120 suicide attempts in asylum camps in 2016

Steep increase: Three asylum seekers committed suicide last year, and 120 attempted to. A quarter of them were children.

The photo shows an asylum seeker who cut his arm shortly after being rejected.

The web media Sameksistens informs about a sheet from Ministry of Immigration and Integration showing a disturbingly high number of suicides, suicide attempts and self destructive behaviour in the asylum camps. The sheet shows that a large part of the episodes took place in Center Ranum, Vesthimmerland. There were also many in the camps run by Danish Red Cross, but this number covers many camps, including special care camps for vulnerable persons.

The newspaper Information has also described the rising number of incidents among unaccompanied minors, and here it was mentioned that it mostly takes place in connection to rejections on asylum and age testing.

The number of incidents represents a rise of over 40% compared to 2015, where only 50 attempts took place according to the newspaper Arbejderen, and 7 of them were among unaccompanied minors. No suicides were carried out.

The number of asylum seekers was however more than 3 times higher in 2015 (21,300) than in 2016 (6,200). The suicide attempts are in this way a very steep increase per capita.

The increase can probably best be explained by the long waiting times that arose after the large numbers of new applicants in the end of 2015. Many waited up to one year before going to the first interview. Even the unaccompanied minors, who should be prioritized according to the law, were often waiting for one year. We wrote about that in September last year. After the age test, many were judged to be over 18 years.

The percentage of how many were granted asylum was likewise higher in 2015 (85%) than i 2016 (72%). The suicides and the attempts might very well be reactions to a rejection on asylum. There was a small increase towards the end of the year, following the rate of recognition which was going down. This year, the recognition rate is down to 39% so far.

A large part of the asylum seekers are already traumatized from their home country, and more will be so during the journey – especially the ones who travel through Libya. But the waiting time in the asylum camps and the anxiety over the decision can have even more serious mental consequences. This has been proved in a study from 2007: Length of stay in asylum centres and mental health in asylum seekers: a retrospective study from Denmark.