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Freedom from Torture highlights failure of UK Home Office to protect torture survivors

Freedom from Torture has released a report highlighting the failure of the UK Home Office is dealing with asylum seekers and torture survivors, leaving often without adequate representation and unable to give the full details of their case during interviews.

The report they compiled was based on 30 separate cases from torture survivors interviewed from 2017-2018, in addition to a further 25 torture survivors interviewed between 2017-2019. The report illustrates that many asylum seekers “are disbelieved and dismissed by the very system set up to help them”.

Freedom for Torture reminds us that these individuals are incredibly vulnerable and “were tortured for their sexuality, speaking out against corruption, or simply being of a different ethnicity.” During interviews, Home Officials created an intimidating atmosphere which left some torture survivors “feeling dehumanised, re-traumatised and despairing of getting a fair decision".

A central African refugee described his interview as an interrogation. He was interviewed for four hours and asked 300 questions without being offered water. Despite the pressing threat he faced in his home country, he was denied asylum.

The report’s findings show that caseworkers failed to follow principles set out specifically to aid claimants in the best way possible, they failed to maintain a sensitive and professional environment.

The report maintains the importance of considering all the evidence, stating:

"Given the critical function of the evidence gathered at interview, it is essential that caseworkers are able to conduct effective interviews, including by obtaining relevant information, recognising factors that are likely to affect the claimant in giving their evidence, and seeking further evidence if required. A failure in any of these respects raises the risk that the Home Office will not have the information they need to make a sustainable decision on protection needs."

According to the report, individual experiences and vulnerabilities were not acknowledged by the caseworkers. The report maintains that these cases illustrate deep-rooted negligence of the home office.

One individual interviewed, attempted to tell their caseworker about the threats they received from their government but when attempting to recount a story from her youth, she was told this was irrelevant. The caseworker insisted that anything which happened prior to her specific claim was irrelevant and that she did not wish to hear it.

Another survivor commented on the Home Office conduct stating:

"They [Home Office caseworkers] do so much work, but I think the system has been broken from inside for a long time and they cannot really…rebuild it again"

Freedom from torture outlines ways in which the home office can reform to effectively support asylum seekers. This includes providing higher quality “experiential” training; amending current asylum policy to allow caseworkers to consider all evidence; and changing the culture in the Home Office to allow learn from these failures.

Read the full Freedom from Torture report here.