The Destructive Effect of Rumors
The Destructive Effect of Rumors
Rumors are sometimes a means of psychological warfare that can be used either for calming psychologically disturbed refugees, or for making them feel despair and deprivation.
Rumors spread quickly and can be very ambiguous, and it is no secret that rumors spread in those places where people are weak and vulnerable. Asylum seekers live for long periods of time in their centers, which are a good environment for the growth and spread of rumors. The effects of negative rumors include fear, worry and anger. In Avnstrup center in 2005, angry asylum seekers rioted inside the center after reading a notice pinned to the wall stating that all Iraqi asylum seekers must return to Iraq on a specific date. But afterwards it turned out that it was a mistake, and that the information had been incorrectly translated.
The long period of waiting and uncertainty means that asylum seekers can not live freely and safely. "Our asylum society is weak and disjointed because of loss and isolation," said Baher. Baher, an asylum seeker from Iraq, has spent six years moving between asylum centers and has finally settled in Avnstrup center. Baher makes a good point, because when a society is weak a good medium is created that lets rumors enter into society. He adds, "I left my wife and my little daughter, aged three, and now after this long period of separation, I have grown far from my old beliefs. Situations like this negatively effect our mental states and rumors cause nervousness between people."
Examples of rumors among asylum seekers are many. From time to time, we hear about rejected asylum seekers being deported to their home countries. Or there are rumors about asylum seekers being transferred to closed centers, or about offers of financial reward for asylum seekers who agree to return to their countries. There have also been rumors about asylum children being able to go the ordinary Danish Folkeskole so that are integrated. All of these rumors affect asylum seekers and can make people weak and confused.
Ansam, an Iraqi asylum seeker, lives in Avnstrup center. She said, "I have spent more than six years in asylum centers in Denmark and I have lived with the rumors. In fact there are positive and negative effects of rumors; the positive rumors help to lighten our suffering, for example when you hear a rumor that seems to show a solution to our problems. But this hope can quickly disappear. For example, when we hear that the government is discussing asylum issues, but then we don’t hear anything more." Jesper, a member of staff at Konglunden center commented on the effects of rumors. He said, "Rumors are like clouds, small or big clouds that can grow or disappear. Depending on the topics, they become rumors or superstition over time - or even very quickly. Rumors can be venomous and destructive in situations where there is a lot of doubt and confusion. They are the consequence of poor communication and lack of clear information."
What should we do about rumors?
Whatever the rumor, good or bad , we should do our part to check the facts. We also need to be much more aware of the problems we cause when we spread rumors. Whenever information is shared, between asylum seekers, the staff and immigration authorities, everyone should take care to consider the effect that the information will have the thoughts and emotions of the asylum seekers.