The Ethics of Mental Healthcare for Asylum Seekers in European Reception Centers

Asylum seekers arrive to host states with various needs and rights. Some of these are very urgent, for example the needs for food, water, and emergency care for immediately life-threatening medical problems. Others are less urgent, such as the right to education or the right to enter the workforce. In policy, it is tacitly assumed that the host state has an immediate obligation to provide for the more urgent of these needs and rights and that others may be provided for at a later time.

This report suggests making a clearer distinction between the two kinds of obligations, deferrable obligations and non-deferrable obligations, the latter of which are the more urgent obligations which states must satisfy immediately. It is also suggested that we develop a set of criteria to assist in determining into which category some particular obligation falls. Additionally, this report urges policymakers to consider that states may have non-deferrable obligations not only to remove legal barriers that prevent individuals from accessing things to which they have a right but also to remove further practical barriers.

The first part of the report focuses on these general theoretical issues. It is important to note here is a distinction between ethical obligations (which exist independently of any laws or conventions) and political obligations (which depend on the laws and conventions that a state has passed or is party to). The general framework assumed by this report is that it is the responsibility of policymakers to be sensitive to what the ethical obligations are and to develop policies that align with these ethical obligations, thereby putting in place a system of political obligations that promote the ethical good. 

Published 2019-01-07