The Psychology of Terrorism: Clinical Aspects and Responses - Vol. 2

By Chris E. Stout | Go to book overview

1

Refugees and Terrorism: Cultural Innovations in Clinical Practice

Fred Bemak and Rita Chi-Ying Chung

As a result of political conflict, refugee migration continues to be a major global problem. In the 1950s following World War II, there were 1.5 million refugees and displaced persons (Berman, 2001). Current estimates are significantly higher, with projections that there are 26 million refugees worldwide today (Balian, 1997). This dramatic increase in the numbers of refugees is reflective of the changing circumstances around the world. An outcome of armed conflict is terrorism, which is a strategy to terrorize and target civilian populations, frequently resulting in displacement and migration (Widgren, 1988) so that vast numbers of people worldwide are seeking political asylum as refugees.

The plight of refugees and their migration has been characterized by exposure to serious life-threatening traumatic events (Bemak & Chung, 2002; Bemak & Chung, 2003) and is further exacerbated by acts of terrorism. Migration and relocation is a tumultuous process for refugees. Rather than a self-determined choice, refugee migration is forced and involuntary, without preparation or planning. This sudden flight in an attempt to escape dangerous conditions dramatically disrupts one’s life and has the potential to cause significant short- and long-term mental health problems.

Research has identified premigration as a major predictor of psychological problems (e.g., Bemak & Greenberg, 1994; Chung & Bemak, 2002; Chung & Kagawa-Singer, 1993; Hinton, Tiet, Tran, & Chesney, 1997; Mollica et al., 1998; Nicolson, 1997). These experiences have been characterized as culture shock

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