Freedom from Torture - 41,905 sign petition for a fair asylum process

41,905 sign petition for a fair asylum process

Over 40,000 people have rallied to sign Freedom from Torture’s Proving Torture campaign petition, calling on Home Secretary Amber Rudd to make sure the Home Office gives asylum seekers fleeing torture the protection they deserve.

Yesterday, 2 March, Dr Tania Mathias MP for Twickenham, led a delegation accompanied by Ann Hannah, Freedom from Torture Director of Policy and Advocacy, Kolbassia Haoussou, Co-Founder of Survivors Speak Out (SSO), supporters and SSO members to hand in the petition to the Home Office ahead of the Westminster Hall debate on UK policy on torture and the treatment of asylum claims.

Following the petition delivery, Haoussou commented,

“Ensuring proof of torture in medico-legal reports is properly taken into account in Home Office asylum decisions is a crucial lifeline for survivors seeking safety. This petition gives a voice to survivors at a time when they are most vulnerable and find it difficult to speak. It says to the Home Office: 'hear my application, hear my medical evidence fairly and don’t dismiss me.' With so many signatures, that voice is loud and clear.”

The petition backs Freedom from Torture’s Proving Torture campaign and report launched in November 2016, revealing how expert medical evidence of torture in asylum applications has been repeatedly mistreated and misinterpreted by Home Office caseworkers.

The issues presented in the report attracted cross-party support at yesterday’s debate, called by Dr Tania Mathias MP to examine the UK's stance on torture. As well as calling for the UK to reassert its leadership as a champion for the absolute ban on torture, a position that is under threat with calls to introduce a British Bill of Rights.

MPs supported the need to ensure that medical evidence of torture presented by asylum seekers was handled correctly and fairly reinforced the need for appropriate training for caseworkers. Mathias said,

“I do not believe that the Home Office is giving sufficient weight to the needs of the Home Office caseworkers.”

However, she also struck a hopeful note for future improvement in the processing of asylum claims by torture survivors stating,

“We [the UK] have the expertise, Freedom from Torture, a UK-based organisation, is one of the global leaders in the field. The training programme has already been agreed by the Home Office, but just not rolled out for all caseworkers.”

Freedom from Torture hopes the popular support for the Proving Torture campaign will be effective encouragement for the Home Office to implement the changes recommended in the Proving Torture report. We are also pleased that the Home Office is beginning to engage with us on matters raised in the Proving Torture report. The Minister for Immigration, Robert Goodwill, said yesterday,

"I can assure Members that we are committed to getting decisions right the first time and to working with expert organisations such as Freedom from Torture to ensure that survivors of torture get the support they need."

Speakers also stressed the need for the government to reaffirm the UK's position as a champion for the absolute prohibition of torture internationally as well as address problems with the asylum system domestically, in light of President Trump’s comments that it “absolutely” works.

Mathias stated,

"On every desk in the Home Office and Foreign Office should be the words: 'We do not sanction torture and are not involved in it.'"

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