Room to Heal’s comment on Freedom from Torture’s ‘Proving Torture’ Report
Advocacy 9 December 2016
Freedom From Torture’s most recent report – ‘Proving Torture’ – has made explicit a “culture of disbelief”1 embedded in the Home Office’s treatment of torture survivors. We experience first-hand the devastating impact of this hostile culture on members of Room to Heal. The report sheds light on the extent to which Home Office asylum caseworkers “disregard or mistreat expert medical evidence of torture and make clinical judgments about survivors’ injuries that they are not qualified to make” (p.5) which goes against explicit Home Office Policies.
The report analyses the consideration of 50 medico-legal reports, documenting physical and psychological evidence of torture, by the Home Office. Freedom From Torture’s findings suggest a routine disregard of medical evidence of torture with many asylum caseworkers regarding such evidence as an ‘obstacle to be “got around,” in justifying why asylum claims should be refused.
Freedom from Torture’s report states that “being disbelieved and having their medical evidence mishandled can be catastrophic for torture survivors” (p.5). We see first-hand the deep hurt that is caused by routine disbelief by Home Office officials of abuses our members have undergone. When their cases are refused and medical evidence disregarded, people know it means they could be sent back to face further torture. They are left in limbo and in a profound state of material and psychological insecurity that further exacerbates their mental health problems.
“I expected help when I came here but I got the opposite. It has a big impact on the relationship between you and the UK government, as well as the British people. It creates distance and makes you feel so alienated.”
Anon Room to Heal member
The way that asylum decisions are currently undertaken seems to contravene Home Office policy as well as the UN’s international guidelines on the treatment of victims of torture.
The initial acceptance rate for asylum cases in the UK remains at 30%. Such high rejection rates appear to be a result of individual or institutionalised negative bias, rather than a reflection of ‘bogus’ asylum claims. The Proving Torture report found that 74% of cases involved a Home Office asylum caseworker substituting their own opinion for that of the clinician on the cause of injuries, making clinical judgments beyond their qualifications. The authority of experts, including specialised psychotherapists at Room to Heal, has been contradicted and often ignored with 84% of cases involving a caseworker dismissing the medical evidence because they have already reached a negative credibility finding.
We support Freedom From Torture’s call on the government to ensure that better decisions are reached in asylum cases. The cost to torture survivors, to tax payers and to society more broadly is too high when we are reliant on long, appeal processes to correct mistakes. Our work at Room to Heal makes vivid the devastating impact that the practice of disbelief and prolonged waiting has on torture survivors, who, having finally won their cases, are often so psychologically damaged that they are unable move forward with their lives.
To read the full report please follow this link