Resigned to a refugee's fate

Djeneta (at right) has been bedridden and unresponsive for 21/2 years, and her sister Ibadeta (at left) for more than six months, with uppgivenhetssyndrom (resignation syndrome), in Horndal, Sweden. The pair are Roma refugees from Kosovo.

Resignation syndrome (RS) renders patients passive, immobile, mute, unable to eat and drink, incontinent and unresponsive to physical stimulus. It is a condition believed to exist only among refugees in Sweden.

The causes are unclear, but most professionals agree that trauma is a primary contributor, alongside a reaction to stress and depression. It is also not clear why cases are found exclusively in Sweden.

RS has so far affected only refugees aged seven to 19, and mainly those from ex-Soviet countries or the former Yugoslavia. For many, the syndrome is triggered by having a residence application rejected. Granting residence to families of sufferers is often cited as a cure.

This photograph was taken with a Canon EOS 1DX Mark II at ISO 800 with an aperture of f2.8 and shutter speed of 1/160 sec.

It is on display at the World Press Photo Exhibition 2018 at the National Museum of Singapore, which is on until Sunday. The photograph is among 161 prize-winning photographs in the World Press Photo's 2017 contest.

Catch a talk by ST photojournalists Lim Yaohui and Mark Cheong tomorrow at 10.30am at the Gallery Theatre. Register at

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 26, 2018, with the headline 'Resigned to a refugee's fate'. Print Edition | Subscribe