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

Publication date: Feb 27, 2024

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.

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Concepts Keywords
Asylum Accommodation centers
Interviews Asylum seekers
Overcrowded COVID-19 pandemic
Pandemic Equity
Sweden Housing
Qualitative research


Type Source Name
disease MESH COVID-19 pandemic
disease MESH infection
disease VO population
drug DRUGBANK Cyclic Adenosine Monophosphate
pathway REACTOME Reproduction
drug DRUGBANK Stavudine
disease MESH death
disease IDO country
disease IDO host
disease IDO process
disease MESH psychological distress
disease VO organ
disease VO Equity
disease VO organization
drug DRUGBANK Polyethylene glycol
disease VO Gap
disease MESH educational levels
disease VO time
disease MESH Marital status
drug DRUGBANK Water
drug DRUGBANK Nonoxynol-9
disease VO Thing
disease MESH uncertainty
disease VO mouth
disease VO vaccine
disease VO effective
drug DRUGBANK Coenzyme M
drug DRUGBANK Pentaerythritol tetranitrate
drug DRUGBANK Trestolone
disease VO vaccinated
drug DRUGBANK Indoleacetic acid
disease MESH loneliness
disease MESH emergencies
drug DRUGBANK Ademetionine
drug DRUGBANK Etoperidone
disease MESH mental illness
disease MESH influenza

Original Article

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