School of Psychology hosts launch of two policy documents during Refugee Week
Events in June demonstrate a commitment to civic and community engagement
By Lee Pinkerton
In the last month, the University of East London’s (UEL) School of Psychology has hosted three major events which demonstrate how staff and students apply teaching practice to issues in the real world.
On June 20, UEL helped launch two documents from the British Psychological Society (BPS): ‘Guidelines for psychologists working with refugees and asylum seekers in the UK’ and ‘Working with interpreters: guidelines for psychologists’. The documents were developed by members of UEL’s School of Psychology under the auspices of the BPS.
The launch of the documents was part of UEL’s Refugee Week 2018 celebrations.
Organised by UEL Psychology Professor Rachel Tribe, speakers included Dr Maurice Wren, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council; former president of the BPS Professor Jamie Hacker Hughes; Principal Educational Psychologist at the Solihull Community Educational Psychology Service Dr Halit Hulusi.
The keynote was given by Lord Alf Dubs. In 2017, Lord Dubs put forward the ‘Dubs Amendment’, which offered unaccompanied refugee children safe passage to Britain during the European migrant crisis. Lord Dubs, a Labour peer, was himself a child refugee who came to the UK in 1939 from Czechoslovakia when it was occupied by the Nazis during World War II.
At UEL, Lord Dubs discussed how own life story has informed his campaigning.
He said, “People in the House of Lords said to me ‘You’re only doing this because of your background’. I said, ‘No this amendment is based on the humanitarian argument, not on the background of the individuals putting it forward’.
“But obviously I’m more emotionally involved with this, and it has made it harder for the government to shoot me down.”
Dr Halit Hulusi said, “Recent events around refugees mean the launch of this documents on refugees couldn’t be more timely. And I suspect the environment is going to get even more hostile, so it really is incumbent on us to push back and provide a counter-narrative.
“It’s incredibly important that this guidance coheres the response of all professionals working in this area and that we work together under the coherent banner of practice. This conference launches that guidance that coheres that practice.”
Professor Jamie Hacker Hughes, the former president of the BPS, said, “Speaking in a personal capacity I’m appalled by what is happening in the United States, and what is happening at its borders, and I am highly disappointed by the behaviour of some of our European neighbours in how they have treated asylum seekers and migrants on the high seas. The more good advice that we can get to psychologists working with these populations and the more that we can do in this country to help professionally, the better.”
The Refugee Week event was preceded on June 1 by a conference which examined ways of counteracting institutional racism in mental health services. The conference examined a recent review of the Mental Health Act. It included panel discussions around the themes of compulsion and human rights, combating the culture of psychiatry and the mental health system, and regulating deprivation of liberty.
On June 8, a Trauma-informed mental health services conference was organised by Professor John Read. It featured mental health activist Jacqui Dillon, who was awarded an honorary doctorate by UEL in 2017.
Professor Rachel Tribe said, "These events are examples of the work undertaken by staff and students which show our commitment to civic and community engagement.
“This forms the backdrop to much of our work and to which we aspire as individuals, a school and a university. The School of Psychology has a long -standing commitment to civic and community projects and in engaging students, scholars, practitioners and communities in dialogues about a range of issues. "