Quality of Memory: Impact on Refugee Hearing Decisions

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This is a preliminarily study examining the relationship between quality of memory and refugee hearing decisions. It relies on self-reports from seven refugee claimants who were denied convention refugee status, from five convention refugees, and from reading seven negative panel decisions for refugee claimants exhibiting posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Out of seven participants, four reported that they had experienced torture; seven had witnessed the death of friends or family members; two declared that they had illegally travelled by sea under inhumane conditions; and two reported that they had been raped. Four participants said that they still experience nightmares related to past traumatic experiences. Five participants said they often experience recurring thoughts reminding them of what happened. Six reported having problems with sleeping, anxiety, and also forgetting a lot about their experiences. Results echo previous studies on default memory in traumatized persons. However, further investigation is needed to understand better the impact of PTSD on refugee claimant credibility. Findings also indicate that there is a need for refugee hearing judges to be trained to recognize the emotional suffering of refugee claimants.

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