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Dear friends and colleagues,
“I recently visited an immigration removal centre for men – not as an MP,
but as a normal visitor, under the radar. The reality is brutal.”
Kate Osamor, Labour Member of Parliament (MP) for Edmonton, Canada
As the International Day on Support of Victims of Torture- June 26 approaches, HHRI wishes to expose the global relevance of Torture in the Context of Migration. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), an unprecedented 65.6 million people around the world have been forced from home. Worldwide nearly 20 people are forcibly displaced every minute, many of them fleeing from torture, violent conflict, persecution and repressive regimes.
Asylum seekers present a serious challenge for asylum authorities who, generally, are poorly prepared to receive and support overwhelming numbers of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. In this context, torture victims do not receive the support they need, nor are assisted in the way they should, given the lack of systematic procedures to identify survivors of torture, which is key to prevent further physical and mental health harm. Without identification, there is no referral to urgently needed rehabilitation services, and survivors may risk being placed in immigration detention. This is something that often endangers the already vulnerable situation of the individuals and their families.
Identification of survivors of torture is essential for refugee status determination. It is critical that physical and psychological signs of torture are assessed and documented, as part of the asylum procedure. Torture survivors struggling with torture related trauma should be provided with flexible processes suited to assess their protection claims. These procedures should assess both somatic and mental health problems, such as: depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) and suicidal thoughts, which should be addressed as part of rehabilitation services to enable them to live in safety.
In this regard, since July 2015, EU Member States shall ensure and support torture victims who apply for asylum, (https://ec.europa.eu/home-affairs/what-we-do/policies/asylum/reception-conditions_en) as specified by the directive 2013/33/EU of the European Parliament and the Council of 26 June 2013, standards for the reception of applicants for international protection (https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:32013L0033&from=EN) . This directive includes specific recommendations to provide torture victims with adequate reception conditions, special procedural guarantees, the possibility of having their torture claims documented and treatment for the damage caused by torture.
Ultimately, a well-placed identification process will stablish the bases for redress and reparation of torture survivors. In particular, it is important to note that the Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment – also known as the Istanbul Protocol (https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Publications/training8Rev1en.pdf) , has been developed to serve as a set of international guidelines for the assessment of persons who allege torture and ill treatment, for investigating cases of alleged torture, and for reporting such findings to the judiciary and any other investigative body. Health professionals all over the world have a special obligation to ensure that torture survivors are received in ways that provide them with health care as well as documentations of torture related problems, both to substantiate protection needs, and enable rights to redress.
Sudden and unexpected family separation, can lead to emotional trauma in children,
American Psychological Association (APA), open letter to President Trump
Decades of psychological research have determined that it is in the best interest of the child and the family to keep families together. Families fleeing their homes to seek sanctuary are already under a tremendous amount of stress. Sudden and unexpected family separation, such as separating families at the border, can add to that stress, leading to emotional trauma in children.
New standards on support and protection for torture victims in the context of migration,
In the beginning of 2018, the UN Committee against Torture and the Special Rapporteur on Torture published updated standards on support and protection for torture victims in the context of migration. These standards draw extensively on IRCT’s health-based expertise and knowledge about how to ensure a trauma informed approach to asylum procedures and reception of refugees.
Torture Victims in the Context of Migration: Identification, Redress and Rehabilitation,
Migration is part of who we are as a human species. Since the dawn of time, people have. Today, there are more people on the move than ever before. Many flee their homes because they have no other choice. They are in flight from extreme poverty, economic or political instability, generalized violence, gender inequality or other forms of discrimination. There is often a perilous and precarious migration journey ahead. Many run the risk of losing their own lives and those of their loved ones in the hope of finding safety and security.
Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture and Other Cruel, Humanitarian or Degrading Treatment or Punishment,
1. The purposes of effective investigation and documentation of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (hereinafter “torture or other ill-treatment”) include the following: (a) Clarification of the facts and establishment and acknowledgement of individual and State responsibility for victims and their families; (b) Identification of measures needed to prevent recurrence…
EU Migration and Home Affairs – Reception conditions,
Directive also provides particular attention to vulnerable persons, especially unaccompanied minors and victims of torture. Member States must, inter alia, conduct an individual assessment in order to identify the special reception needs of vulnerable persons and to ensure that vulnerable asylum seekers can access medical and psychological support.
