The IRCT condemns the suspension of the US refugee resettlement programme and the entry ban on Syrian refugees, decreed through an Executive Order on 27 January 2017. The organisation is convinced that these measures will negatively impact torture victims who lawfully seek refuge from war and persecution in the United States and all over the world, but also gravely jeopardise the mental and physical well-being of torture survivors already receiving treatment.
The measure is contrary to human rights law and medical ethics, and will have grave consequences for torture victims. The manner in which it was done will fuel hatred and stigma among world’s weakest.
According to one of the IRCT’s members in the US the Center for Victims of Torture, up to 44 percent of refugees arriving in the United States are damaged by torture. In recent history, these women, children and men have benefitted from the safety offered by US communities, and the support provided by torture rehabilitation services to rebuild their lives. US based torture rehabilitation centres support in excess of 6,000 victims; the Executive Order jeopardises all of their efforts.
“The first thing that we did was to contact our clients to help them deal with any fears or uncertainties they may have about their own situation or that of relatives outside the country. Arbitrariness and uncertainty is exactly what they fled from, and now that it is back it has a detrimental impact on their rehabilitation.
“Our current clients have expressed an increase in distress, and a reduced sense of safety and security. Many former clients have contacted us asking to get reconnected with their counsellors. Many are fearful of what their futures will hold and are experiencing an increase in mental health symptoms and stress because of the uncertainty of their futures and their family members’ futures. Parents are telling us their children are fearful and some have reported being bullied in their schools. The Executive Orders have become the focus of conversations in our individual and group services at this time. They have taken center stage in their lives,” says Kathi Anderson, IRCT Executive Committee member for North America and Executive Director of Survivors of Torture, International, also an IRCT Member.
Since the horrors of World War II, the United States has shown steadfast commitment to helping refugees overcome trauma through integration in local communities and services provided by dozens of rehabilitation and treatment programmes throughout the country, many of which are members of the IRCT. The suspension of the refugee resettlement programme and the entry ban on Syrian refugees is contrary to that historic commitment, and is misleading in suggesting that there is a connection between banning refugees and fighting terrorist activity.
The IRCT maintains that there is absolutely no evidence to support the assertion that “[n]umerous foreign-born individuals have been convicted or implicated in terrorism-related crimes since September 11, 2001, including foreign nationals who entered the United States […] through the United States refugee resettlement program.” This assertion is wrong, and wrongly fuels hatred and stigma against refugees and asylum seekers, who are among the weakest and more vulnerable women, men, and children in the world.
“At the IRCT, we see every day how torture damages women, men and children; we have seen numerous times the positive impact that safety and rehabilitation have on their lives and the communities and societies in which they are welcomed,” says Victor Madrigal-Borloz, Secretary General of the IRCT.
“We also know the devastating impact on individuals and communities who do not feel safe, or do not get assistance to deal with their pain and suffering. It is on this basis that we call on the United States to do everything they can to support torture victims in need. This includes lifting the ban on the entry of Syrian refugees, and immediately reinstating the refugee resettlement programme at the intended levels before the suspension.”
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As a network of more than 150 torture rehabilitation centres in over 70 countries, the IRCT is the world’s largest membership-based civil society organisation specialised in the field of torture rehabilitation. The work of the IRCT provides context to health-based rehabilitation within all pillars of the global fight against torture: prevention, accountability and reparation. Together our movement is effective in fighting torture across the globe. The core strength of the movement stems from a triad of values: Solidarity, Equality and Democracy. Our key distinctive feature lies in a holistic health-based approach to torture rehabilitation. In addition, we define ourselves as private, non-partisan, and not-for-profit, as well as being governed by democratic structures. Our diverse membership shares three common characteristics; each member is a legally independent organisation that is rooted in civil society and each provides rehabilitation services to at least 50 torture victims annually. All of our members are committed to the global movement, the mission of which is to further the right to rehabilitation of every torture victim.
IRCT has 14 member centres in the United States of America.