06 Sep 2016
IRCT calls for stronger protection measures for torture victims among asylum seekers in the EU

The IRCT has released two position papers outlining key measures to increase support and protection to victims of torture in relation to ongoing reform of the Common European Asylum System. The papers specifically address the proposals to establish an Asylum Procedures Regulation and to recast the Reception Conditions Directive. While there are some improvements in the proposals, particularly relating to the identification of victims of torture, the papers highlight a number of concerns.

The IRCT supports the introduction of a two-stage assessment process for identification of torture victims among asylum seekers and the fact that it mandatorily involves health professionals. Early identification is key to ensure that torture victims have access to rehabilitation and to the specific support they are entitled to.

However, the IRCT is concerned about the principle of sanctioning asylum seekers for perceived non-compliance with procedures, the concept that people from “safe” countries should be sent back and the continued use of accelerated and border procedures as well as immigration detention.

“Torture trauma can severely impact a person’s ability to effectively engage in the asylum procedure. We are very pleased with the steps taken to improve the system for early identification but if this is to have a real effect for victims, the institutional response must be adequate and informed by their needs. This is what our intervention aims to achieve and we call on the European Parliament to carefully consider our recommendations to ensure that victims get the support and protection they urgently need," said Asger Kjærum, Director of Advocacy of the IRCT.

Key recommendations in the position papers include:

In regard to reception conditions

  • The two-stage early identification scheme should be adopted.
  • The right to rehabilitation for torture victims should always be guaranteed, even in cases of non compliance by the asylum seeker or of exceptional circumstances.
  • Applicants with special reception needs should always be guaranteed access to appropriate reception conditions.
  • Applicants with special reception needs should systematically be exempted from detention.

In regard to asylum procedures

  • Torture victims should never be returned to a country where they do not have access to rehabilitation services.
  • Torture victims should systematically be excluded from the accelerated and border procedures regardless of availability of adequate support.
  • The duration of the asylum procedure should take into consideration the time needed for rehabilitation to have an effect.
  • Applications should not be rejected when asylum seekers fail to comply with obligations.

In July 2016, the European Commission launched the proposals to convert the recast Asylum Procedures Directive to a Regulation and to recast the Reception Conditions Directive, as part of its efforts to reform the Common European Asylum System. They follow a proposal for a Recast Dublin Regulation that the IRCT previously commented.  Despite clear obligations under international human rights law, victims of torture are falling through the cracks of the European asylum system. A recent report by the IRCT shows that victims of torture are not receiving the special support they need throughout the procedure and often do not have access to rehabilitation services.

To read the IRCT position papers, please see:

To read more on victims of torture in the European Union, please see: 

“I think healthcare professionals have a unique ability and position in stopping and preventing torture around the world. They have a deep knowledge and understanding of the impact of torture. They know what it does to the mind and body as well as the total person and the family.” - Dr. Karen Hanscom

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