(Chapter six) UNHCR Resettlement Submission Categories,
UNHCR resettlement activities constitute a means of providing international protection and appropriate durable solutions to refugees. As seen in previous chapters of this Handbook, offering refugees a durable solution through resettlement is also a tangible expression of international responsibility sharing.
Rehabilitation of Torture Survivors,
The resource kit is produced by the IRCT, the umbrella organisation for more than 140 independent international torture rehabilitation centres promoting and supporting torture rehabilitation and working for the prevention of torture worldwide. This resource kit is produced as part of a three-year project entitled “Developing the Capacity of IRCT Member Centres to Deliver Holistic Torture Rehabilitation Services through South-South and South-North Peer Supervision and Support”.
Ensuring torture victims’ 17 rights in the global compact,
Torture has devastating consequences for victims, their families and the broader community. Its severe physical and psychological effects disrupt the lives of victims and often prevent them from continuing their life plan. Clients at IRCT member centres describe their experiences after torture as living in an empty shell, being in a prison without bars, and being unable to imagine a future.
Falling Through the Cracks, Asylum Procedures and Reception Conditions for Torture Victims in the European Union,
Torture victims are not receiving the specialised support they need to get better and to engage effectively with the asylum process. One reason for this is that most EU Member States, including the eight countries featured in this report, do not have a procedure for systematic identification of torture victims in the asylum procedure. This key issue has a range of negative consequences on the individual, such as deteriorating physical and mental health and flawed consideration of their asylum claim.
Victims of torture: Identification and follow up (presentation),
No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and punishment.
Universal declaration art. 5; International Covenant on CPR, art.7; European HR convention, art. 3; UN convention against torture, 1- 16.
I’m an MP, and I visited an immigration detention centre undercover – what I discovered was shocking,
I recently visited an immigration removal center for men – not as an MP, but as a normal visitor, under the radar. The reality is brutal. The UK is the only EU country that does not set a specific time limit on immigration detention. Knowing that their detention could be indefinite damages the mental health of those in detention.
By Torunn Støren, Sveinung Odland and Helen Johnsen Christie (2018)
We would like to introduce this helpful stabilisation manual that has been developed to help stabilise symptoms in people who have experienced traumatic events. Their need is first of all to obtain skills to deal with their symptoms. They need to recognise that the painful events are no longer happening, to acquire a sense of safety in the present and to gain more perceived control over thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations. The manual can be used as a first-stage intervention prior to processing traumatic events. The manual was written after NKVTS (Norwegian Centre for Violence and Traumatic Stress Studies) published findings from the study of survivors from the massacre on Utøya, Norway on 22 July 2011. The study found that many of the victims continued to have sleep disorders, anxiety, depression, somatic disorders, traumatic grief, withdrawal and loss of interest in day-to-day activities. The manual is also
suitable for different kinds of trauma. The different themes of the manual are:
• Post-traumatic symptoms
• Difficulties sleeping
• Triggers, different types
• Triggers, handling
• Identity and meaning
The training manual Mental health and gender-based violence: Helping survivors of sexual violence in conflict (http://www.hhri.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/HHRI_EN_GBV.pdf) also known as “HHRI GBV Manual” is a tool on approaches and techniques that address the psychological needs of survivors of gender-based violence. It is a tool to approach survivors of rape and other forms of sexual violence in contexts of disasters, conflicts and emergency situations, where access to health professionals with psychological or psychiatric expertise usually is very limited.
The Arabic, (https://www.hhri.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/hhri_web_AR_HR.pdf) Russian (https://www.hhri.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/HHRI_RU_GBV.pdf) and Spanish (https://www.hhri.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/hhri_es_v2.pdf) versions of our training manual is available for free. If you would like a hard copy, please send us an e-mail (email@example.com) explaining what kind of work you are doing and why would you need the manual it. Please note that complementary to the GBV Manual, we have developed a tool box which you also can accessed for free in English, Spanish, Korean, Georgian and Romanian if you visit our GBV manual web page. (https://www.hhri.org/gbv-training-manual/)