Posts Tagged swedish red cross

Treating trauma among refugees and asylum seekers in Sweden

In the heart of Sweden’s third biggest city, Malmø, lies one of the Swedish Red Cross Treatment Center for persons affected by war and torture. Every day the centre provides specialised treatment to torture survivors from all corners of the world. Since the centre first opened its doors in the late 1980s, it has helped nearly 5,000 traumatised men and women who have escaped violence and persecution, war and armed conflict.

malmo1

Image courtesy of the Swedish Red Cross. Photographer Ola Torkelsson.

On some occasions, the trauma from torture will not rear its ugly head until decades after the incident, explains Anette Carnemalm, Head of the centre in Malmø, which is a member of the IRCT. She has seen this happening with many of her clients, particularly women victims of torture, who only start to suffer from trauma and depression years later when their children are grown up and their time is no longer filled with caring for them on a daily basis. This shows in the group of clients that the centre treats.

“Of course we have many clients from the Middle East, but there are still many clients from the Balkans, especially women who survived the war,” says Anette. “What happens is that when a family arrives, the woman is consumed with looking after the family. When the children move from home the woman will often experience an existential crisis, which can lead to the trauma and depression that was left dormant for so many years.”

Knowing this, it is perhaps not surprising that Anette predicts that we will see a similar thing with Syrian women 20 years from now.

While the consequences of torture haven’t changed, the refugees coming to Sweden have. Before the war in the Former Yugoslavia, there were the dictatorships in Latin America during the 1970s, which saw an influx of refugees from this part of the world. Today, many of the refugees coming to Sweden are from Syria, Iraq and Lebanon, as well as Somalia and Eritrea.

“It’s been a year since Sweden saw a great raise of influx in refugees arriving in the country, but we only started receiving clients much later, which is a natural consequence of refugees trying to integrate and settle. Not until they’re beyond the acute crisis will they seek help for trauma symptoms,” says Anette and continues: “The real influx in clients will be seen in a year or two from now.”

Unlike other Red Cross centres in Sweden that take many asylum seekers waiting for their case to be processed, the centre in Malmø treats a higher number of people with permanent residency. In fact, Malmø is Sweden’s most multicultural city and in the inner city there are residential areas, which are home to a large number of families with an immigrant background, as well as students and artists.

Despite this, Sweden at present has the lowest denominating standard in the EU when it comes to asylum seeking law, after just recently having introduced increasingly strict legislation on immigration. For many traumatised asylum seekers, this means they face a great deal of uncertainty, which often hinders their treatment.

“It is important to create a safe environment for a client in order for them to seek treatment, but it’s very hard in the present situation to convey that this is not a threatening environment, when it does seem threatening for a refugee who is here alone and doesn’t know if he or she will be allowed to stay,” says Anette, as she points out that the situation for centres like hers is also uncertain. Even though her centre has so far been protected from any funding cuts, there are no guarantees.

“The political climate has changed and we now see political parties objecting to our funding so we don’t know where we’re heading in this sense.” So far, the centre has managed to expand to meet a growing demand for its services and today it has 22 staff, 19 full-time and three part-time. Their work has made a difference to not only many of their clients, but also to the torture rehabilitation movement.

“We see our efforts make a great difference in our work with the Istanbul Protocol, documenting torture, but also when a patient tells us that they are feeling better. It is immensely rewarding working, or even just sharing a coffee, with a person who has survived such terrible circumstances. See them fighting to get their life back, improving their relationship with their family and regain some of the trust that has been lost.”

“It is clear that Anette treasures her work despite the challenges that her and her colleagues face: “From here I don’t know where to go. I’m with the Red Cross and I am doing this job, and I don’t know where I would want to go that could be any better. It’s a very rewarding job, but obviously also very strenuous. As the Head of the centre it is very important to ensure that my staff don’t get too overwhelmed or stressed and stay healthy.”

Röda Korset Malmö.Foto Ola Torkelsson ©

Image courtesy of the Swedish Red Cross. Photographer Ola Torkelsson

Work challenges and strict immigration policies aside, Anette does hope that her centre, as well as the global rehabilitation movement will become better at sharing knowledge and influencing the current political climate.

