No Borders North East held its first self education day on 1st Feb 09. This page contains some of the resources that came out of the day.


So you think all asylum seekers are LIARS???
The Effect of Trauma on Memory

Asylum seekers and refugees are a diverse group of people. Some have suffered from torture but ALL have suffered trauma.
Why is this relevant?
• Research has suggested that trauma has an effect on memory recall.
• If an asylum seeker is unable to coherently recount their story on multiple occasions, this can:
• Hinder therapeutic/social work carried out with them.
• Have disastrous consequences on the process of seeking asylum.
What has research shown?
• Very high levels of arousal at the time of an event can:
• Have a negative effect on what is encoded and remembered.
• Result in memories that are harder to retrieve.
• Result in memories of central detail but not of events going on in the periphery.
• Memory for dates and times is notoriously unreliable.
What else affects memory?
• Psychiatric disorders e.g. depression and post traumatic stress symptoms, which many asylum seekers are likely to suffer from.
• Specific tortures e.g. being beaten around the head and water-boarding.

Perhaps not surprisingly, there is a distinct LACK of information about these issues aimed at immigration lawyers. As a result LIFE and DEATH decisions are being made by people who have very little understanding of the SIGNIFICANT psychological processes happening to those who have experienced trauma.

How can this affect the asylum process?
• Decisions over whether or not to grant asylum are predominantly based on a person’s story.
• Due to this, the story must appear credible in the eyes of the Home Office.
• Asylum seekers are expected to recall very specific details of events, including times and dates.
• Discrepancies in stories are used to undermine an asylum claim.
• There’s a common assumption that a traumatic experience will be easily remembered, but this is not the case.


Why is this relevant to us?
• Memory and recall are complex cognitive processes that are affected by many different factors.
• If we are working with asylum seekers and refugees an awareness of how trauma can affect memory is extremely useful and may influence our:
• Way of communicating.
• Ability to empathise.
• Understanding of an inconsistent story.
• Human tendency to be sceptical.

And anyway…how much information do we really need to know in order to support, befriend and campaign for the rights of an asylum seeker?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: