Saturday, 4 June 2011

Report: torture survivors in UK's asylum system

Source: Morning Star

By Paddy McGuffin

A charity has condemned Britain over its "appalling" treatment of torture victims claiming asylum, who, as a result, risk being returned to the very countries which tortured them.

A damning report by the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture found that expert medical evidence documenting torture is often dismissed or accorded little weight when torture survivors have their asylum applications considered.

The charity published its report the day after Immigration Minister Damian Green made his first speech on asylum issues since the elections.

The report Body of Evidence looked at 37 asylum appeal determinations where a medico-legal report (MLR) was submitted.

In almost half of these cases (49 per cent) the appeal was allowed by the immigration courts despite the initial application being rejected by the UK Border Agency.

This is a significantly higher percentage than across the asylum appeal system as a whole where 27 per cent of appeals are allowed.

The foundation argues that this disparity points to serious deficiencies in UK Border Agency decision-making in cases involving the victims of torture.

The overturn rate at appeal increased to more than two-thirds (69 per cent) in those cases where the expert report was submitted to the agency for an initial decision.

The Medical Foundation argued that torture survivors are being subjected to a legal process in which "their integrity and credibility are constantly questioned and doubted."

The report also showed that a lack of consistency in the treatment of expert medical evidence by immigration judges is resulting in many appeals being dismissed, despite the availability of an expert report.

In one case, an expert report stated that 17 scars on the appellant's body were "diagnostic" of torture and 11 were "highly consistent" with torture.

However, the immigration judge dismissed the appeal, saying the scars may have been self-inflicted or in different circumstances to those claimed.

Medical Foundation CEO Keith Best said:

"The coalition government has taken pains to emphasise its abhorrence of torture, but this research shows that survivors are treated appallingly when they arrive in the UK seeking protection." 
"The fact that our report shows that almost half of cases in the sample were overturned on appeal - and staggeringly this rises to over two-thirds in those cases where an MLR was available to the UK Border Agency - just goes to highlight the extent of poor decision-making that currently exists." 
"This frankly needs to be addressed to ensure torture survivors are spared the trauma of having their integrity impugned and from living in constant fear of being sent back to their torturers, not to mention saving the taxpayer the cost of these unnecessary appeals."

Body of Evidence
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