The Government has admitted that its immigration detention system needs reform, and has committed to reviewing its policies this year. This creates a genuine opportunity to help make sure torture survivors are protected. MPs across the country are already supporting this campaign, and Freedom from Torture is calling for supporters to ask their MP to raise their concerns with the Government, by signing an Early Day Motion.
Detention poses a serious threat to a torture survivor's safety and recovery. It can bring back terrible memories of the arrest and imprisonment that they've already fled, causing further trauma. And, in detention, torture survivors are unable to access or benefit from the specialist medical and therapeutic support that they desperately need.
Despite these risks, the Government still holds torture survivors in detention. Even when they disclose the torture that they have suffered, proving this to officials can be extremely difficult. Furthermore, even documentary proof of torture may not be enough to secure release as the Government demands further evidence of the likely harm that detention will cause the individual.
"The first immigration officer you meet destroys your hopes and dreams which demoralises you and traumatises you. Then you are placed in detention without explanation which traumatises you even more. They make you feel like a criminal. This kills your confidence and you fear what you are saying. You hold things back because you are afraid that they will use it against you. It is really hard for you to understand what to expect. The immigration officials you come into contact with make you feel really insecure and this makes it difficult to trust them. If they explain things to you, you would trust them more and have more confidence in explaining things to them."
- Former Freedom from Torture client, from evidence submitted to a Parliamentary inquiry (PDF) by Survivors Speak OUT network
Criticism of the Government’s detention policy has been mounting in recent months. In January 2016, the Government’s Shaw review on welfare in detention referred to Survivors Speak OUT and Freedom from Torture’s evidence (PDF), and found that detention was in “urgent need of reform”. In October 2017, the High Court ruled that the definition of torture used in the Home Office’s Adults At Risk policy was unlawful as it was overly restrictive, and had resulted in large numbers of torture survivors being wrongly detained.
In December, following close work with Freedom from Torture, Joan Ryan MP presented a House of Commons motion calling for survivors of torture and other vulnerable people to be granted stronger protections within the UK’s asylum system. This is now being followed up with Early Day Motion (EDM) 696: Immigration Detention of Victims of Torture and Other Vulnerable People, allowing further MPs to raise these issues with the Government.
This year, the Government has promised to review its policy. Freedom from Torture will be calling for the improvement of the protections in place to identify and secure the release of vulnerable adults, so that no-one with a history of torture or severe physical, psychological or sexual violence or other ill treatment is detained for immigration purposes except in very exceptional circumstances.
This EDM is an important opportunity to highlight current mistakes and make sure they are addressed by the Government’s review this year. Please take action by writing to your MP, urging them to sign the EDM and support this campaign in 2018.