Beyond Trauma: Political Violence, Refugees, Empowerment and Health

August 28th - September 3rd, Berlin

The majority of refugees fleeing war, political persecution and other forms of violence have been exposed to traumatic events in their home countries as well as during their journeys to a safer place. Upon arrival in exile, the traumatic process usually does not end. During the asylum procedures refugees experience the ongoing stress of uncertainty regarding their legal status. Mass accommodation, disruption of families, isolation, discrimination, and limited rights and opportunities make recovery more difficult. Together these experiences may have deep and long-term traumatic impacts on refugees and strongly impair their physical, mental as well as social well-being. The introduction of increasingly restrictive migration policies as well as the closing of borders are likely to exacerbate the situations of many refugees and further deteriorate their health.


At the same time, the degree to which refugees who went through traumatic events and processes will be affected by these experiences differs widely and depends on various factors. Refugees are not only vulnerable, they also carry with them strengths and stories of resilience.  A supportive social environment in the host country can have a large impact on individuals’ ability to recover, adapt and flourish in a new chapter of their lives. Thus in order to support traumatized refugees assistance should go beyond the treatment of the individual and target socio-political issues that limit refugees' agency and prospects of recovery.


This year’s Summer School will explore the relationships between political violence, trauma, empowerment and health in the light of the current refugee crisis. As future health professionals it is important to develop a basic understanding of trauma and trauma symptoms caused by “men made disasters”, develop trauma-sensitive skills and understand the cultural embeddedness of trauma as well as the social determinants of health and healing.


During the Summer School we will thus also address the root causes of war and refugee movements and explore the social and political situation in the host countries. We will ask who must be held accountable for the current situation and discuss how we as citizens and health students can have a positive impact. We will learn from and discuss with refugees about the challenges and needs of refugee communities and assess  what they need to regain control over their lives and to improve their health.


We will start a dialogue with participants and professionals from diverse backgrounds in order to highlight problems and discuss potential solutions. Participants will gain a thorough understanding of issues related to trauma and refugee health and its determinants through interactive lectures, workshops, excursions as well as skills training.

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