(Over)crowded house: exploring asylum seekers' experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic while living at accommodation centers in Sweden.

van Eggermont Arwidson C, Holmgren J, Tinghög P, Eriksson H, Gottberg K

BMC Public Health 24 (1) 622 [2024-02-27; online 2024-02-27]

The COVID-19 pandemic has made visible the scale of health disparities in society, highlighting how the distribution of infection and deaths differs between population subgroups within countries. Asylum seekers represent a potentially vulnerable group; early in the pandemic, concerns were raised about their housing situation, usually involving overcrowded, camp-like accommodations, and the effects of COVID-19 in relation to this. Hence, this study aimed to explore asylum seekers' experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic while living at accommodation centers. In this qualitative study, 14 semi-structured interviews were conducted with asylum seekers at two accommodation centers in Sweden. Participants represented a diverse group of asylum seekers in regard to age, educational background, and gender. Data were analyzed using qualitative content analysis. Experiences related to COVID-19 were highly dependent on the living situation at the accommodation centers and the experience of feeling unsafe in shared spaces. This was enhanced by the experiences of a challenging mix of COVID-19 messages where different understandings of COVID-19 and related measures existed, together with a feeling of loss of control and safety in shared rooms. Additionally, participants felt more isolated from the outside society and missed prior social activities. Adding to this experience of isolation was an increasing mistrust regarding the authorities' pandemic response. This study highlights the importance of understanding the specific challenges and vulnerabilities of asylum seekers at accommodation centers during the pandemic, shaped by their housing situation and legal status. The findings underscore the need for context-specific support, holistic disease prevention approaches, and tailored health communication strategies using diverse formats. Additionally, the findings emphasize the crucial need to identify and mobilize existing community resources in planning and implementing pandemic control measures. Furthermore, the study emphasizes governmental responsibility in providing secure housing, and to address long-term vulnerabilities beyond pandemics.

Category: Public Health

Category: Social Science & Humanities

Type: Journal article

PubMed 38413952

DOI 10.1186/s12889-024-18089-6

Crossref 10.1186/s12889-024-18089-6

pmc: PMC10898156
pii: 10.1186/s12889-024-18089-6

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