Centre for Trauma, Asylum and Refugees (CTAR)

Part of Department of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies

Examining the refugee experience

The Centre for Trauma, Asylum and Refugees (CTAR) aims to provide a framework and a focus for examining, from a variety of different perspectives, the main issues associated with the reality and experience of being an asylum seeker or refugee.

The main emphasis of the Centre is on the psychosocial dimensions of these experiences. The Centre also provides a forum for individuals and organisations to exchange knowledge and experiences and to further develop their ideas and work in this field.

Our recent activity

March 2017

Between 8 and 11 March, Renos Papadopoulos was at Heidelberg University where he was invited to be one of the keynote speakers at the International Systemic Research Conference that was attended by over 600 professionals from all over the world. The title of his keynote presentation was 'Refugee Aid: can systemic research help?' In addition, he was invited to chair a Symposium, (on 'Refugees and Refugee Aid', with presenters from Canada, Germany, Turkey and USA), to be the presenter on a 'Panel and Debate' (entitled 'Refugee Aid: key political, clinical and research issues'), and to be one of the discussants on another 'Panel and Debate' (entitled 'Systemic Approaches to Collective and National Trauma').

On 14 March around thirty students and academic staff from different departments attended a talk, entitled 'Inclusion of Refugees in Higher Education: Refugee Voices from Colchester,' organised by the Centre for Trauma, Asylum and Refugees. The talk brought five speakers from Colchester: Nasir Warfa (lecturer on MA Refugee Care), Maria Wilby (one of the founding members of Refugee Action-Colchester and Brightlingsea Refugee Support Network), Rahaf Ghalion (young mother and former student from Damascus), Nusiaba Albatal (young mother and B.A. Degree in English Language and Literature from Damascus University) and Ahmad Ekrimah (B.Sc. Degree in Accounting from Damascus University). This talk specifically focused on refugee experiences in Colchester through discussion on the psycho-social aspects of the refugee experience, the role of civil society and the challenges and obstacles faced by both refugees and voluntary organisations in accessing higher education.

Renos Papadopoulos was informed by the University that his project in Sierra Leone was shortlisted for the new Celebrating Research Impact Awards. The awards are an integral part of the Celebrating Research Excellence initiative and cover research impact across all three faculties. Eligible are those that have been funded through the Impact Acceleration Account of the ESRC. There will be three awards categories in the first instance and each carries a £1,000 prize: Best Research Impact Award, Best Research Impact Award by an Early Career Researcher or Doctoral Student, and Best International Research Impact Award. The winners will be announced in April.

February 2017

Renos Papadopoulos was interviewed for the latest IAAP Newssheet.

Renos Papadopoulos is currently in South Africa offering training, consultation and supervision to two main groups that work in Khayelitsha, the largest shantytown in the outskirts of Cape Town. The first is FAMSA (Families South Africa) that focuses on therapeutic work with families, and the second is the Orthodox Christian Centre in Mandela Park in Khayelitsha. In addition, Renos offered at the Orthodox Centre in Pinati Estate (not far from Khayelitsa) a day workshop on the challenges families face in raising children today.

On Tuesday 21 February, Renos Papadopoulos was at the British Psychological Society (BPS) in London for another meeting of the Presidential Task Force on Refugees and Asylum Seekers. One of the main items of the agenda was the finalisation of the document 'Responding to refugees and asylum seekers in the UK: Guidance for Psychologists'. Renos was invited to write the section on 'Supporting asylum seeking and refugee families' (2500 words). We will post on the CTAR facebook page once the document is finalised.

January 2017

Between 20 and 22 January, Renos Papadopoulos was in Rome where he offered two day seminar/workshops to specialist groups who work with asylum seekers, refugees and migrants. On Saturday he worked with ETNA (Etnopsicologia Analitica) and on Sunday with the special interest group of AIPA (Associazione Italiana di Psicologia Analitica, which is one of the Italian Jungian societies of professional analysts). The title of his ETNA presentation was 'Involuntary Dislocation; Realities and interventions' and for AIPA 'Challenges in working with the Involuntarily Dislocated persons'. Both represent a continuation of his commitment to these two organisations that are doing pioneering work in Italy. It is worth noting that already members of these groups have come to our university and completed our MA in Refugee Care. Monica Luci, one of them (who completed the taught PhD programme in Refugee Care) was present at the Sunday workshop.


Click here to open a PDF document detailing our activity during 2012.


Click here to open a PDF document detailing our activity during 2011.

July - December 2010

Click here to open a PDF document detailing our activity during the latter part of 2010.

January - June 2010

Click here to open a PDF document detailing our activity during early 2010.

Colchester campus aerial view
Where to find us...

CTAR is based within the Department of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies and also has links with the MA Refugee Care and the PhD Refugee Care run jointly by the University of Essex and the Tavistock Clinic.

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Our projects

A rapid assessment of psychosocial needs and resources in South Sudan following the outbreak of the 2013/14 conflict

Political tensions in South Sudan escalated to the level of an armed civil conflict in December 2013. A cessation of hostilities’ agreement, signed on 23 January 2014, has yet to be implemented. While the conflict is being determined by several factors, including proxy influences, economic interests and political dynamics, the dominant narrative is the one of a tribal war between the Dinka and the Nuer. The number of casualties and wounded remains unclear on both sides, but at the end of February 2014 it was estimated that 803,200 people were still displaced in the Country as a result of the armed unrest, 68,000 of whom still lived in United Nations Mission In South Sudan (UNMISS) Protection of Civilians (POC) areas. These are camp-like settlements established within the existing UNMISS military compounds, walled, gated and guarded by UN forces. The implementation of systematic humanitarian responses in the POC areas are made difficult by the volatility of the security situation, as well as the fact that the sites within the UNMISS compounds, established out of the humanitarian space and below humanitarian standards due to an immediate need to save lives, have turned into a mid-term solution. Camp Coordination and Camp Management (CCCM) actors have been reporting a need for psychosocial supports in the camps, since individual and collective uneasiness have been evident from the onset of the crisis. While the emotional and social tensions Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) are facing can be normal consequences of the paradoxes of the situation, IOM decided to conduct a small-scale rapid assessment that could inform the implementation of specific psychosocial support activities for the Camps populations and of specific psychosocial capacity building initiatives for CCCM actors. 

