Who are our patients? | Primo Levi Centre

Who are our patients?

The people coming to our care centre are in a state of great suffering. Physical symptoms such as joint pain and severe headaches are commonly seen, which generally accompany significant psychological problems. In France, feelings of insecurity, difficulties in obtaining an official status, along with recurrent suspicion surrounding the exiles, tend to hamper the patients’ abilities to reconstruct their physical and mental states.

The figures given below are for 2015.

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Claudine was born right after the genocide in Rwanda. She never knew her father. She grew up in a protected environment, partly in a boarding school and partly with her mother and younger brother.

It seemed strange to her that her father was never there, but her mother reassured her that he was well, he just had to live in another country. One day, everything began to change, her mother lost her job and was absent for several days. Later, the police picked Claudine up at boarding and took her to the police station to question her. She told the police everything she knew. After two days, a stranger came to get her from the police station and brought her to the airport where they took a plane to a neighboring country. Two days later the man dropped her, alone, in the Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris. All she knew was that this man knew her parents, and that they had paid him to take her to France.

When Claudine came to her first appointment at the care centre, she was thirteen, living in a children home and in the care of Children welfare. She came because she did not understand what had happened to her. During the police interviews, she was given to understand that her father had participated in the genocide. During the consultations, it took her several months to recover some memories such as her classmates’ mockery about her family name and her father’s possible involvement in the genocide. She talked about the shame and the fear she was feeling in her country. She said she was tired. She said that she trusted her mother and that she believed that her mother would soon come to get her, but her silence and lack of contact made her ill. In France, Claudine is a very good student. She has many friends and lives with a foster family where everything is fine, except that there remains something in her that is « dead », « lost ».


Ali is a young boy from Sri Lanka, sent to the Primo Levi Centre by his school. When he was 6, he remained clutching his dead mother for many hours, after she was shot before his eyes. He has been at school in France for two years, he does not speak French yet. He lives in isolation with his father who cannot detach himself from their mother tongue, full of memories… The Primo Levi Centre aims at getting him out of a number of symptoms such as his silence and post-traumatic squint...


Monsieur E. is from Kosovo. He was arrested, imprisoned and tortured by the Serbian militia. He clandestinely fled his country with his family and found refuge in France. After a long administrative process, his asylum application and his appeal were both rejected. Mr. E. has multiple symptoms following his experience as a torture victim including chronic pain, destroyed teeth, insomnia and depression. Psychotherapeutic support from the care centre has helped him find some relief but the refusal of the administration to grant him refugee status has reactivated some of his trauma.


Edna lived in Congo Brazzaville with her eight-year-old daughter, her father and her brother. In search of people from her ethnic group, the militias busted into her house, her words and pleas did not change the outcome. She and her daughter were raped in front of her father and brother. Her daughter was killed. When several months later she and her four-month-old baby were sent to the Primo Levi Centre by a mother and child health facility, Edna could not sleep. She suffered from hallucinations. She confused her new-born with her dead daughter. The therapy provided at the centre helped her talk about her intense feelings of guilt, gave her a place where she could be listened, supported her and helped her change the unbearable into conceivable.


Hassan is a 17-year-old young man from West Africa. He lived with his family until that tragic day when he witnessed the brutal assassination of his mother and younger sister by the military. They were in search of his father, hunted down because of his activist activities. When he arrived in France as a refugee, the Primo Levi Centre took him into care. He felt very bad. As he was living in fear and pain, he began to tell his story. Little by little, he was gradually able to detach himself from his traumatic history and talk about his suffering