New traumas in Berlin for refugees from Afghanistan

style="float: right; margin-bottom: 10px; font-weight: 600;"Wed 1st Sep, 2021

Experts say the re-traumatization of refugees from Afghanistan by current events and the Taliban takeover is massive. "It is harrowing to sit across from many young women in particular who cannot stop crying for their country, the women and girls on the ground," says Janina Meyeringh, a psychotherapist at the Berlin-based association Xenion. The association has been caring for traumatized children, young people and adults for many years.

Basically, the situation is difficult for all refugees, but especially for the girls and women, because from one day to the next, their hope for a self-determined life has been destroyed, Meyeringh says. "This is what many of these women put themselves out for and risked their lives for." It is hard to bear, he says, to watch young people who had survived and overcome the most terrible traumas "currently breaking down again, no longer knowing what to fight for."

In Berlin, people from war and crisis zones are referred to various agencies that do psychosocial work through the Berlin Network for Refugees in Need of Special Protection (BNS). Xenion, which has been active as a treatment center for traumatized refugees since 1986, is one of these providers.Currently, around 350 refugees from Afghanistan have been brought to Berlin via the airlift from Frankfurt am Main, where they are housed in various accommodations. For these people, the non-profit organization Ipso and other actors offer low-threshold psychosocial services. For example, there are discussion groups in the shelters, because many of those affected have a great need to talk about what they have experienced in a protected space.

Massive deterioration of mental health among Afghans

Xenion has also established various short-term services, such as psychosocial groups; however, according to its own statements, the focus is on long-term holistic work with traumatized people. In the case of acutely traumatized people, the State Office for Refugee Affairs (LAF) can fall back on cooperation with the "Center for Transcultural Psychiatry" (ZTP) of Vivantes, which is already involved in the arrival process; if necessary, 15 inpatient places are also available in the ZTP."Often, psychological problems only arise after someone has calmed down and the acute danger has passed," said Monika Hebbinghaus, LAF spokeswoman. "So the demand for psychological help could still increase."

Janina Meyeringh and her colleagues have seen a "massive deterioration" in the mental health of many Afghans in Berlin in the weeks since the fall of Kabul. Many have relatives in Kabul who are now fleeing the Taliban. These people suffer from "immense fears for their families," says Meyeringh.According to Xenion, there are also a number of politically active women among the refugees. At least one of them is known to have had relatives in Afghanistan sought out and beaten up by the Taliban in order to extort information. "The loss of security for these people is immense," Meyeringh says.Xenion is therefore appealing to politicians in an appeal to provide more funding for personnel for acute care. The skyrocketing demand for psychosocial support will "drag on for a long time," it said - but is already "impossible to handle from the resources of our social work services."

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