Parliament to discuss urgent need for stronger protections for torture survivors and other vulnerable asylum seekers

MPs will today hear a Commons motion calling for survivors of torture and other vulnerable people to be granted stronger protections within the UK’s asylum system. The motion has been brought by Joan Ryan MP following close work with Freedom from Torture.

The motion calls for stronger safeguards to be added to the Government’s ineffective Adults At Risk policy, and proper protection given to those who have suffered torture or other forms of severe physical, psychological or sexual violence.

The current policy states that torture survivors are amongst a group of ‘at risk’ individuals, who may be vulnerable to harm if held in immigration detention. Freedom from Torture’s own work with survivors has shown that detention poses serious risks to torture survivors’ safety and their recovery from torture.

Despite these risks, individual survivors must prove that they are a torture survivor by obtaining independent evidence of torture and this evidence must show a likelihood of harm in detention, before detention will be considered inappropriate and the individual is released.

This means that many torture survivors end up both detained when they should not be, and detained for longer periods than would otherwise be the case, as they struggle to demonstrate they are at risk.

Freedom from Torture has called for the strengthening and 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.

In October, the High Court ruled that the definition of torture used in the Adults At Risk policy was overly restrictive, and had resulted in large numbers of torture survivors being wrongly detained by the Home Office.

The policy is due to be reviewed by the Government in 2018.

Sile Reynolds, Senior Policy Advisor at Freedom from Torture, said:

"Today’s motion is a timely and important step towards ensuring that torture survivors and other vulnerable asylum seekers are not detained unjustly, and receive protection within the UK asylum system.

The High Court’s recent judgment has shown that existing safeguards are too narrow, and have failed to prevent very vulnerable people being wrongly detained, with potentially serious consequences for their wellbeing and rehabilitation.

Ahead of the Government’s review next year, today’s motion is an opportunity to begin correcting those mistakes, and ensure that parliament scrutinises this crucial piece of immigration policy."