Enhancing Vulnerable Asylum Seekers’ Protection (EVASP)

The background of the project is based on the Green Paper on the Future of the Common European Asylum System (2007) that, inter alia, asserted that, "It is imperative to take account of the special needs of vulnerable people as it appears that serious inadequacies exist with regard to the definitions and procedures applied by Member States for the identification of more vulnerable asylum seekers and that Member States lack the necessary resources, capacities and expertise to provide an appropriate response to such needs." (emphasis retained).

Setting up psychosocial services in Yemen

CTAR was invited to assess and recommend steps to improve psychosocial provision for refugees in Yemen on behalf of the United Nations and the Danish Refugee Council.

CTAR was invited to undertake an assessment of the existing psychosocial provision for refugees in Yemen and submit a report that would provide a framework for establishing improved services; moreover, CTAR was asked to oversee the implementation of such services as well as the ongoing supervision and monitoring of them. The great majority of refugees in Yemen are Somalis who cross either the Red Sea or the Gulf of Aden. The existing services have gaps and are overstretched. The United Nations (UNHCR) subcontracted the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) to set up such services and they invited CTAR to undertake this project.

On the last day of his visit, Professor Papadopoulos presented (in the UNHCR office in Aden) the preliminary findings and recommendations of the CTAR report to DRC and staff from other involved agencies and it was very well received. The intention is to develop a coherent strategy as well as concrete measures to address the problem. An important element of this project is CTAR's hallmark, i.e. the introduction of a therapeutic element in the work of staff across various disciplines and services. Moreover, this training will be based on Renos' 'Trauma Grid' that, whilst respecting the negative consequences of trauma, also includes more positive responses, e.g. resilience and Adversity-Activated Development.

Leonardo Da Vinci programme

CTAR works with five other European partners on the European Commission's 'Inter-Culture' module.

The phenomenon of immigration has been very common in the framework of the European Union, but especially in the last two decades. Immigrants and/or refugees have come to Europe from Asiatic countries and from Eastern Europe countries, seeking a new way of living. The population movement to the inner E.U. (increased with the enlargement of the Union) has already created several problems for the European Union, mainly connected to xenophobia and racism.

For that reason the European Commission decided to fund a project under the Leonardo Da Vinci programme with the title "Material / Module for the training of specialized Executives in the approach to problems of intercultural communication in the field of local community (neighbourhood, municipality, prefecture) shortened to 'Inter-Culture'. CTAR was one of the six European partners that worked intensively on this project over a period of four years and finally developed a training module that will soon be made available on the internet.

Consulting at the Dadaab Refugee Camps in Eastern Kenya

CARE International invites CTAR twice to review, deliver training and make recommendations on the psychological assistance that is offered to refugees in these camps.

In 1991, following a huge influx of refugees from Somalia, as a result of the civil war, the United Nations established, as a temporary measure, three refugee camps in Eastern Kenya next to the village of Dadaab. The highest number of refugees living in the camps reached 800,000 and now there are about 200,000. In 2007 CTAR was invited by CARE International (the main implementing partner of the UN agencies that run the camps) to consult to the camp authorities focusing on reviewing the psychological assistance that is offered to refugees, provide suitable training to staff, and then submit a report with recommendations. Following the report (Papadopoulos, Ljubinkovic and Warner, 2007), CTAR was invited again in 2008 to review the recommendations, to offer further training and consultation.

Recommended resources

Related texts

Therapeutic Care for Refugees, No Place Like Home was written by Professor Renos K Papadopoulos and published by Karnac Books in 2002 in London for the Tavistock Clinic Series.

The image used to illustrate the front cover is entitled Two Faces of Trauma and is a digital composition of two photographs which Andreas Coutas took (in his capacity as photographer of the Public Information Office of the Republic of Cyprus) in July 1974. Following Turkey's invasion of Cyprus, nearly half the population of the island became refugees in their own country and Andreas documented most sensitively this human tragedy. The unique image encapsulates the refugee predicament and the central dilemma in responding to it: the first woman abandons herself to her pain and desolation whereas the second woman appears firm, dependable and resilient.

Usually, therapeutic responses to refugees tend to reflect this polarisation - either treating refugees as helpless victims or as resilient individuals. The approach of the book is that both sides are possible reactions to adversity and the one should not exclude the other. Similarly, CTAR provides a forum where both perspectives to trauma are addressed, as well as their polarisation and the interconnectedness between these two positions. Andreas, who has received many international awards for his photography, succeeded in capturing this duality most movingly in this image.

Related online articles

Professor Renos Papadopoulos was invited by The Conversation to write a piece to mark the end of Refugee Week 2015: Forget the sympathy - asylum is a refugees right

You can read the full online article here.

Want to find out more about our related courses?


CTAR is based within the Department of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies and also has links with the MA Refugee Care and the PhD Refugee Care run jointly by the University of Essex and the Tavistock Clinic. Click the links below to find out more.

Get in touch
Get in touch
Centre for Trauma, Asylum and Refugees University of Essex
Wivenhoe Park, Colchester, CO4 4SQ
Telephone: 01206 873460
Department of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies University of Essex
Wivenhoe Park, Colchester, CO4 4SQ
Telephone: 01206 873460