Article

Working with traumatized refugees on the Balkan route

Authors:
  • University of Pristina (Kosovska Mitrovica)
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Abstract

In the past several years Serbia has been in the center of the so‐called “Balkan route”, a pathway for refugees from the Middle East and Central Asia. In March 2016 the Balkan route was closed and this measure reduced the number of daily arrivals and prolonged the stay of refugees in Serbia. A brief overview of the current situation is given, together with some previous experiences in psychosocial programs for the displaced population during wars in former Yugoslavia and current psychosocial programs and interventions. Several short examples are presented to point out some aspects of those experiences that might have relevance to our understanding of the psychological trauma and possible ways of treatment.

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... In March 2016, the EU and Turkey signed an agreement to reduce the number of refugees entering Europe by sending migrants crossing from Turkey into Greece back to Turkey and by increasing border security (Weber, 2016). The endeavor to close the Balkan route has only been partly successful, but it has made the flight more difficult and dangerous (Weber, 2017;Jovic, 2018). ...
... Mobile teams were organized comprising a medical doctor and a nurse to attend to refugees' physical and medical needs using a set of interventions known as medical first aid (MFA). The teams also comprised a psychologist, responsible for providing psychosocial first aid (PFA), and a translator (Jovic, 2018). Guidelines for brief psychosocial interventions for refugees were developed that included: 3 The Inter-Agency Standing Committee is an inter-agency forum for coordination, policy development and decision-making involving the key UN and non-UN humanitarian partners. ...
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... Life situations that are so difficult that one cannot manage without psychotropic or sleep medication, and where one considers "salvation" through ending one's life, are manifestations of the severity of these violations. Based on our study, as well as on others (Chavez, 2012;Jovic, 2018), it seems legitimate to argue that living under such conditions is equivalent to severe and long-lasting social suffering due to avoidable violence imposed by external others (Galtung, 1969). ...
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... 2 Referencial teórico 2.1 Refugiado: conceito e caracterização Ao tentar definir-se o que vem a ser um refugiado, geralmente, recai-se na tentativa de pensar em sentidos opostos às tipologias empregadas para categorizar experiências individuais ou grupais, como qualificados ou não qualificados; permanentes ou temporários; voluntários ou forçados, dentre outros (Erdal & Oeppen, 2017). Muitas vezes, seu conceito também se confunde com diversas modalidades de migração, não levando-se em conta o seu ponto de partida, que é amplamente debatido, mas que se fundamenta a partir da transgressão das fronteiras internacionais e o pedido formal de asilo em outra nação, por causas das ameaças de insegurança e pobreza existentes que levam milhares de indivíduos a começar sua jornada incerta e perigosa (Hynie, 2018;Jović, 2018). A fim de orientar a discussão sobre a temática do refúgio, a Tabela 1 caracteriza as variantes envolvidas nos debates acerca do contexto da migração forçada no mundo: ...
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Psychotherapeutic work with torture victims is already challenging and demanding for the therapist; I believe this is particularly true in the situation of group therapy. In this case there are some specific aspects related to this particular group - its members had been connected with each other even before the formal establishing of the group for therapeutic purposes. Unfortunately, this connecting factor was their common and simultaneous traumatic experience of war, captivity, torture and life in a new community after exile. During 54 sessi ons, 27 men with various levels of vulnerability and initial position of "permanent helplessness" have through several phases of group work successfully dealt with their paranoid anxiety, established and developed cohesiveness and certain group culture, thereby ensuring their own path towards the phase of opening, working through fears for their own psychophysical integrity by way of hypochondriac elaborations, and finally mustered the strength to voluntarily face again the trauma and torture they had suffered. They have managed to re -incorporate these experiences through the re- integration phase and finally through termination to wind up and attribute the meaning to their emotional turbulences brought by therapy and its closure. Support in the psychotherapeutic work with this group was provided by psychologists from the Centre for Rehabilitation of Torture Victims - IAN Belgrade. By conducting psychological testing they have helped in the diagnostic exploration of these people, while two other important services in IAN - legal department and medical unit with internal medicine and neurology experts - also provided important contribution.
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Programmes costing millions of dollars to address 'posttraumatic stress' in war zones have been increasingly prominent in humanitarian aid operations, backed by UNICEF, WHO, European Community Humanitarian Office and many nongovernmental organisations. The assumptions underpinning this work, which this paper critiques with particular reference to Bosnia and Rwanda, reflect a globalisation of Western cultural trends towards the medicalisation of distress and the rise of psychological therapies. This paper argues that for the vast majority of survivors posttraumatic stress is a pseudocondition, a reframing of the understandable suffering of war as a technical problem to which short-term technical solutions like counselling are applicable. These concepts aggrandise the Western agencies and their 'experts' who from afar define the condition and bring the cure. There is no evidence that war-affected populations are seeking these imported approaches, which appear to ignore their own traditions, meaning systems, and active priorities. One basic question in humanitarian operations is: whose knowledge is privileged and who has the power to define the problem? What is fundamental is the role of a social world, invariably targeted in today's 'total' war and yet still embodying the collective capacity of survivor populations to mourn, endure and rebuild.
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In the works of Freud, the concept of childhood psychic trauma evolves in the direction of increasing complexity. The authors maintain that this expansion corresponds to a new conception of retroactive temporality (Nachträglich), which is precisely the one we use in the analytic process of reconstruction and historicization from the present toward the past. We are thus led to differentiate the extreme form of the unassimilable 'pure' Trauma, nearly pure death drive, from the retroactively historicized forms which are reintegrated into the continuity of a vital flow of time that we 'invent' in analytic work.
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tation methods contained in the manual also apply to other contexts, including human rights investigations and monitoring, assessment of individuals seeking political asylum, the defence of individuals who “confess” to crimes during torture, and assessment of needs for the care of torture victims. In the case of health professionals who are coerced to neglect, misrepresent, or falsify evidence of torture, the manual also provides an international point of reference for health professionals and adjudicators alike. Many procedures for a torture investigation are documented in the manual, such as how to interview the alleged victim and other witnesses, selection of the investigator, safety of witnesses, how to collect statements from alleged perpetrators, how to secure and obtain physical evidence, and detailed guidelines on how to establish a special independent commission of inquiry to investigate alleged torture and ill treatment. The manual also includes comprehensive guidelines for clinical examinations to detect physical and psychological evidence of torture and ill treatment. These guidelines represent a consensus among clinicians working in the fields of human rights documentation and treatment of individuals
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Over the past decade the approaches adopted towards the mental health care of refugees by a range of national and international healthcare organisations have been the subject of a sustained and growing critique. Much of this critique has focused on the way in which Western psychiatric categories have been ascribed to refugee populations in ways which, critics argue, pay scant attention to the social, political and economic factors that play a pivotal role in refugees' experience. Rather than portraying refugees as "passive victims" suffering mental health problems, critics have argued that attention should be given to the resistance of refugees and the ways in which they interpret and respond to experiences, challenging the external forces bearing upon them. In this paper a range of issues concerning the mental health care of refugees will be examined. These include the role of psychiatric diagnosis in relation to refugees' own perceptions of their need and within the context of general health and social care provision. In examining services the emergence of new paradigms in mental health care is identified. These include the growth of holistic approaches that take account of refugees' own experiences and expressed needs and which address the broader social policy contexts in which refugees are placed. A three-dimensional model for the analysis of the interrelationship between "macro" level institutional factors in the mental health of refugees and the individual treatment of refugees within mental health services is proposed.
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Shadows of traumatisations. dehumanisation processes on individual and societal levels
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What can psychoanalysis contribute to the current refugee crisis?
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