Skip to main content

Refugees: Sitting at the Nexus of Law Enforcement and Public Health

  • 177 Accesses


Few groups struggle more, at the intersection of law enforcement and public health (LEPH), than refugees. With a significant increase internationally in numbers of refugees over recent years, debates have focused on their rights to safety and access to medical services. These discussions, while often being very heated, fail to address the mental health and social justice issues that people with refugee background face when encountering law enforcement matters, whether during their journey or after their resettlement. We will argue that a heightened fear of police can impact significantly on their ability to seek help from police or to access public health services. Over time, when unaddressed, these issues can create an avalanche of difficulties. We argue that, regardless of which country is hosting those forced to flee their country of origin, the responsibility to protect and promote the health lies in de-stigmatised and more considered responses by the whole government. So far most responses have failed to abide by the international health regulations to which most countries are signatories.


  • Diversity
  • Resettlement
  • Culture
  • Race
  • Ethnicity

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Buying options

USD   29.95
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-83913-0_13
  • Chapter length: 14 pages
  • Instant PDF download
  • Readable on all devices
  • Own it forever
  • Exclusive offer for individuals only
  • Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout
USD   84.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • ISBN: 978-3-030-83913-0
  • Instant PDF download
  • Readable on all devices
  • Own it forever
  • Exclusive offer for individuals only
  • Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout
Hardcover Book
USD   109.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)


  1. 1.

    Throughout this chapter, we distinguish between ‘law enforcement’ (the non-negotiable application of legislation and police powers) and ‘policing’, which comprises the above, as well as a variety of negotiated, consultative, and community-oriented initiatives.

  2. 2.

    The Refugee Council of Australia provides links to a number of interactive maps where one can follow the paths of refugees around the world, as well as refugee numbers. See

  3. 3.

    An ontological vulnerability refers, universally, to the fragile nature of a human being. See Bartkowiak-Théron & Asquith, 2012; see also Chap. 4 in this collection.

  4. 4.

    A situational vulnerability refers to the circumstances in which harm can be done. See Bartkowiak-Théron, 2012; see also Chap. 4 in this collection.


  • Asgary, R., & Segar, N. (2011). Project muse: Barriers to health care access among refugee asylum seekers. Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, 22(2), 506–522.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Asquith, N. L., & Bartkowiak-Théron, I. (2017). Police as public health interventionists. In N. L. Asquith, I. Bartkowiak-Théron, & K. Roberts (Eds.), Policing encounters with vulnerability (pp. 145–170). Palgrave.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Bartkowiak-Théron, I., & Asquith, N. L. (2012). Policing vulnerability. Federation Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bartkowiak-Theron, I., & Asquith, N. L. (2019). Policing ethnic minorities: Disentangling a landscape of conceptual and practice tensions. In S. Ratuva (Ed.), The Palgrave handbook of Ethnicity (pp. 1–24). Palgrave Macmillan.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bartkowiak-Théron, I. & Julian, R. (2018). Collaboration and Communication in Police Work: The ‘Jack-Of-All-Trades’ Phenomenon.

  • Birma, E. (2013). How refugees stimulate the economy. La Trobe University.

  • Bhuyan, R., & Senturia, K. (2005). Understanding domestic violence resource utilisation and survivor solutions among immigrant and refugee women. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 20(8), 895–901.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Boulton, L., McManus, M., Metcalfe, L., Brian, D., & Dawson, I. (2017). Calls for police service: Understanding the demand profile and the UK police response. The Police Journal, 90(1), 70–85.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Campbell, D., & Julian, R. (2007). Community policing and refugee settlement in regional Australia: A refugee voice. The International Journal of Diversity in Organisations, Communities and Nations, 7(5), 7–16.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Campbell, D., & Julian, R. (2010). Community policing and newly arrived refugee communities in regional Australia. A Conversation on Trust. Final Report to the Australian Research Council. Tasmanian Institute of Law Enforcement Studies, University of Tasmania.

    Google Scholar 

  • Dhesi, R., Isakjee, A., & Davies, T. (2018). Public heath in the Calais refugee camps: Environment, health and exclusion. Critical Public Health, 28(2), 140–152.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Egan-Vine, P., & Fraser, K. (2012). Policing vulnerable offenders: Police early encounters with refugees. In I. Bartkowiak-Théron & N. L. Asquith (Eds.), Policing Vulnerability. Federation Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hugo, G. (2014). The economic contribution of humanitarian settlers in Australia. International Migration, 52(2), 31–52.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • James, I., & Julian, R. (2020). Policy implementation and refugee settlement: The perceptions and experiences of street-level bureaucrats in Launceston, Tasmania. Journal of Sociology.

  • Julian, R. (2015). Ethnicity and immigration: Challenging the National Imaginary? In D. Holmes, K. Hughes, & R. Julian Australian (Eds.), Sociology: A changing society (4th ed., pp. 90–129). Pearson Australia.

    Google Scholar 

  • Julian, R., Bartkowiak-Theron, I., Hallam, J., & Hughes, C. (2017). Exploring law enforcement and public health as a collective impact initiative. Journal of Criminological Research and Practice, 3(2).

  • Julian, R. (2019). Ethnicity, health and multiculturalism. In J. Germov (Ed.), Second opinion: An introduction to health sociology (6th ed., pp. 180–204). Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Macpherson, W. (1999). The Stephen Lawrence inquiry. Home Office.

    Google Scholar 

  • Parsons, R. (2013). Assessing the economic contribution of refugees in Australia. Reference document. Analysis and Policy Observance.

    Google Scholar 

  • Slee, C. (2020, April 14). Victorian police crack down on refugee rights campaigners. Green Left Weekly, 1261, 1–3.

    Google Scholar 

  • Toole, M. J., & Waldman, R. J. (1997). The public health aspects of complex emergencies and refugee situations. Annual Review of Public Health, 18, 283–312.

    CAS  CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • United Nations. (n.d.).

  • United Nations. (2020). What is a refugee?

  • Vaughan, C., Davis, E., Murdolo, A., Chen, J., Murrary, L., Block, K., Quiazon, R., & Warr, D. (2016). Promoting community-led responses to violence against immigrant and refugee women in metropolitan and regional Australia: The ASPIRE project: Key findings and future directions (p. 8). Research to Policy and Practice.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wood, J. D., & Watson, A. C. (2017). Improving police interventions during mental health-related encounters: Past, present and future. Policing and Society, 27(3), 289–299.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Penny Egan-Vine .

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

Copyright information

© 2022 The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG

About this chapter

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this chapter

Egan-Vine, P., Bartkowiak-Théron, I., Julian, R. (2022). Refugees: Sitting at the Nexus of Law Enforcement and Public Health. In: Bartkowiak-Théron, I., Clover, J., Martin, D., Southby, R.F., Crofts, N. (eds) Law Enforcement and Public Health. Springer, Cham.

Download citation

  • DOI:

  • Published:

  • Publisher Name: Springer, Cham

  • Print ISBN: 978-3-030-83912-3

  • Online ISBN: 978-3-030-83913-0

  • eBook Packages: MedicineMedicine (R0)