“I hope that our knowledge will influence the political debates to a larger extent and that we can convey our knowledge about torture and rehabilitation to the rest of the world so we can change people’s opinions and understanding. There is this political movement, which is global, but there is also a growing knowledge of trauma, which is a good thing. We do a lot of lectures and people are always taken aback when they hear about our work. They didn’t know… so we need to be better at sharing knowledge and raising awareness.

“I hope that we continue to build our scientific knowledge about trauma and how best to help. As an example, there is a lot of research on how to treat PTSD among war veterans, but not much research on how to treat PTSD among people in exile – people who are supposed to integrate in a different country. What is it like to suffer from trauma in a different country, without your family and your social network, not knowing the culture nor the language?”

It is clear that the rehabilitation sector still has work to do in terms of developing and sharing its knowledge about trauma among refugees and asylum seekers and what the best treatment methods are. It is also clear that centres like the one in Malmø have a key role to play in doing so.

Anette Carnemalm was among the presenters at the IRCT 10th International Scientific Symposium, which took place from 4-7 December in Mexico City. The Symposium brought together more than 350 participants from across professions, sectors and countries.

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Creating a world without torture: April in review

We summarise some of the biggest news stories, statements, events and news from the World Without Torture blog, Facebook and Twitter pages over the month of April.

Don’t forget to keep checking the blog in the coming weeks for more. And click here to visit our Facebook page, and here to visit our Twitter feed.

Audience at the event

IRCT marks 40 years of the anti-torture movement with a special Copenhagen event

On 8 April 2014, the IRCT hosted a large event – including members, donors, and staff of the IRCT – to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the beginning of the anti-torture movement, which began in Denmark and spread across the globe.

The event marks 40 years since human rights defender, Dr Inge Genefke, placed an advertisement requesting help from doctors willing to investigate torture in Chile, an advert which encouraged the development of the first medical group for the rehabilitation of torture victims in Denmark.

From this beginning on 8 April 1974, the first medical group under Amnesty International was created, and from this blossomed the evolution of the anti-torture movement, including the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT).

The event included music, poetry readings from two brave torture survivors, and the presentation of the prestigious Inge Genefke Award – won by IRCT’s Lilla Hardi.

To read about our role in the campaign just click this link.

Rwandan Genocide: 20 years on, we reflect on the pain caused by torture

Our most popular blog series this month has been our new Rwanda: 20 years on campaign which reflects on the horrors of the biggest genocide in recent memory by telling the stories of female victims of sexual violence.

The campaign, which will run throughout the 100 day period of the genocide until mid-July, sees a new survivor of torture telling their story every two weeks.

To kickstart the campaign, this month we heard from four women – Illuminee, Charline, Hildegarde, and Mameritha –  who have all overcome experiences of rape, and the trauma of losing loved ones, through specialist sociotherapy treatment.

To read all the stories from the campaign, click this link. And keep checking the blog, our Facebook, and Twitter for future updates to the campaign.

On the Forefront: Assuring safety for refugees in Sweden

A member of staff at the centre in Malmö treating one of their many clients

Sweden has a good record when it comes to human rights and torture prevention and rehabilitation. But problems of excessive police force, and alleged mistreatment of refugees, still echo through the country each year.

Providing support in these instances is the The Swedish Red Cross Center for Victims of Torture and War in Malmö. Primarily aimed at refugees and their families in Skåne, southern Sweden, the main mission of this Swedish IRCT member is to give support to refugees who have experienced war, imprisonment, torture and mistreatment while in exile to Sweden or in their home country.

To read more about what they are doing to assist refugees – many of whom are torture survivors – just click this link.

CIA torture architect does not regret ‘enhanced interrogation’

Our most popular story shared on Facebook this month was this piece from UK newspaper the Guardian who secured an exclusive interview with one of the architects of the CIA’s interrogation programme, which includes allowance for torture.

Dubbed ‘enhanced interrogation’, the short interview with James Mitchell shows one thing very clearly – after all of the alleged torture, there is still no remorse or regret for the effects it may have caused the victims.

