Ireland’s Activists Deportations Find Approval in Political Abuse Psychiatry

Dec 29, 2022 Direct Provision
Ireland's Activists Deportations Find Approval in Political Abuse Psychiatry

A years long investigation into the intimidation of particular asylum seekers in the direct provision system reveal Ireland’s Activists Deportations Find Approval in Political Abuse Psychiatry.

How We Investigated Ireland’s Activists Deportations Find Approval in Political Abuse Psychiatry

You feel like you’ve found your calling. Whether you received it in a dream; while gazing up at a billboard or, after consulting a high power in prayer—you have chosen this calling to give your life a deeper meaning. A sense of purpose. For many people across the world this calling is: activism. Activists often turn to ideological support—the good of grassroot movements—while standing their ground. Brow-beating, intimidation, profiling and arrests are the bad of activism when one speaks truth to power.  The question of security is undoubtedly the ugly and worrisome slice of politicking, especially when safety cannot be guaranteed. Indeed, the unsettling feeling of not being safe may compel one to flee their country. But will sanctuary find them in the country they land?

“Activism crept its way back up and now I am at it again,” says a confidential source residing in direct provision, who will be referred to as “John Doe.” “Even though I know who they are; I can point to the asylum seekers, no one will listen,” says Doe, who believes its his past social wrongs that have persuaded refugee advocate services and NGOs to ignore his plight. Doe claims authority have used asylum seekers to intimidate and to force him out of the international protection system. “I stand up for myself in protest and I am labelled chaotic. Called paranoid,” says Doe. If this sounds eerily familiar you’re not mistaken.

How Ireland’s Activists Deportations Find Approval in Political Abuse Psychiatry

The Irish Examiner published an article on an American asylum seeker named Thomas Stofiel, who mysteriously died in 2020. Imad, who the Irish Examiner interviewed, alleged that he had spoken to Stofiel. Imad also alleges Stofiel and another American asylum seeker had “the same problem, like mental.”

There is another source in Noel Barker’s article who reinforces the “mental” stereotype about American asylum seekers, “…if you are paranoid about the U.S., you are going to have real fear for your data being used by anyone, anywhere…” says the CEO of a refugee advocate service in Cork. There seems to be a trend, as the International Protection Tribunal archive reveals 2 other cases of American asylum seekers that were alleged to be overly suspicious of the government. Are their suspicions illegitimate or is it something else?

The Protest Psychosis
Courtesy of Journey to the Center

The CEO in the article gratuitously assesses the state of mind of American asylum seekers from afar, rather than exploring a third event that is defensibly the cause. In Torture and Psychiatric Abuse: Definition, Ethics, and Assessment, Ryan C.W. Hall and Richard C.W. Hall states psychiatric abuse may consist of an intentional misdiagnosis to discredit an individual, imprison them or, to cause their unemployment and loss of specific rights. An intentional misdiagnosis may also be to protect others (i.e., individuals in power). This quote appeared in Chapter 9 of Principles and Practice of Forensic Psychiatry (2017, p. 846).

As early as the 1920s, governments have pilloried activism and political demonstrations as—not a rights issue—but a mental health issue. To illustrate this point, one need only refer to Aurora D’Angelo, who participated in a rally in support of Sacco and Vanzetti, and was sent to a mental health facility for psychiatric evaluation.

Jonathan M. Metzl calls this psychiatry abuse “protest psychosis.” In The Protest Psychosis: How Schizophrenia Became a Black Disease (2011), Metzl draws a connection between the discriminatory perceptions of schizophrenia as a disease prone to Black men and women, and the continued pathologisation of them within systems that relies on language that has been shown to oppress.

Read More: 9 Americans Granted Refugee Status

U.S. officials’ harassment of activists on account of their political views have been widely documented over the years. In the 1950s, declassified documents revealed the FBI diagnosed Malcolm X with “pre-psychotic paranoid schizophrenia,” and “membership of the Communist Party.” Metzl contends in the early 1960s, the same agency diagnosed Robert Williams, the head of the North Carolina NAACP as having two minds—“armed, and dangerous during his flight from trumped-up kidnapping charges.” Doe unequivocally believes psychiatry from afar is being deployed in direct provision by “those in power” to undermine the claims of individuals fleeing countries Ireland perceives as safe.

Abuse of Psychiatry
Courtesy of Journey to the Center

A question often raised among proponents and dissidents in international refugee law is: who can be considered a refugee? Refugees with a nationality are defined by the UNHCR as a “person who is outside the country because they have—or had—a well-founded fear of persecution by reason of her race, political opinion, nationality or religion.” The individual may also be unable to avail themselves of the protection of the government because of fear. From examining the UNHCR’s definition, it appears that any person, including someone from a democracy can become a refugee.

The Eradication of the Principle of Confidentiality

When countries acquire information on an applicant’s country of origin, they are bound by the principle of confidentiality. In other words, they cannot disclose information regarding the applicant to the actors of persecution or serious harm. Yet, Doe believes officials are using a combination of its diplomatic relations and the protest psychosis to undermine his asylum claim. “Look at what they did to Edward Snowden,” says Doe.

