A regional report released this week by the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT)  documents the difficulties faced by torture victims in effectively engaging with the asylum procedures in Austria, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands and Sweden. IRCT examines the implementation of the EU Asylum Procedures Directive and the Reception Conditions Directive in those Member States and documents how the countries receive, process and support torture victims. The report shows that these Member States do not have a procedure to systematically identify victims of torture, who consequently risk not having access to rehabilitation programmes, being placed in immigration detention or not having a fair determination of their asylum claim. As a consequence of this lack of identification procedures, crucial physical and psychological evidence of torture to support the asylum claim is often not collected and victims go through inflexible processes not suitable for their particular situation.

“As the process of reforming the Common European Asylum System begins to take shape over the coming months, it is vital that EU decision-makers ensure that the new system effectively supports torture victims seeking protection in the EU by systematically identifying them and putting in place supportive measures. We know how to do this and we know that it works to address the suffering of torture victims and provide them with the protection they are entitled to,” stated Asger Kjærum, Director of Advocacy of the IRCT.

In this respect, the IRCT recommends that Member States refrain from detaining victims, and rather grant them access to adequately funded rehabilitation services, and to a full medico-legal examination of their torture allegations free of  charge (in accordance with the Istanbul Protocol). Moreover, any vulnerability and possible psychological traumatisation should be taken into account when developing the refugee status determination process, for instance by considering that torture victims suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome are often unable to accurately recount their experiences in a consistent way over time.

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This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 1 July 2016. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.