of origin, on the migration route, or within detention, and reporting mental health-related measures. Participants had to be detained or formerly detained refugees, asylum seekers or migrants. Six databases were searched for studies published until 2020 (PsycINFO, IBSS, PubMed, PTSDPubs, Medline (Ovid), ProQuestDiss and DIGNITY). In total, 26 articles were selected for in-depth review. Reporting symptoms of PTSD, depression, and anxiety disorder, they showed that independently from the geographical place, severe mental health symptoms prevail for asylum seekers in immigration detention – especially if they are survivors of torture. Studies emphasize the deterioration of existing mental health conditions and the emergence of new symptoms of psychological distress. This scoping review indicates that the harmful effect of migration detention might arise from the exposure of violations that form torturing environments and might amount to torture.


DOI Code: 10.1285/i24212113v10i1p151

Keywords: Migration-related detention, torture, torturing environments, mental health, scoping review


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