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Help for sanctuary seekers to understand their rights
Refugees and Asylum Seekers

Refugees and asylum seekers have often experienced physical or mental trauma on their journey to Wales. Ensuring refugees and asylum seekers can access health services, including mental health services is one of the priorities in our Nation of Sanctuary plan. This section of the website explains how and where you can receive healthcare. All asylum seekers and refugees can access free medical treatment from the National Health Service (NHS) in Wales. You are entitled to be provided with relevant information in a language you understand. It is the responsibility of health services to arrange free interpretation to make sure you can communicate properly.

NHS Wales offers free screening tests to members of the public to check if they are at increased risk of some diseases. These tests can make sure you can access treatment to improve your health outcome if you are found to have an increased risk of developing a disease. You will need to register with a GP to make sure you are offered screening at the right time. For more information go to Public Health Wales Screening website

Those who are in the asylum process who are becoming parents, or who already have children, are faced with many challenges in their new homes. There are various resources to help parents online. One of these is the Solihull Approach  which offers advice on subjects such as child behaviour, feeding, sleeping and using the toilet. These resources are available in Arabic, Chinese, Polish, Punjabi and other languages.  

Registering with health services

Refugees and asylum seekers are entitled to access General Practitioner (GP) surgeries. A GP is a family doctor. You must register with a GP to ensure you can access treatment when you are sick. GPs can decide whether to register refused asylum seekers. They have to offer immediate necessary treatment for anyone who normally lives outside their area. If you cannot be registered as a permanent resident in the area, you could be treated as a temporary resident for at least 14 days. If you are an asylum seeker then ‘Clearsprings Ready Homes’ should assist you to be registered with a GP. If you are having trouble being accepted by a GP surgery, your Local Health Board is able to register you to a surgery.To find a GP surgery near you visit NHS Direct Wales.

It is the responsibility of health boards to arrange free interpretation for appointments with doctors and hospital visits. The service will need to know that you need an interpreter before you arrive as they will need to book this for you. .

Immigration status and health

Asylum seekers do not have to provide their immigration status when registering with health services. Health services may ask for identification when deciding whether you are entitled to free treatment. Asylum seekers should show an ‘Asylum Registration Card (ARC)’. You can also show a letter from the UK Government explaining that the asylum application has been refused. Some refused asylum seekers may be concerned about giving their details to the Local Health Board. The Local Health Board will not share your details with the UK Government. This is because we believe it is important that you seek treatment if you need it.

If you are an asylum seeker living in ‘Initial Accommodation’ in Cardiff you can access the ‘Cardiff Health Access Practice’ (CHAP). CHAP is run by Cardiff and Vale University Health Board. CHAP will make contact with you during your stay to offer you a health screening appointment. CHAP can also arrange vaccinations or immunisations. We recommend you accept this offer as the service can ensure any health issues are properly understood and treated as soon as possible. 

If you are in asylum accommodation in Cardiff, Swansea, Newport or Wrexham the Local Health Board will have an ‘asylum nurse’ available. They will help you register with health services in the local area. ‘Clearsprings Ready Homes’ should be able to identify the asylum nurse if needed.


A dentist ensures your teeth are healthy. You do not need to register with a dentist but free dental treatment will only be available at a dentist which accepts NHS patients. You can find a local NHS dentist by searching in your local area at the NHS Direct website. If you need emergency dental treatment, you can contact the dental help line at NHS Direct Wales.

Getting medical help

Once you have registered with a GP, you can receive routine medical care. This is usually through an appointment system. You will need to ask your GP for details about how appointments can be booked at your surgery. You can also ask to be seen by a male or female doctor if possible. You can ask for a home visit if you are disabled or too unwell to visit the GP surgery.

It is the responsibility of health boards to arrange free interpretation for appointments with doctors and hospital visits. The service will need to know that you need an interpreter before you arrive as they will need to book this for you. .

