Freedom From Torture has released a report that is critical of how the Home Office assesses evidence of torture in asylum claims.
The research shows how expert medical evidence of torture can be mistreated by caseworkers, who often rely on their own clinical judgment to assess asylum claims. In some cases this has led to applications for asylum being wrongly refused.
Torture and Asylum Claims
Many who seek asylum in the UK do so because they have suffered torture in their home country. Often they are forced to flee immediately and do not have time to gather evidence for their claim to asylum. Expert medical evidence of torture is sometimes the only evidence they have.
The report makes several findings about how the Home Office handles these claims:
- Expert medical evidence is often disregarded or mistreated.
- The standard of certainty required for medical evidence of torture to be accepted is nearly impossible to meet.
- Many caseworkers view medical evidence as an ‘obstacle’ that they have to overcome in order to reject the application.
- Caseworkers without clinical qualifications often replace expert medical evidence with their own opinions.
This is at odds with Home Office policy and frequently leads to applications for asylum being wrongly rejected.
The Consequences of Getting it Wrong
Those who are wrongly refused asylum face long periods of uncertainty as the decision is appealed, confronting the possibility that they might be sent back to their abusers. Their suffering is prolonged whilst the taxpayer foots the bill.
There are also consequences for the UK’s obligations under international law:
- Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) states that no one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment.
- Article 3 of the UN Convention Against Torture (UNCAT) prohibits governments from sending a person back to a country where there is a risk that they will be tortured.
The report proposes two measures to address these problems:
- The Home Office should immediately provide a full day training module to improve the decision-making of caseworkers.
- An independent review of the standard of proof in asylum cases, including those involving expert medical evidence of torture.
You can help by emailing your MP, asking that they put pressure on the Home Secretary to take steps to improve decision-making in asylum cases involving torture.
For more on this topic follow the links below:
- Why the right not to be tortured matters.
- Read about the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s report on torture in the UK.
- Read about a case where the government was prohibited from deporting a person who faced torture if he was sent home.