Third Class Medicine: Health Care for Refugees in Germany

Health Hum Rights. 1998;3(2):40-53.


The fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides an opportunity to scrutinize the policies of wealthier countries towards refugees and asylum seekers. Although Germany is host to two-thirds of all individuals seeking asylum in European countries, it is now taking a hard line with respect to asylum policies. This article examines the forces behind these policies which, contrary to their rationalization, do not save "tax money," but actually make life for the recipients as difficult as possible. Studies of asylum hearings show that clues indicating past trauma or torture of asylum seekers are often ignored. In addition, the administrative procedures required for the provision of health care to refugees and asylum seekers have resulted in inflated bureaucracy and excessive costs, all the while providing only third class medicine. International NGOs and human rights organizations must put pressure on governments to live up to the promises of the UDHR.