1. The psychosocial focus at work with refugees and forced migrants1

1.1. A perspective on intervention in contemporary migrations.

All too often, when working with refugees or forced migrants, the person is hidden behind the label that the legal-administrative, socio-economic and media conditions determine for her in each state, regional or local context.

Forced migrations, as a term that also includes situations where humanitarian protection is being requested, must be something more than a label, more than a collection of numbers and data to be known or "flows" to control. More, even, than a number of people to be "placed" or rehoused. In particular, it must be understood that the "numbers" are in fact infinite people with names, surnames, history, rights, dignity, possibilities, horizons, and goals.

In this way, looking beyond the term "immigrant" or "refugee", what is fundamental is that there is a person who experiences a situation, which is the expulsion from their land and forced migration, and that undeniably marks a turning point in that person's life, where nothing can return to being as it was beforehand.

It, therefore, becomes imperative during the intervention to consider the person and their diverse contexts of reference (of the origin and the destination, at least), those that provide them with meaning and identity, and that shape their ideals and daily practices. The importance of dialogue between the different settings within which the person participates directly or indirectly is another priority during the intervention.

From this perspective, the social and cultural variables are involved in the person and their migration experience just as much as the individual and identity variables. Thus, in every intervention, we will have to contemplate:

At the same time, the individual and social variables must be considered, each one with a double meaning:

Forced migration is experienced by the person in all of its dimensions (mental-conceptual, affective-emotional, behavioural, relational, identity), and from all of these we must understand and pursue their wellbeing, their liberty, and their integration.

In summary, the integral well-being of the migrant (bio-psycho-socially speaking), the dignification of their living conditions and the equality of their rights and opportunities continue to be the ultimate goals of the intervention.

The emphasis is placed on the intervention from the prevention of difficulties and the promotion of people's abilities so that they can be autonomous agents of their own lives. To achieve this, it is necessary to study the risk factors and the protective factors in each case and context. The priority, along with prevention, will be the empowerment of these protective factors, or likewise, those variables that protect the person regarding possible difficulties or problems; or in positive terms, the conditions that, already forming part of their individual and/or social characteristics, make their integral well-being possible. This means focusing on:

Without ignoring the second one, the work should focus on the first dimensions as a priority. Depending on where we put the emphasis, the measures undertaken will be very different, as much on the level of individual intervention as on a family, local or sociopolitical level.

Thus, in any action with a migrant population and in contexts of cultural diversity, the intervention must focus on the people involved, although influencing the transformation of the various groups, institutions and societies to which they are linked.

In the same way, for an effective intervention that promotes integration, both the people who arrive and those who are already residing in that society must be considered in parallel, whether the groups are of long-standing migrants or are born in that society.

It is, without a doubt, a complex articulation that is required from this perspective so as not to leave out any of the determining factors in an intervention that intends to be integral and attend to people from their connection to the different contexts in which they interact, from those that are nourished and in those that develop.

1.2. The forced nature of migration in our setting: "vulnerabilisation" versus vulnerability.

In the context of Europe, and specifically, in that of Spain, Italy, and Romania, the majority of migratory experiences have a forced nature. In addition to persons recognized as asylum seekers, who are acknowledged to have experienced living conditions in their places of origin that have forced them to migrate and seek protection given the dangers to their own lives or that of their families, there also exists a great number of people that, without being recognised as asylum seekers, have also been forced to leave their countries of origin. Perhaps not due to war or direct persecution, but indeed due to the necessity to leave the place to which they feel they belong in order to look for a better life, or even, a dignified life.

The lack of opportunities to develop oneself as a person, the absence of basic conditions to live with dignity, the non-existence of a setting that promotes fundamental human development (whether due to political, economic, family, or climatic reasons), are also impositions to migrate as well as institutionalised exiles, that can even be promoted by the same authorities, by actions or omissions.

When the need to recognize "the rightto not have to emigrate" is raised, reference is made to the "forced" nature of many of the emigration decisions that are not recognized within the characteristics of asylum seekers. For all these reasons, it is necessary to speak in our context of forced migration, regardless of the severity of the causes that lead to migration and the status that the country of residence accords to each person.

In this context, the migration experience will undoubtedly have an impact on the person and their system, but not as a result of their weakness, but as a consequence of the causes and circumstances for which they emigrate and in which they live as a "migrant " on the road or in the receiving society.

Feelings such as fear and loss, or experiences of acculturative stress are inevitable in the migratory process, although their intensity and forms vary greatly according to the aforementioned conditions and the individual and cultural peculiarities of each one. It is not acceptable to attribute these feelings and experiences to a supposed vulnerability inherent to migrants, but rather due to the vulnerability generated by their living conditions, both those that push them to leave, and those that may be found when arriving in another place. In this sense, rather than vulnerable people, it would be fair to talk about "vulnerabilising" systems and experiences of "vulnerabilisation".

Who can resist being upset or affected by the structural injustice, the undervaluation and exploitation maintained, or the lack of opportunities to escape to a better life?

The realities we will build depends on where we place the emphasis. If we think of an intrinsic or inherent vulnerability of the "migrant collective", even if it does not exist as such, we will tend to, even unwittingly so, victimize people and consider them weak and with fewer personal resources than those we enjoy otherwise. Rather, the opposite is true for migrants: ways of being and coping with life that are especially resistant to difficulties and changes, particular strength and flexibility, and the ability to cope with adverse conditions that are far superior to people who have not been involved in migration experiences. This way of facing and living life is known as resilience.

In most cases, people who arrive fleeing their conditions and looking for better ones are the best prepared, both physically and psychologically. Not everyone can take on such a high risk as migrating. For this reason, we can not assume that those who arrive in receiving societies from another place represent the average profile of their places of origin.

However, the ability to adapt to change - or acculturation - has its limits and, with this resilience, we can not underestimate the enormous impact that migration can have on the person and their world: distance from family and friends; from the forms of relationship and expression; from the places of origin; from the roots of their identity; from their social guidelines; their customs, their climate, their way of understanding life; from how to function in everyday life... Not to mention the changes upon arrival, with other modes of social functioning, in many cases with heavy work of higher risk (those who have "the luck" to find them); low salary working conditions and long working days; housing and habitability problems; problems adapting to food and customs; economic problems in supporting oneself; complex family situations; loneliness… In these circumstances, the person can not remain indifferent, since any change involves a process of readjustment to integrate the new situation.

1. This section is extracted from: Melero, L, and Die, L. (2010). El enfoque psicosocial de las migraciones. In: Melero, L. (coord.). La persona más allá de la migración. Manual de intervención psicosocial con personas migrantes. p71-114. CeiMigra: Valencia. Available online at: http://www.socialjesuitas.es/documentos/download/13-manuales-de-intervencion/29-la-persona-mas-alla-de-la-inmigracion