Protecting asylum practitioners from emotional strain and secondary trauma: education, support and reform

Neil Graffin


Legal practitioners in the field of asylum law work daily with traumatised clients and hear traumatic stories. These include, for example, narratives of conflict, persecution, sexual violence, or the death of friends or loved ones. The role is emotionally demanding, and there is a risk that these professionals could be at risk of secondary trauma or burnout. This qualitative research consisted of 10 semi-structured interviews with asylum practitioners in England and the Republic of Ireland. It aimed to evaluate the preparedness of asylum practitioners in performing their roles, assessing training and education provided in secondary trauma, burnout and other emotional impacts involved in working in this role. It also aimed to assess structures of emotional support which are available for practitioners in their workplaces or the sector. A number of key themes emerged from the data – it was evident that practitioners can start and continue their roles without any education on the emotional demands of working in asylum law. While means of emotionally supporting practitioners are present in some workplaces, this cannot be said for all. Participants were also critical of that structures of support exist for other professionals working with asylum claimants, but they do not for them. Based on the findings of this research a series of recommendations will be made which are aimed at better safeguarding and supporting practitioners working in asylum law.

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