Kotoutuminen #5: Perpetuating the Ulysses syndrome, a chronic stress disorder of refugees

by , under Enrique Tessieri


You ask me my name. I shall tell you. My name is nobody and nobody is what everyone calls me.

Odyssey, Song IX

If a refugee suffers from fear, loneliness, enforced separation, a sense of despair and is struggling to survive in his new homeland, more salt is thrown on their wounds by the hateful rhetoric of Islamophobic and racist parties.

One of these in Finland is the radical-right Perussuomalaiset (PS)* party, which labels such people “harmful” to our society while claiming that they don’t “integrate” into Finnish society.

But not only do anti-immigration parties make the lives of asylum seekers and migrants difficult, but government immigration policy is another culprit.

A new report by the EU’s Agency for Fundamental Rights reports that the integration of young refugees isn’t doing very well. It warns that there is a risk of creating a lost generation.

Do you see the problem? The PS tries to destroy their credibility and tear down that important shred of humanity in us.

Unfortunately, those who help and educate migrants to become members of our society have never heard of the Ulysses syndrome.

Since they have not heard of this disorder, some rely on simplistic answers to integration: learn the language and read the Kaleva.

While I’m facetious, the expectations that some of these educators have on their pupils, especially vulnerable ones fleeing war and failed states in the Middle East and Africa, are ineffective in their jobs.

When you ask such a person to assimilate (one-way integration) into our culture, it is like asking a person to stand upright after he or she broke his or her leg.

Ignorance is not the only matter that causes the integration process of a migrant to fail in Finland but standing on a high horse. The view that some have of the migrant is racist in the same way as colonial powers saw and exploited their subjects.

The Ulysses syndrome should be required reading for any person working with refugees and migrants.

See also:

*Kotoutiminen is the Finnish term for integration.