Tortured Abroad, Re-traumatised in the UK
Press Release: Embargoed until 23.59 on 22 May 2012
HOME OFFICE BREAKS THE RULES BY KEEPING TORTURE VICTIMS LOCKED UP
Victims of torture are routinely being held in immigration detention centres in breach of the government’s own rules, a new investigation has revealed. “The Second Torture”: the immigration detention of torture survivors, a report from the charity Medical Justice, finds that Rule 35, which should prevent torture victims being locked up in all but exceptional cases, is routinely flouted.
Rule 35 of the Detention Centre Rules 2001 requires medical practitioners in immigration removal centres (IRCs) to report on the case of any individual who he/she is concerned may have been a victim of torture. In turn, the UKBA caseowner reviews the appropriateness of detention. Policy guidance and legislation make clear that individuals who have independent evidence of torture should be released, absent very exceptional circumstances.
Mr N’Kissi who now has leave to remain in the UK said: “Despite being a torture victim, I was still locked in detention. I was still detained for many months after my Rule 35 reports and my health conditions were deteriorating. It felt like a second torture”.
The report investigates the cases of 50 people who have medical evidence of the torture they sustained, 14 of whom now have been granted leave to remain in the UK. In only one case did Rule 35 trigger a detainee’s release.
Two of the 50 were forcibly returned to their countries of origin and endured torture for a second time. Both managed to flee again, claimed asylum for a second time and were detained again in the UK. One of these people now has leave to remain on the basis of the risk he faces in his country of origin.
All but two of the 50 have now been released, begging the question why they were ever detained in the first place. Those surveyed were in detention for an average of 226 days, costing the government approximately £23,000 per person. Had they been housed in the community the cost would have been less than £5000 per person. Medical Justice’s Clinical Advisor, Dr Helen McColl said: “Detaining people is financially costly but the real cost is to detainees’ physical and mental health.”
The report documents a catalogue of errors, including the clinical mismanagement of detainees’ healthcare provision, poor record-keeping and report writing by unqualified people. Inadequate and ill-considered responses from UKBA workers were the norm, demonstrating an inability to interpret medical evidence, a culture of denial and a misunderstanding about the legal standard of proof.
The impact of detention can be catastrophic: of the medical notes examined, 23% went on hunger strike; 34% experienced suicidal intent/ideation or actual self‐harm; 16% attempted suicide; 11 were transferred to hospital as acute emergencies; and there was one near death event. As many (ex) detainees explained, detention was a “second torture”, provoking re-traumatisation.
The report’s author, Natasha Tsangarides stated: “UKBA and their contractors must be brought to account. That they can treat some of the most vulnerable individuals in this way and behind closed doors is a disgrace. All we ask for is that the government implements its own policy.”
Five Medical Justice clients have recently launched five coordinated judicial review challenge on this issue. Each case is seeking to secure the client’s release and/or claim damages for false imprisonment based on UKBA’s breaches of Rules 34 and 35 of the Detention Centre Rules 2001 and her published policy. UKBA has failed to respond.
This report has uncovered systemic failures on the part of UKBA and its contractors to follow statutory law and provisions. It charts the repeated criticisms that UKBA has faced on this issue from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons, the Joint Committee of Human Rights, NGOs and in a multitude of damning court judgments over the last ten years.
Lord Avebury, who has raised the issue in Parliament for many years, said: “Rule 35 is not working, and hasn’t worked ever since it was first introduced… In the face of such an abysmal record of failure extending over many years, this survey by Medical Justice is a wake-up call.”
Medical Justice is calling for the immediate effective implementation of Rule 35 and requests that this is demonstrated through an independent audit. An early day motion will be tabled on the day of the launch with cross-party sponsors supporting this recommendation.
John McDonnell MP said, “It’s scandalous that victims of torture who have fled to this country for safety are experiencing further suffering and hardship at the hands of our system. The special rules introduced to protect victims of torture are clearly not working and we need urgent Government action to address this issue.”
Leonardo came to the UK having been a child solider and victim of torture. Leonardo was detained under immigration powers at the end of 2010. There were 15 self-harm incidents reported, including cutting himself and head banging in his first 70 days of being held under immigration powers. He also went on hunger strike leading to renal impairment.
Two Rule 35 reports were written from the healthcare teams at the detention centre. Both reports failed to secure his release. Both responses from UKBA used the illogical reasoning that there was an ‘absence of any independent evidence that you were tortured’.
The responses did not consider that at this point in time, Leonardo had two reports by independent consultant psychiatrists both outlining his history of torture and his diagnosis of PTSD. There was also a letter from a Medical Justice independent doctor stating that he is “unfit for detention”. There were clear indications that his health was deteriorating in detention, having been on hunger strike, attempted suicide and taken to A+E twice.
Leonardo was not released from immigration detention until after almost 6 months.
For further information and access to former detainees and other interviewees, please contact:
Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 May 2012 04:12