Snowden applied for political asylum in 21 countries and asserted the U.S. administration and President Joe Biden had pressured governments to refuse his asylum petitions. Biden had also telephoned President Rafael Correa days prior to Snowden’s remarks, asking the Ecuadorian leader not to grant him asylum. France, Poland, Brazil, Germany and India were countries that also rejected Snowden’s application outright. The influence countries like the U.S. wields in the international arena underpins the position that Ireland is likely allowing its diplomatic relations to influence how it decides cases from applicants who have fled western countries.

How the Protest Psychosis is Being Used in Ireland to Undermine Asylum Claims

Doe reaffirms the susceptible followers of this protest psychosis are “asylum seekers” and that each can “be identified.” Art Padilla, the author of Leadership: Leaders, Followers, and Environments (2012), echoes the sentiment that susceptible followers either acquiesce without resistance or align themselves with toxic leaders.

From reviewing Doe’s statements and observations, the protest psychosis is clearly a strategy to intimidate asylum seekers who have fled democracies into “abandoning our asylum claim and voluntarily returning home,” says Doe confidently. Asylum seekers who are poor, worried, and living in fear of deportation seem to be much easier for authority to control and manipulate into undertaking its political abuse of psychiatry. Indeed, the fear of deportation is a persuasive and logical reason, as it explains how asylum seekers help toxic leaders establish the protest psychosis of those applicants Ireland wishes to reject.

When Protest Psychosis Conformers Turn Into Colluders

Doe further asserts “refugee advocate services” conform to the protest psychosis by remaining non-active. If the refugee agency confronts the wrongs happening to asylum applicants, as in Doe’s case, the toxic leaders are likely to withhold funding from the NGO.

Impressionable conformers, as stated by Padilla, may become colluders when they internalize a toxic leader’s vision by committing to their destructive enterprise. This is accomplished when NGOs assist toxic leaders in violating international refugee law. Financial incentives are another reason why NGOs may collude with destructive leaders in violating its positive and negative obligations under international law.

It is believed the asylum seekers who were—and may still be—involved in the implementation of the protest-psychosis-like scheme allegedly contributed to Stofiel’s death by engaging in these exploitative relations. “No one without power can do what they have done. Their support and encouragement are to advance their personal agendas,” says Doe.

It cannot be denied that NGOs, solicitors, media organisations and asylum seekers have beliefs consistent with the idea that individuals from democratic regimes have no legitimate reason for claiming asylum. This leads one to believe these conformers are assisting toxic leaders in diagnosing particular asylum seekers without an official psychiatric evaluation. When asked, “Who did you tell about this?” Doe said, “Everyone. They just said I’m paranoid.”

The overly suspicious phenomenon raises a broader question as to whether the International Protection Office or a country’s diplomatic servants, are appointing psychiatrists to unethically diagnose particular asylum seekers in direct provision for their justified remonstrances.

Martha Beall Mitchell, the wife of U.S. Attorney General John Mitchell, experienced the political abuse of psychiatry first hand. In the 1970s, a practitioner diagnosed Mitchell with a paranoid mental disorder after she claimed that the administration of President Richard M. Nixon was engaged in illegal activities. The “Martha Mitchell effect” was coined to describe mental health misdiagnoses when accurate claims are dismissed as delusional. Indeed, many of her claims were later proved correct.

Evidence further indicates an overemphasis of psychotic symptoms in marginalised groups, especially Black Americans, as compared with other racial or ethnic groups. This was revealed in a study that looked at 599 Blacks and 1,058 non-Latino whites. Clinicians failed to effectively weigh mood symptoms when diagnosing schizophrenia among Black Americans, suggesting that racial bias, whether conscious or subconscious, is one factor in the diagnosis of schizophrenia in this population. The study also supports extensive previous research done by Stephen Strakowski of Dell Medical School on how overemphasis of psychotic symptoms in Blacks can contribute to misdiagnosis of schizophrenia spectrum disorders.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, it is unethical to diagnose an individual from afar. The Goldwater Rule is a statement of ethics that enjoins psychiatrists from professionally diagnosing someone they have not personally evaluated. If the Goldwater Rule proscribes psychiatrists from diagnosing someone they have not personally evaluated, then it stands to reason that asylum seekers, who have no medical license, have no epistemic footing when it comes to psychiatric diagnoses.  Principle 3 of the Psychology Association of Ireland further states “psychologists are required to act in a trustworthy, reputable, and accountable manner towards clients and the community. They shall avoid doing harm to clients and research participants, and act to prevent harm caused by others. They shall ensure that those whom they supervise act ethically.”

A Freedom of Information request was emailed to the International Protection Office in September 2022. It gave no response. The Department of Foreign Affairs in Ireland also issued no statement.

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Quianna Canada

Quianna Canada

Quianna Canada is a B.A. Law student at the University of Arizona, a Human Rights Defender, anti-torture activist. Her conversance with the American criminal justice system has made her passionate about justice and equality. Her focused researched on the ills of rankism, racism, and gender-based prejudice makes her an insightful expert at identifying maltreatment immanent in institutions, and how oppression effects ostracised persons in the world.

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