Impact of asylum interviews on the mental health of traumatized asylum seekers

Author(s): KATRIN Schock, Rita ROSNER and Christine KNAEVELSRUD




Asylum interviews within the asylum procedure are associated with psychological stress for traumatized asylum seekers. This study investigates the impact of asylum interviews on the mental health in a sample of 40 traumatized asylum seekers. The comparison group consisted of refugees (N=10) that had not been invited to an asylum interview. Additionally, the moderating effects of trial-related variables such as perceived justice of the trial, stress of giving testimony, and stress of waiting for the asylum interview were examined.


Participants were assessed on average 10 days before (t1) and 16 days after (t2) the asylum interview. Chi-square tests for dichotomous and categorical variables were used to compare the descriptive statistics of the two groups. To investigate symptom changes from t1 to t2, paired t-tests were calculated. The magnitude of effects was measured by Cohen’s effect size d within groups. Hierarchical regression analyses were conducted for demographic and trial variables predicting posttraumatic intrusions, avoidance, and hyperarousal.


Data showed a significant increase in posttraumatic intrusions and a significant decrease in posttraumatic avoidance and hyperarousal symptoms from t1 to t2. No significant symptom changes in the posttraumatic stress disorder subscales were found in the comparison group. The results of hierarchical regression analyses revealed perceived justice of the interview to predict the increase of intrusions and the number of experienced traumata and testimony stress to predict posttraumatic avoidance.


The present findings underline the stressful impact of asylum interviews on traumatized refugees. They indicate that the asylum interview might decrease posttraumatic avoidance and trigger posttraumatic intrusions, thus highlight the importance of ensuring that the already vulnerable group of traumatized refugees needs to be treated with empathy during their asylum interview.

Keywords: Asylum seekers, asylum interview, trial, trauma, posttraumatic stress disorder

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