Working Clinically with Asylum Seekers Forced to Return to their Country

Clinical Master Class Evening held on 10 August 2016

Working psychologically with asylum seekers whose claims have been rejected
Guy Coffey

Photo Guy Coffey PortraitIn this presentation Guy Coffey explored his work with asylum seekers whose claims have been rejected. There are a group of asylum seekers who have experienced trauma and, who as a consequence, are in need of psychological treatment and security, but who are not owed protection. Among this group are clients whom we treat but who are repatriated. This cohort of clients can be categorised in two groups which have implications for our work: that of legal status and mental health status.

There are some clients for whom no further assertion of their claims is warranted. However there is a subgroup for whom psychological evidence may be relevant to a re-examination of their claims. This evidence relates to the late disclosure of experiences relevant to persecution; the capacity of the person to survive physically and psychologically upon repatriation as a consequence of their mental state; and the psychological aspects of the reasonableness of internal relocation.

Regardless of whether it is possible to make further claims, we have to decide what way we can work with a client whose future is profoundly uncertain and who appears destined to re-enter the country from which they have fled. Some questions considered are the following: are the essential preconditions to trauma focused work always absent? What are the psychological and ethical considerations at play in preparing clients for repatriation? Should we be speaking about the possibility of return from early in our engagement with a client? Should we advocate; to keep a client out of detention prior to return, or for a delay in return while treatment is undertaken?

No home to go to: Working with a Tamil asylum seeker forced to return to Sri Lanka
Sivaharani Mayuran

Photo Sivaharani Mayuran PortraitAsylum seekers face untold hardship in travelling to Australia to escape persecution. The relationship between mental illness caused by previous torture and trauma experiences and the refugee determination process involves forceful and stagnant issues.  Asylum Seekers who face pre-migratory traumatic events may be at increased risk of receiving a negative refugee decision due to lack of knowledge, training and experience among case workers, lawyers and immigration officials

In this presentation Harini Mayuran demonstrated this with a case study of a 35 year old Sri Lankan Tamil man who had a history of multiple torture & trauma experiences and human right violation based on his political involvement. He managed to escape and travelled by boat to Australia as an Asylum Seeker. He presented with severe PTSD symptoms, anxiety, fear of returning back home and difficulty in remembering his trauma experiences, dissociation and avoidance which affected his protection visa claims and resulted in negative hearing and currently in the process of forced deportation. Harini explained the reasons why her client was forced to deportation and the effect of trauma symptoms on the client ability to represent his protection claims. Furthermore, she also elaborated on therapeutic approach she used while working with her client who was in process of forced deportation.

Recorded lectures

These events are recorded by Psychevisual and are available for viewing on the internet at a later date for a fee. Please see the Psychevisual website