Listen to this website

Paul Whitlock sml Paul Whitlock, Senior Advocacy Co-ordinator

26 June is the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.

Many of those who come to the UK to seek asylum have experienced torture in their own country, more often than not at the hands of authoritarian and repressive regimes. Their journey to the UK is often perilous as they attempt to escape those who seek to do them harm and reach safety. However, there is no escaping the past and many are left severely traumatised by their experiences and in physical pain from the after effects of torture.

Unfortunately, the arrival in a country of refuge is not the end of their journey but the beginning of another, as they begin the process of claiming asylum. For victims of torture this includes proving they have been tortured. Not straightforward, when you have fled for your life leaving all evidence of your previous life behind. When what you want more than anything is to forget the past and the painful memories it invokes and to simply start a new life in a country where you feel safe.

However, there is nothing simple about the asylum process and if your asylum claim is unsuccessful then you lose your subsistence allowance of £37.75 per week and your accommodation (usually shared).  Having already experienced torture, you are now submitted to the further degradation of being made destitute and homeless in a strange land.

If you are lucky you may find your way to the network of local organisations that support asylum seekers and refugees, such as Freedom from Torture, Comfrey Project, North of England Refugee Service, West End Refugee Service, the Hub, British Red Cross, North East Law Centre and Action Foundation.

At Connected Voice Advocacy we work with colleagues from this network of specialist support and other agencies to support victims of torture to gain access to health and social care. This can be soul destroying as refused asylum seekers face so many barriers and few to no rights. This makes it all the sweeter when an asylum seeker is granted refuge. This was the case with one of our Service-users, Afran, who had fled torture in his home country in the Middle-East to seek asylum in the UK. Afran had been refused asylum when we first met him and was homeless. He felt things were hopeless and did not want to carry on living. One of our advocates worked with his GP to help him get support for his mental health and introduced him to the network of asylum support services. Through a combined effort we were able to support Afran to carry on fighting for justice and in the end he was granted the right to live in the UK. 

See more about United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture