Painting: William Caxton 1851 / Wikimedia
President Trump has signed an Executive Order that suspends the entire U.S. refugee resettlement program for 120 days and bans the arrival of Syrian refugees.
The United States must protect its legacy as a generous and safe new home for refugees, especially now when global forced displacement is at record levels: over 65 million people have been forced from their homes. Care is needed for these survivors – research from the Center for Victims of Torture shows that up to 44 percent of refugees in the United States are survivors of torture and research from the NCTTP shows high rates of posttraumatic stress disorder and major depression are likely for survivors.
The NCTTP stands with refugees, for whom resettlement is often the only, and last, chance to reach safe haven after surviving the horrors of torture, war and displacement. Any announcement to pause resettlement would grind refugee processing to a halt, as each step of the security check process is time sensitive. A pause would force refugees who were set to arrive in the United States soon to instead wait months and even years as happened after September 11. Moreover, others while still in danger will experience even more lengthy delays for fingerprinting, interviews, health screenings, and multiple security checks all over again.
3 ways to take action
1) Call (202) 224-3121 and ask to be connected with your one Representative and two Senators (you need to make 3 separate calls).
Sample Script: “I’m your constituent from [City, State], and I support refugee resettlement in the U.S. I am strongly opposed to the announcement expected from President Trump that would reduce refugee admissions, grind resettlement to a halt, stop resettling refugees from certain countries, and preference religious minorities. This discriminatory announcement is morally reprehensible, runs counter to who we are as a nation, and does not reflect the welcome for refugees I see in my community every day. Please urge President Trump to abandon this plan and do everything in your power to stop this announcement.”
Please also share a personal story about why refugee resettlement is important to you, your community, etc. Let them know the specific ways that refugees contribute and are welcomed into your community.
2) The White House public comment phone line is no longer taking messages; however, you may be able to reach an operator at the White House switchboard if you remain on the line: 202-456-1414.
3) You can also make your voice heard by commenting on a post on the White House Facebook page: Facebook.com/WhiteHouse or submit an electronic message at whitehouse.gov/contact.
Tweet @realDonaldTrump @WhiteHouse, and @ your Senators/Representatives: “.@[HANDLE], my community stands w/ ALL refugees! Support refugee resettlement & reject discrimination! #RefugeesWelcome”
The American Psychiatric Association has selected the National Consortium of Torture Treatment Programs (NCTTP) as the recipient of the 2017 Human Rights Award. NCTTP president, Lin Piwowarczyk, MD, MPH, will accept this award for the NCTTP at the APA’s annual meeting in May, to be held this year in San Diego.
“The APA Human Rights Award recognizes extraordinary efforts by individuals and organizations focused on promoting and supporting the human rights of populations with mental health needs. Upon recommendation by the APA Council on International Psychiatry, the APA feels strongly that NCTTP demonstrates both dedication and leadership in providing mental health care to the survivors of torture in the United States and advocating for the prevention of torture worldwide, making it a prominent recipient of this prestigious award,” wrote Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A., CEO and Medical Director, American Psychiatric Association in a January correspondence to Dr. Piwowarczyk.
The National Consortium of Torture Treatment Programs (NCTTP) urges President Trump to make a commitment to the rehabilitation and protection of torture survivors. Central to this commitment would be ensuring that survivors of torture who have been forced to flee their homes and seek protection in the United States have access to specialized rehabilitative care and asylum procedures that treat them with dignity and provides them with hope.
Survivors of torture report being subjected to severe beatings, rape, deprivation, humiliation, threats, sensory stress, kidnapping, forced postures, asphyxiation, burning, and witness to murder and torture of family members. These experiences commonly lead survivors to demonstrate symptoms such as chronic pain, sleep disorders, severe depression and anxiety, the inability to concentrate, and thoughts of suicide. A recent study by the NCTTP on 9,025 survivors coming for treatment in NCTTP centers documents 14 types of torture in 125 countries. A diagnostic study of a portion of these survivors shows 69% had PTSD and 52.4% had major depressive disorder...
All torture survivors have suffered greatly either physically or psychologically. In many cases, they have lost their families, homes, livelihoods, and most importantly their sense of self and security. Many survivors of torture in the United States are refugees, asylees, or asylum seekers. Clients seen at NCTTP member centers come from countries where torture is widespread and/or has been used systematically against civilians, including Ethiopia, Iraq, Somalia, Bosnia, Cameroon, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, Cambodia, and Iran. A meta-analysis of previous research studies on torture prevalence rates within refugee populations in the United States revealed that as many as 44% of refugees are either primary or secondary survivors of torture, suggesting that there may be as many as 1.3 million torture surviving refugees in the country. They are amongst the most resilient but also the most vulnerable immigrant populations in the United States.
Without the benefit of help, torture survivors can become immobilized by their distress, unable to function within their communities or contribute to their family’s well-being. Recognizing that treatment provides survivors with the environment in which to heal and contribute to American society, Congress passed the bipartisan Torture Victims Relief Act in 1998 that authorizes rehabilitation assistance to be provided to torture survivors, including treatment of physical and psychological effects of torture. Effective torture survivor rehabilitation programs are able to address a survivor’s physical, psychological, legal and social needs to reduce their suffering and restore functioning as quickly as possible. In order to address the long-term impacts of torture and the consequences that come with them, it is essential that survivors of torture are able to access asylum protection and specialized rehabilitative care, so they can rebuild their lives, restore their hope, and make important contributions to the economic and social fabric of the communities that welcome them.
The National Consortium of Torture Treatment Programs (NCTTP) commends the United Nations General Assembly and President Obama for their leadership in coordinating two recent high level meetings on responding to the global refugee crisis.
With an estimated 65.3 million people forcibly displaced from their homes globally – and 21.3 million of those living as refugees – the crisis demands an immediate and international response. The gathering of global leaders to begin to tackle this pressing problem of our time is a positive step in the right direction. Nevertheless, these meetings must be more than lip service and the commitments made by countries such as the United States, Canada, Ethiopia, Germany, Jordan, Mexico, and Sweden – as well as the private sector – must be followed by concrete actions that will directly impact the lives of refugees, internally displaced persons, and their host communities.
“A significant percentage of refugees are also survivors of torture,” noted Lin Piwowarczyk, NCTTP President. “For example, in the United States a meta-analysis of previous research studies on torture prevalence rates within refugee populations revealed that as many as 44% of refugees in the United States are either primary or secondary survivors of torture.”
“Experiences of torture commonly lead survivors to demonstrate symptoms such as chronic pain, sleep disorders, severe depression and anxiety, the inability to concentrate, and thoughts of suicide, ” Piwowarczyk explained. “Effective torture survivor rehabilitation programs are able to address a survivor’s physical, psychological, legal and social needs to reduce their suffering and restore functioning as quickly as possible.”
A recent study by the NCTTP, December 2015, shows that among 1360 torture survivors coming for treatment in NCTTP centers, 69% had PTSD, 52.4% had major depressive disorder. This indicates that torture survivors have high rates of impairment and need professional mental health services.
Article 14 of the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment provides that survivors of torture have a right to rehabilitation. The Torture Victims Relief Act, enacted in 1998, authorizes rehabilitation assistance to be provided to torture survivors, including treatment of physical and psychological effects of torture.
“As countries increase their financial and resettlement commitments,” Piwowarczyk urged, “we ask that they take into account the unique needs and rights of refugees who have been subjected to torture to access specialized rehabilitation services.”
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