Lots of health advice can be found on the NHS Direct Wales website or on the telephone, without the need to wait for a GP appointment. NHS Direct has an interpretation service which helps people who do not speak English or Welsh to get help in a language of their choice. More information about the help NHS Direct Wales can give to those who do not speak English or Welsh can be found on their website

The NHS in Wales aims to provide the best care and treatment but sometimes treatment may go wrong. When this happens you can make a complaint. It may be easiest to speak with those giving you treatment but if you do not want to do this, you can talk to the Health Board’s complaints team. Visit the Health in Wales website to find out more about making a complaint

Emergency medical treatment can be sought by calling 999 and asking for an ambulance. This must only be used in an emergency. If you do not speak or understand English, speak in your own language. The call operator will arrange an interpreter. It is important you say where you are, including the address and post code.

Prescriptions for medicines are free for all in Wales. Medicines can be collected from local pharmacies or chemists.

Many health services in Wales run ‘Out of Hours’ services between 6:30pm and 8:00am on weekdays and all day at weekends and on public holidays. This is when many healthcare settings may be closed. During ‘out of hours’ periods you may still be able to telephone your GP surgery and you may be redirected to another service. You can also call NHS 111 for advice and information. You can visit the NHS 111 website at this link.

NHS Wales provides ‘screening’ to test members of the public for various types of disease at different points in life. This includes types of Cancer, Heart disease and disorders affecting healthy child development. More information about screening programmes can be found at the Screening for Life website.

Mental health and well-being

Looking after your mental health and well-being is a very important part of keeping healthy. Anyone can feel anxious, worried or stressed at different times in their life. You are likely to have experienced traumatic events and adjusting to life in a new country can be very difficult. You can talk to your GP if you feel stressed or that life is not worth living. Your GP may be able to find you some expert help. If you want to talk to someone about these problems, the Samaritans has a free to call service 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, which is confidential. You can call them on 116 123.  There are other organisations trying to help refugees and asylum seekers who feel this way. You may be able to Find Help from a local refugee or asylum seeker support organisation.

Many refugees and asylum seekers will experience something called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Someone with PTSD may relive trauma through nightmares and flashbacks. You may feel isolated or guilty about what happened. You may have trouble sleeping and concentrating. PTSD can affect you straight after a disturbing event or months or years later. If you think you, or someone you know, is suffering with PTSD you should talk to your GP about this.

Asylum seekers can spend many months waiting for the UK Government to decide their asylum application. During this time, you may feel isolated and feel like giving up. Volunteering with a charity or participating in physical activity can be good ways to improve your well-being. You may be able to Find Help from a local refugee or asylum seeker support organisation.

Children and young people can also be affected by poor mental health or well-being. Secondary schools have counselling services which can be used by pupils if they feel worried, anxious or confused. 

Information on Trauma and Mental Health

If you or someone you know has experienced a traumatic event, a toolkit is available to help you. This is available in over 20 different languages. If you click on the link below, this will take you to the Traumatic Stress Wales website. You will be able to download a copy of the toolkit in the language you need. This is a link to the English version of the toolkit:

The Royal College of Psychiatrists has also developed a helpful leaflet. This one is about coping after a traumatic event:

Coping after a traumatic event | Royal College of Psychiatrists (

It contains information for anyone who has experienced a traumatic event. It can also help someone who knows a person who has experienced a traumatic event. This leaflet is available in over 20 different languages.

There is also another leaflet on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This is also available in different languages.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) | Royal College of Psychiatrists (

This is a leaflet developed by the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Support Hub. When people arrive in Wales, they may feel frightened or disorientated. They may have seen violence towards others or experienced it themselves. They may have seen their homes and towns destroyed. They may have lost or become separated from friends and family. People may also struggle to cope with their new surroundings. The leaflet includes helpful links to information that may be of use: 

Support-for-Displaced-People-in-Wales-Private-Accomodation-English.pdf (

The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Support Hub also have other resources and leaflets explaining the effects of trauma, which have been translated into multiple languages.  Resources include:


a leaflet on health and wellbeing support for displaced people

a leaflet on help for people who have experienced distressing events

a navigating the storm animation


Another helpful resource is Dewis Cymru which is an online database of health and wellbeing services across Wales. You can search this database for community organisations that can offer help to those seeking sanctuary and refugees.

