SSW exchanged experiences and knowledge in the EU project “Building Inclusive Societies”

Hans Blokland

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Last week SSW visited Belgrade to exchange information, experiences and knowledge regarding the integration of refugees, psychological assistance to people in distress, and social and psychological research. The event was hosted by Psychosocial Innovation Network (PIN) from Serbia. Other participants were Agora Aveiro and MEERU I Abrir Caminho from Portugal and Mentor Split from Croatia. The project, “Building Inclusive Societies”, has been made possible by the Erasmus+ program of the European Union.

We talked for four days and everything we discussed cannot possibly be summarized here. Just a couple of salient observations. In the last decade, Serbia granted about 200 refugees asylum. The criteria for asylum are unclear. Currently about 4000 people are living in refugee camps and approximately the same number lives outside camps, in the woods or under bridges. 1.8% of people interviewed in a survey said they wanted to stay in Serbia. For almost all others, Germany is the promised land, although they often have no idea what Germany actually has to offer. In the last decade about two million people passed through Serbia. Because hardly anybody wants to stay, there are also no integration policies or programs. The help concentrates on immediate needs and on psychological first aid.

In a survey among people living in refugee camps, 85% of the respondents reported to have suffered from a lack of water during their transit, 55% from serious bodily injuries, 76% said that their life had been threatened, 50% had somebody close to them die, 42% had been a victim of physical violence, 42% had experienced, that smugglers had not fulfilled the deal, and 65% said to have been pushed back at least once.

A psychological research among 200 people, using the Refugee Health Screener – 15 (RHS-15), revealed that 18% of the refugees living in camps reported to feel “unable to deal with anything that comes their way”. And 25% felt “unable to deal with a majority of things that comes their way”. 62% could be said to suffer from severe psychological difficulties, 56% from depression.

We will continue our exchanges in Berlin and Brandenburg in January 2022.

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