Views like this only help to justify and promote the use of torture across the globe, rather than helping to stop it. And you agreed too – allowances for torture like this have to stop. Click here to read the story in the Guardian.

 

Syrian snapshots

In this blog, we hear from Ida Harriet Rump, a photographer and student in Middle Eastern studies at Lund University, Sweden, who has regularly travelled through Syria since 2006.More than 60% of the city has been destroyed

Ida spent around one year in Damascus and, after the conflict began in 2011, Ida has twice visited north-western city Idlib with grassroots solidarity network Witness Syria – an initiative connecting activists inside and outside of the country.

Throughout her travels, Ida has seen the damage of the conflict, the pain it causes families and refugees, and has heard stories of torture along the way. In her first blog for World Without Torture, Ida uses a series of pictures to capture the fear, hope and everyday life in the city of Ma’arrat al-Numan.

Click this link to view her full range of pictures.

#JusticeforVeli – An update

Veli’s story is complex, unusual, and powerful. Caught up in a prison siege in Turkey in 2000, Veli lost his arms after armed security forces stormed his prison block with a bulldozer which tore down the wall where Veli was standing, ripping off his right arm.

After years of torture rehabilitation and legal assistance from IRCT member the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey, Veli was granted a ruling from the European Court of Human Rights which specified his entitlement to compensation.

And so the compensation was paid – until the Turkish authorities overruled the payment. Now they demand that Veli pays the compensation back, at a much higher rate than it was awarded to him.

We joined the Human Rights Foundation Turkey in pressuring the state to end this case and to stop this extended miscarriage of justice by tweeting with the hashtag #JusticeforVeli.

However, despite the pressure, once again his hearing has been postponed, this time until July 2014. This continual postponement means Veli has now been fighting for justice for 14 years, which is far too long.

We shall join the Human Rights Foundation in Turkey later on in the year to campaign again. To read more on Veli’s case, and to see how we are helping fight for his rights, click this link.

Looking at Hungary’s torturous past

The torture chamber (picture courtesy of Rajmund Fekete, House of Terror museum)

And finally, over the Easter break IRCT’s Communications Officer Ashley Scrace visited the House of Terror in Budapest, Hungary – a chilling museum detailing the torture inflicted upon political opponents through the regimes of the Nazis and the Soviet Union.

The museum itself is actually based in the building which acted as the secret police headquarters throughout both periods of history, a building which was renowned for its underground torture chambers (which has been reconstructed for visitors today).

You can read more about the unique museum, and can see pictures of the museum, by clicking this link.

 

For further information from World Without Torture, do not forget to ‘like’ us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Click here to visit our Facebook page, and here to visit our Twitter feed.

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On the Forefront: Assuring safety for refugees in Sweden

WWT - Members series

Sweden has a good record when it comes to human rights and torture prevention and rehabilitation. But problems of excessive police force, and alleged mistreatment of refugees, still echo through the country each year.

A member of staff at the centre in Malmö treating one of their many clients

A member of staff at the centre in Malmö treating one of their many clients

Providing support in these instances is the The Swedish Red Cross Center for Victims of Torture and War in Malmö. Primarily aimed at refugees and their families in Skåne, southern Sweden, the main mission of this Swedish IRCT member is to give support to refugees who have experienced war, imprisonment, torture and mistreatment while in exile to Sweden or in their home country.

Thanks to a wide range of knowledge and experience from the team of psychologists, doctors, therapists, physicians, social workers, secretaries, administrators and interpreters, the team is able to provide targeted holistic rehabilitation programmes to heal psychological, physical and social wounds.

Activities are also adapted to serve the families of the asylum seekers, undocumented migrants and refugees.

According to Amnesty International, enforced deportations of refugees to their home country – despite a risk of torture existing there – still occur in Sweden, as exemplified by the recent case ruled by the ECHR involving three Russian nationals and their deportation (I vs. Sweden).Thankfully the Swedish move to deport the refugees was blocked as it infringed Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects people from torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

It is only through the help of human rights defenders and networks such as the Red Cross in Malmö that authorities are being held to account, made aware of their obligations under international law, and refugees are being granted the safety they seek.

For more information on the Red Cross in Sweden, click this link.

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