Maternity and reproductive health

If you are pregnant you should notify the GP surgery to ensure that you receive support during your pregnancy from NHS midwives. After the baby is born, ‘health visitors’ will provide you with advice and support to ensure your baby is developing well. NHS Wales provides ‘screening’ services to check that your baby is healthy. This includes checks before the baby is born and when they are new born. More information about child screening programmes can be found at the Screening for Life website. Children registered with a GP in Wales can also receive a range of vaccinations to help keep them, their family and neighbours safe. These vaccines are offered free. More information about available childhood vaccines can be found at the NHS Direct Wales website.

The NHS provides a range of reproductive health services which can help you to make informed decisions. This includes advice about contraception, sexually transmitted infections, abortion and family planning. They can also help if you have been sexually assaulted. More information about sexual health can be found at the NHS Direct Wales website. Using contraception and abortion are legal in the UK and can be provided safely and without charge.

Smoking or drinking alcohol during pregnancy can damage your baby’s development. Advice and help to stop smoking can be found at the ‘Help Me Quit’ website. Advice about how to stop drinking alcohol can be found at the Alcohol Change website.

If you are a survivor of sexual violence, you can find more information which could help you on the Staying Safe page of this website.


What you need to know

You can access all the up to date information and advice about coronavirus here:

You can spread the virus even if you have no symptoms. People who are ill may have a cough or a high temperature.

If you need any treatment with coronavirus symptoms, you will not have to pay. You do not need to worry, your information will not be shared with the UK Government.

Please contact ‘999’ if you need urgent medical attention.

Public Health Wales has also created a coronavirus help booklet. It is available in many different languages:

‘Doctors of the World’ has provided information in many different languages:

Advice on Strep A and Scarlet Fever

Please see the following advice to help you understand the symptoms of Strep A and Scarlet Fever 'Scarletine':

Treat at home

If your child has any of the following:

  • Sore throat
  • Headache

Cold and flu like symptoms are very common at this time of year, especially in children.  Most will have a common seasonal virus, which can be treated at home by keeping the child hydrated, and with paracetamol.

Contact NHS 111 Wales or your GP for advice

If your child also develops any of the following:

  • Fever
  • Nausea or vomiting

A fine red rash, which typically first appears on the chest and stomach. Older children may not have the rash.

Contact GP straight away

If your child has any of the following:

  • Fever (a high temperature above 38°C)
  • Severe muscle aches
  • Localised muscle tenderness
  • Redness at the site of a wound

Contact your GP or get medical advice straight away.  

Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR)

Measles outbreaks are rising in Wales.

Measles is very infectious and can be very serious. It spreads easily between people who are not vaccinated. It can cause serious illnesses, such as meningitis. People, including children, can die from measles.

The best protection against Measles is the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccination. More people need to receive the MMR vaccine to prevent the disease from spreading.

 The symptoms of Measles are:

  • red or brown rash (it can be more difficult to see the rash on dark skin)
  • fever
  • cough
  • runny nose
  • red eyes

If you or your child has symptoms of Measles, stay at home and phone your or call NHS 111 Wales. It is free to call 111. Stay away from your GP surgery and A&E – you could spread the illness to others.

The first dose of MMR is usually given to babies at 1 year old and the second at 3 years 4 months.

If you or your child has not had 2 doses of the MMR vaccine you can get them free from your GP surgery. It is never too late to catch up on missed doses.  Parents of children who have not yet reached the age to receive their second dose don’t need to take any action.

If you had a vaccination for Measles in another country, you may still need two doses of the MMR vaccine. Vaccines given outside of the UK may not be the combined MMR vaccine. If you don’t have a record of the vaccines you have had or are not sure, discuss this with your GP or nurse. You may also need other routine UK vaccinations.

MMR vaccines that do not contain porcine (pork) gelatine are available in Wales. Speak to your GP or nurse if you need a vaccine that does not contain gelatine.  

You can look at these websites for more information: Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) - Public Health Wales (

NHS 111 Wales - Vaccinations (external link)

Measles - Don't let your child catch it - BSL video (