Listen to survivor voice when responding to refugee crisis, Survivors Speak OUT activist tells Parliament

Tracy, a former client of Freedom from Torture and now an activist with the Survivors Speak OUT network, tells Parliament that when you are desperate, a 'do or die situation' doesn't matter.

"I was not an economic migrant seeking more opportunities as the papers and some politicians might like people to believe...I had a good life back home...until my life was ripped apart", Tracy told MPs.

Tracy was speaking at a House of Commons event alongside speakers from Human Rights Watch, the UN Refugee Agency, and the International Committee of the Red Cross. The event, 'The Refugee Crisis', was hosted by Human Rights Watch and the Parliamentary Human Rights Group in response to the refugee crisis.

Tracy is a survivor of torture and former refugee who fled her country in search of protection, and so was able to provide a different perspective to the discussion, bringing real authenticity, and making contributions based on her lived experiences.

On behalf of Survivors Speak OUT, Tracy addressed some of the most pressing questions facing European leaders about the region's response to refugees and resettlement: "Safe and legal pathways are essential to ensuring the safety of survivors of torture making very dangerous journeys", she said.

Acknowledging the Prime Minister's recent commitment to welcome more Syrian refugees, especially the most vulnerable, such as torture survivors, Tracy pointed out that countries like Eritrea and Afghanistan were also producing vulnerable refugee flows as a result of systemic human rights violations, a view echoed by both Human Rights Watch and the UN Refugee Agency.

She urged the government to increase its resettlement figures to better reflect this situation, and to implement systems to help identify survivors of torture.

Recounting her own experience, Tracy stressed the importance of access to long-term rehabilitation for vulnerable refugees and survivors, such as that offered by Freedom from Torture. She said, "people must be able to make steps to rebuild their lives". Tracy went on to remind the audience that a comprehensive resettlement programme must consider more than simply refugees' physical safety: "I was deeply traumatised. I could no longer speak. It took me two years to find my voice again".

Tracy also encouraged the government to ensure that "refugees in the UK are given the opportunity to reunite with family members trapped in their countries".

Above all, Tracy stressed the importance of placing survivor experience and voice at the heart of discussions about responding to human rights violations and refugee issues. She encouraged policymakers to work with survivors so that their voices shape narratives, steer debates and inform solutions.