Survivors contribute to UN report on migration related torture

Shameem Sadiq-Tang explains how torture survivors actively contributed to the recommendations of the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture.

In January, we hosted the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Professor Nils Melzer, at our Glasgow centre where he met ten current clients and heard about their experiences of migration. In a follow-up meeting we helped those survivors to develop some recommendations to inform his report on ‘Migration related torture and ill-treatment’ which has recently been presented at the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Professor Melzer’s report highlights the increasingly restrictive and obstructive laws, policies and practice of States that have pushed people towards unsafe routes out of their countries and into highly vulnerable and exploitative situations.

It also criticises the increasingly hostile actions by States which are designed to create an escalating cycle of repression and deterrence, to discourage new arrivals. He particularly mentions measures including detention, separation of family members, poor reception conditions and medical care.

None of this is news to us at Freedom from Torture where we see the day-to-day reality of just how cruel the world can be and how difficult the UK’s own policy of creating a “hostile environment” makes life for asylum applicants. And this certainly is not news to any of the survivors of torture who spoke to the Special Rapporteur on Torture, with one person movingly saying that

being an asylum seeker is like living in an open jail.

Others described the difficulty of getting help with health issues:

my main concern was getting as far away from torture as possible. I needed help but didn’t recognise it until I felt safe. Help along the way would have made health issues now easier to manage.

Another talked about the difficulty of family separation:

I was separated from my family at the border. The smugglers separated men, women and children. My son is ten now and there is not a day goes by when I don’t think of my wife and son but I don’t know what’s happened to them.