Companion House, Canberra, Australia
This paper (1) Identifies key complexities in the process of seeking refugee protection for torture survivors from Sri Lanka (2)
Examines the resulting treatment challenges and ethical questions from clinical and management perspectives.
The paper uses five case studies to examine key barriers to refugee protection for these torture survivors. Authors identify a range of relevant psychological, social and contextual barriers. Major barriers included the psychological effects of sustained torture on memory and coherence and intense shame from survivors which blocked disclosure of their torture experiences. Also important were cultural factors and misinformation circulated within community about Australian decision making processes. Just as importantly, Australian asylum seeker policies and a highly contested debate about safety in post conflict Sri Lanka provided a complex landscape to navigate.
For a FASTT agency this multi layered situation threw up a range of questions.
How could we build psychological safety for torture survivors in this situation, provide the best quality care and effectively advocate regarding psychological vulnerability and torture background? What were our ethical responsibilities to advocate for survivors at both individual and systemic and political levels? How could we protect and sustain our own work in the face of our clients’ terror and despair?
This paper reflects on treatment, advocacy, management and ethical issues and identifies key issues for FASSTT agencies, counsellors and policy makers.