On 11 August the UN Committee against Torture issued recommendations on how Ireland can respect its obligations under the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT). Among issues raised in relation to Ireland’s treatment of asylum seekers and refugees, the Committee specifically asked Ireland to establish a formal screening procedure to identify torture survivors and other vulnerable asylum seekers and provide them with all necessary support; to provide adequate funding for the provision of medico legal reports and rehabilitation of torture survivors; ensure that asylum seekers are detained only as a last resort and in facilities suited to their status, and that persons refused ‘leave to land’ are provided with access to legal advice and information.
Palais de Nations, Geneva, Switzerland. Credit: UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré
The Irish Refugee Council, SPIRASI and the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims welcome the Committee’s recommendations. Having attended Ireland’s review by the Committee in Geneva, the organisations also acknowledge the seriousness with which the Irish State engages with the UN Treaty Body review process and the openness with which State delegates responded to questioning and engaged with civil society on key issues.
Nick Henderson, CEO of the Irish Refugee Council said ‘The Committee has made strong recommendations on how the State can improve the situation for asylum seekers in Ireland. With the imminent establishment of an immigration detention centre at Dublin Airport and the ongoing transition into a single procedure under the International Protection Act, it is important that relevant government agencies are fully resourced and supported to ensure that appropriate identification mechanisms and rehabilitation services are present in our asylum procedure.’
Rory Halpin, Director of SPIRASI said ‘We welcome the Committee’s recommendations and continue to emphasise that our main concern is the early identification of victims of torture. The sooner this identification takes place, the sooner the necessary rehabilitative supports can be made available to this most vulnerable group. It is therefore vital that an adequate screening process for vulnerability is put in place without delay.’
Asger Kjaerum, Advocacy Director of the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims added ‘We are very encouraged by the seriousness with which the Irish Government approaches international scrutiny and the concrete commitments made to ensuring that all torture victims get access rehabilitation services so they can start rebuilding their lives in Ireland. We hope that this openness will continue as we embark on implementing the Committee’s recommendations and the IRCT stands ready to support this in any way we can.’
SPIRASI, as a member organisation of the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims, and the Irish Refugee Council are committed to working with the Irish government in ensuring that these recommendations are fully implemented in line with Ireland’s international human rights obligations.
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Notes to Editor
For comment on issues relating to rehabilitation of torture victims in the asylum process please contact SPIRASI: Paula Quirke, Rehabilitation Coordinator (01-8389664 / firstname.lastname@example.org)
For comment on international protection procedures and the asylum process more generally please contact the Irish Refugee Council: Luke Hamilton, Legal Officer (085 8148743 / email@example.com)
For comments on the UNCAT process please contact IRCT: Asger Kjaerum, Director of Advocacy (+4527122197 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Ireland’s Examination by UNCAT
The Committee against Torture’s Concluding Observations on Ireland as part of their 61st session are available here.
In relation to asylum seekers and refugees, the Committee recommended that the State should
a) Amend legislation to ensure that detention occurs only as a last resort, and for the shortest period of time possible, and that detention facilities are appropriate;
b) Establish a formalized vulnerability screening mechanism for torture victims and other persons with special needs, provide them with care and protection to avoid re-traumatization, including during international protection procedures;
c) Provide adequate funding to ensure that all persons undergoing the single procedure under the International Protection Act have timely access to medico legal documentation of torture, ensure that all refugees who have been tortured have access to specialized rehabilitation services that are accessible country-wide and to support and train personnel working with asylum-seekers with special needs;
d) Ensure that persons detained for immigration purposes are not held together with remand and convicted prisoners, are informed about their situation in a language they can understand and have effective access to legal advice and to the process of application for international protection;
e) Ensure that all persons who are refused “leave to land” are provided with access to legal advice and information regarding international protection in a language that they can understand, and provide the Committee with data on the countries of origin of persons denied “leave to land” and the point of embarkation for the State party to which they were returned in its next periodic report.
The full text of the Irish Refugee Council’s submission to the Committee against Torture is available here.
The full text of SPIRASI’s submission to the Committee against Torture is available here.
UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT)
UNCAT is an international human rights treaty which was ratified by Ireland in 2002. The Committee against Torture, which monitors states’ adherence to their obligations under UNCAT, is composed of independent international experts who review each state party to the Convention on a periodic basis. Prior to the 2017 session, the Committee previously examined Ireland in 2011. Their concluding observations from that session are available here.
The Convention governs States’ obligations to prevent and address intentional infliction of severe physical or psychological pain or suffering, which may amounts to torture. The Convention also applies to broader acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment that the state is either complicit in, or has failed to remedy.
States’ obligations under the Convention apply to people seeking international protection and fleeing torture and ill-treatment. States are obliged to not return people to conditions of torture or ill-treatment (the principle of non-refoulement) and must ensure that treatment of asylum seekers and refugees must not amount to torture or ill treatment - including in reception conditions and procedures governing the international protection status determination process. The Committee has made it clear that States are also obliged to ensure that torture survivors seeking international protection be provided with rehabilitation and redress.