Immigrant and Refugee Vulnerability
Social, Political and Economic Aspects of Immigrant and Refugee Vulnerability
While discussing the subject of vulnerable population, it is necessary to consider the issues of immigrants and refugees. The extent and magnitude of military conflicts that result in violence and excessive levels of civilian causalities make people flee their homes and appeal for emergency aid of the humanitarian community. Under international law, refugees are individuals forced to stay outside their habitual residence and claim for asylum in a foreign country. It might happen owing to well-found fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of particular social group or political opinion (The UN Refugee Agency [UNHCR], 1951). Having lost their property and regular income, displaced persons appear peculiarly sensitive. Thus, immigrants striving for future citizenship in a country to which they are not native require professional assistance, particularly if they had to leave due to political issues or for the sake of economic prosperity.
In order to scrutinize the vulnerability of people staying outside their country or origin one must consider the triple jeopardy of age, gender and ethnicity (Havens & Chappell, 1983). To start from, child maltreatment is a pressing matter as far as it inevitably results in adverse health consequences. Cases of ill treatment among immigrant and refugee children involve emotional trauma, physical or sexual abuse, exposure to domestic violence or neglect. The thing is that migration experience implies a number of risk factors such as eviction, unemployment, destitution and social isolation. Under the circumstances, children are most likely to fall unsuspecting and helpless victims of brute force.
Apart from this, painful process of relocation has a dramatic impact on women who have to seek asylum in a foreign country. Owing to their gender peculiarities, most female immigrants and refugees get a considerable psychological shock. One should also keep in mind that men and women are used to ethnically prescribed responsibilities and gender roles that often change in a new cultural environment. Female immigrants and refugees who tend to maintain homeland lifestyles in a host country display more severe symptoms of depression than displaced men. For instance, women who have to combine an uncustomary role of a bread-winner with their traditional caregiving roles of wives and mothers in a strange cultural environment compromise their physical and mental health (Guberman & Maheu, 2003/2004).
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Obviously, ethnic, gender and age characteristics of displaced individuals are grounds for their vulnerability. What is more, this phenomenon covers three interrelated aspects, namely, political, economic and social. By and large, most immigrant and refugee movements have occurred in the course of history because of wars, revolutions and political oppression of nonconformist population that is, due to political reasons. For example, the Russian Revolution (1917) and the civil war that followed (1918-1921) forced aristocrats flee the Communist government. Since the 1950s, numerous African nationalities have suffered ethnic strife and, consequently, moved into neighboring countries. The Cuban Revolution (1959) has resulted in a massive ongoing exodus of Cubans. In fact, countries of origin of immigrants and refugees are those with low standards of living and ailing economies ruined by political instability. As a matter of fact, a putsch or a coup detat deprives nonconformist citizens of their customary social status and prevents them from performing their habitual social roles. As a result, potential immigrants and refugees become politically, economically and socially vulnerable even before they flee their homes. Having resettled in host countries, they still ought to assess new challenges and, then, to adapt accordingly. In practice, the long-term stress caused by migration increases due to uncertain financial and social position of displaced people. Besides, they do not fully enjoy political rights, at least until they acquire citizenship. To put it another way, immigrants remain vulnerable and require protection and needs-based assistance. It is essential that a humanitarian community is compelled to design a health-care program in order to improve aid effectiveness and to satisfy prioritized needs of the most sensitive immigrants and refugees. Apart from that, one should define vulnerability criteria in terms of the triple jeopardy of age, gender and culture.
In reality, most displaced people have neither a full-time job nor a citizenship status in a host country, which one can qualify as risk factors. Consequently, asylum-seekers suffer from the negative impact on their self-esteem, defective self-image, insufficient sense of belonging and inclusion into community life or constantly increasing sense of insecurity. Unemployment and underemployment bring the feeling of unrecognized educational accreditation or working experience gained in the country of origin. Naturally, financial instability and poverty cause the marginalization of immigrants and refugees and leave them disenfranchised in an uncustomary cultural environment. In effect, displaced individuals are chiefly prone to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression.
On the whole, rehabilitation program for displaced people must, first of all, comprise a preventive treatment. It will enable the patients to identify distorted and irrational thoughts in order to substitute them with an adequate picture of everyday life. Secondly, children and women need special care that will meet the requirements of their age and gender. For example, children can act out their psychological trauma through playing or drawing. Besides, it is preferable that immigrants and refugees get treatment in their first language. Thirdly, the scheme should involve long-term family therapy for the patients to work through relationship problems caused by PTSD under the supervision of mental health professionals. The last but not the least element of the program implies instructions on self-help treatment for PTSD and providing access to support groups for survivors of the same type of trauma. Predictably, the program will be helpful for adults who display intrusive sense of intense distress, growing loss of interest in life, sense of detachment from other people, emotional numbness and feeling of limited future perspectives. It will also assist children who tend to lose essential skills, like toilet training, or acquire new phobias.