Asylum seekers often have a long journey behind them in dangerous, stressful and unhygienic conditions. During their journey, they had little or no access to medical care for some time. Health care in their country of origin is often not (or no longer) up to par. Asylum seekers are therefore a vulnerable group at risk of health problems.
A person applying for asylum in The Netherlands is what we call an asylum seeker. Only those people who are in danger in their country of origin because of war, political violence, sexual orientation, race or religion have the right to asylum. In the asylum procedure, it is ascertained whether the person is in danger. If a person has the right to asylum, they are recognised as a refugee and are given refugee status and a residence permit. That's why we also call recognised refugees status holders. The residence permit is valid for five years at first. After five years, a status holder can apply for a residence permit for an indefinite period of time. A status holder may apply for asylum for family members who are still abroad so that they can be reunited as a family. We call these people joining family members.
The centre is the responsibility of the COA and the municipalities
The Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA) is responsible for the reception and the health care of asylum seekers during the asylum procedure. Asylum seekers are admitted to asylum seeker centres (AZCs). Municipalities must provide locations for these. In Utrecht there are three AZCs.
General health care for asylum seekers is organised a little differently
For general health care, asylum seekers can go to a special GP post in the AZC. They can make an appointment with the practice assistant. They can also call a medical help line 24 hours a day. At the GP post they are first seen by a nurse practitioner. He or she does an initial screening. The nurse practitioner can solve certain problems, for other problems, an appointment with the doctor is scheduled. After that, the support is the same: if necessary, the doctor refers the person to a specialist. In the AZC in Utrecht there is also a mental health care practice assistant (POH-GGZ), similar to the situation in a regular medical practice. They are there to treat (mild) mental health problems.
Health insurance for asylum seekers is somewhat more limited
Asylum seekers are covered by the Regulation on Healthcare for Asylum Seekers (Regeling Zorg Asielzoekers – RZA). The compensation package for asylum seekers is smaller than the regular basic insurance. Asylum seekers are entitled to receive only the necessary medical care. Asylum seekers do not have to pay a contribution themselves.
Unaccompanied Minor Foreign Nationals (UMFNs)
Children who came to The Netherlands without parents or other carers are called UMFNs. All minors in The Netherlands are under the authority of their parents or guardians. All UMFNs get a guardian from the guardianship agency Nidos. This agency helps the child during the asylum procedure. UMFNs who are younger than 15 years old live in foster families under the supervision of Nidos. Older UMFNs are supervised by the COA. They live in the AZC or in small reception facilities. Especially UMFNs with a high likelihood of receiving a residence permit or who already have one live in small residential homes. The aim is to integrate UMFNs into society as quickly as possible.
Vluchtelingenwerk Utrecht has a special team for UMFNs
In Utrecht, a special team focused on UMFNs from Vluchtelingenwerk takes over the supervision when the Nidos guardianship and supervision end. This team focuses both on young people with and without a residence permit. These young people receive more intensive support than the regular supervision that adults receive.