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Haunted by memories

Many refugees experience trauma along their journey from their own country to the resettlement center, often people undertake travel at the risk of their lives and are forced to travel in inhumane conditions until many died for example in the sea before arriving in Europe.

As refugees, who have to leave their own country, they have to face with new
environments to continue their lives. While at new countries, they have to experience huge changes and differences in adjusting themselves at the host countries. From a psychological aspect, all these changes may affect their behavior and feelings.
Long waiting time

According to numbers from the Immigration Service the average waiting time is 566 days. Research of Amnesty International shows that between 20% and 60% of refugees have undergone severe trauma and suffer from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder ) as result of their experiences.
Emotional symptoms grow over time that these refugees are living in camps where they are isolated away from everything and without enjoying the same rights as the people living in the host country. Like having a job, be able to marry and so on.
If, on top of that, the authorities reject their asylum application, the emotional symptoms can grow very fast.

“I wanted to kill myself “

21-year old Tania from Iraq has recently been granted asylum. But it was not granted easily. Here he puts words on how he felt when he was being rejected asylum:
“I waited for the response for a long time, and then I received a negative response. It was as if they had just fired 15 bullets at once in my body. The days after, I offered my life to drugs and I wanted to kill myself. My life meant nothing”, he explains.

Haunted by the past 

“I began to be afraid of being deported to Iraq to relive the same story. I had lost everything. I had no hope or assurance of a better life. I became a thoughtful man. I started having trouble concentrating, I was struggling to sleep and my desire to commit suicide became stronger and stronger.

Hard waiting time

Before getting the rejection Tania had lived in different asylum centers for one year and nine months.
During this waiting period he had problems that he could not understand, but they were related to his memories of suffering in Iraq.
“In the asylum center I always thought about the horrible experience. I could not sleep. The memories of all that I endured were repeated word for word, reenacted. I was imprisoned in Iraq at the age of 16, suspected of being a terrorist. They tortured me, and kept me in prison for 5 years. Nobody can understand what I endured during this time in Iraq,” he says.

Refugees can experience emotional symptoms such as:

1. Memory problems, inability to concentrate, poor judgment, seeing only the negative, anxious or racing thoughts, constant worrying, moodiness, irritability or short temper, agitation, inability to relax, feeling overwhelmed, sense of loneliness and isolation, depression or general unhappiness.

2. Behavioral Symptoms such as: Eating more or less sleeping too much or too little , isolating yourself from others , procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities, using alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs to relax , nervous habits (e.g. nail biting, pacing)

3. Physical Symptoms like: Aches and pains, diarrhea or constipation, nausea, dizziness, chest pain, rapid heartbeat, loss of sex drive, frequent colds etc etc.

What to do?


It is not easy, but we can learn how to manage stress – even in a tough situation like ours. Managing stress is about taking charge: taking charge of our thoughts, of our emotions, of our schedule, of our environment and of the way we deal with problems. 

Stress management involves changing the stressful situation when we can – and changing our reaction, when we can’t. It is about taking care of ourself, and to make time for rest and relaxation.
We can’t completely eliminate stress, but we can control how much it affects us.

We can learn how to relax with relaxation techniques like yoga, meditation, and deep breathing. These activities are good because they increase our ability to stay calm and collected under pressure.

And when we are calm and collected we are more likely to benefit from the small things life has to offer. Even though we are under pressure.

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