Why such a project

EU-VET CARE, “Strengthening capacities for better health care to refugee and migrant children”, is a three-year project (1/9/2018 – 31/8/2021) funded by the ERASMUS+ Programme of the European Union, which aims to design and implement innovative vocational training on the appropriate delivery of health-care for migrant/refugee children. 

Since 2015 due to the Middle East crisis and poverty in many parts of the world, Europe has experienced increasing migrant and refugee flows. The arrival to Europe of large numbers of displaced people has challenged public health services. 

Of particular concern is the fact that one out of three migrants/refugees reaching European countries is a child. More specifically, according to the updated Eurostat database, children’s applications for asylum between 2014 and 2018 reached 1,100,345 (Eurostat, 2018b). Migrant/refugee children are vulnerable at all stages of the journey and have specific health and social needs. Their experiences both in their country of origin, including extreme poverty, war and traumatic events and their migration journey, including traumatic experiences such as separation, sexual abuse and trafficking, significantly affect their health status. Conditions in the host country, like poor living conditions, lack of access to schooling, uncertain immigration status, social exclusion, acculturation issues, and racism/xenophobia can further negatively affect their physical and mental health. Migrant/refugee children are thus in a position of vulnerability due to physically exhaustion and psychological trauma. At the same time, evidence regarding provision and access to health care for this group is scarce due to inadequate understanding of the actual needs of migrant/refugee children so as to achieve more tailor-made interventions.

According to the Council of Europe, professionals are insufficiently trained on specialized care for migrant/refugee children. In a pediatricians’ survey from 10 EU countries, 80% of respondents had not received training on migrant children's health needs, 64% were not aware of updated guidelines and almost 50% faced communication problems (Carrasco-Sanz et al., 2017). Mental health professionals and social workers who treat migrant children should also be trained on intercultural communication and competency (Horlings and Hein, 2018; Westwood, 2012). At the same time and even though this is an under-researched area (Westwood, 2012), it is evident that interpreters are crucial in identifying the needs of child migrants/refugees although there is an obvious lack of trained people to perform this task (Jaeger et al., 2013; ISSOP, 2018). 

Health professionals and cultural mediators need to know and address the cultural, medical and administrative factors impeding access of migrant/refugee children to healthcare and through training, be able to enhance health promotion and access for them.

Having identified the gap in specialized training in this area, the EU-VET CARE project aims to design and implement innovative vocational training on the appropriate delivery of health-care for this population.