Government must honour its pledge to resettle and support Syrian torture survivors

Today, as it celebrates its 30th anniversary year, Freedom from Torture is calling on MPs to ensure the Government meets its promise to prioritise torture survivors under the Syrian refugee resettlement programme and that all torture survivors in this country, whether from Syria or repressive regimes elsewhere, have access to specialist rehabilitation services.

MPs from all parties have been invited to attend Freedom from Torture's parliamentary reception on the afternoon of Tuesday, 8 December. The event is co-sponsored by six MPs: Conservatives Dominic Grieve QC and James Berry; Labour's Emily Thornberry and Sir Keir Starmer QC; and Stuart C McDonald and Anne McLaughlin from the Scottish Nationalist Party.

The event will addressed by Susan Munroe, Freedom from Torture's Chief Executive, as well as a Syrian client in treatment with Freedom from Torture's services, and a representative of Survivors Speak OUT torture survivor network. There will also be a new performance by members of the Write to Life torture survivor's creative writing group.

Susan Munroe said:

"We strongly welcome the Government's pledge to prioritise Syrian survivors of torture for resettlement in this country. However, a more recent decision to broaden the vulnerability criteria for resettlement may have the practical effect of shutting down opportunities for torture survivors, since high levels of trauma can make them hard to reach and identify in refugee camps.

"We are urging the Government to take specific measures to ensure torture survivors are prioritised as promised and to work with Freedom from Torture to ensure that once resettled they have access to the specialist psychotherapeutic services they will need to rebuild their lives after reaching safety in this country.

"We have embarked on an ambitious fundraising drive to scale-up our own operations but we are also looking to the Government to ensure that public and voluntary sector services are resourced as part of the funding programme for Syrian refugee resettlement.

"At the same time there is a pressing need to improve rehabilitation of torture survivors who seek protection here through the asylum system. An important factor in their rehabilitation is the impact of the asylum system itself.

"Poor asylum-decision-making, including systematic mishandling of medical evidence of torture, lengthy legal appeals, breadline welfare support and wrongful immigration detention are some of the issues facing the torture survivors we treat and support."

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