Counseling Refugees

Counseling Refugees

Ann Nicole Nunis (HELP University, Malaysia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-6073-9.ch008
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This chapter discusses the plight of refugees, the challenges faced, and the psychosocial impact of said challenges. It further provides practitioners with a review of coping methods utilized by refugees throughout the refugee journey in order to highlight possible protective factors practitioners may build on in the provision of mental health services. Lastly, the chapter provides an overview of current therapeutic frameworks that are culturally sensitive for counselling refugees, the challenges in the provision of mental health services, and techniques utilized by practitioners in the delivery of mental health services through evidence of research and case-based examples.
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To date, there are 67.75 million displaced persons in the world, the largest number since the end of World War II (UNHCR, 2018a). A majority of this number is made up of refugees. Refugees are one of the biggest crises amongst modern day issues. Each day, masses of individuals and families seeking asylum are forced to leave their homes in search for safety. Some make a long journey on foot or are smuggled into vehicles across country borders. Others even brave the journey by sea in the hopes of landing on more welcoming shores. Many risk their lives and are separated from family and friends in the process.

The term “asylum seeker” and “refugee”, although used interchangeably, have different operational definitions. An asylum seeker is an individual who is seeking international protection but whose claim has not been confirmed by the UNHCR (Phillips, 2011). For example, an individual escaping armed conflict in Myanmar may cross the border into Thailand or Malaysia seeking asylum and protection, however is not referred to as a refugee until he or she has completed a refugee status determination process by the UNHCR. On the other hand a refugee as defined by the United Nations 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol, is a person who

owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable to, or owing to such fear is unwilling to avail himself to the protection of that country...or is unwilling to return to it. (UNHCR, 2010, p14).

Examples of these reasons include evidence of discrimination and violence towards ethnic minorities, LGBT community or even arrest and detention of individuals who voice opinions opposing that of the government in their home country. The convention also states that refugees should at the minimum be accorded the same rights given to foreign nationals living legally in a country (Arshad, 2005). However, in implementation, the likelihood that refugees have access to the same rights as foreign nationals is not only dependent on the migrant laws of a country but also each country’s adherence to international humanitarian treaties and declarations.

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