Freedom from Torture state that "every year, hundreds of people who have survived torture come to the UK in search of safety", but "many torture survivors are being wrongly denied asylum." The organisation adds that its research "shows that Home Office staff repeatedly reject expert medical evidence of torture and make unqualified judgements about survivors' injuries", which "goes against both government guidance and international standards" and "leaves exceptionally vulnerable people at risk of being returned to face further torture."
The UK has a proud history of providing asylum to people fleeing violence and persecution and I agree this is very important. I recognise that a number of concerns have been highlighted about the effectiveness of our asylum system by Freedom from Torture, including around the use of medical evidence.
The Government has said that current policy guidance “states explicitly that it is not the role of decision makers to dispute clinical findings in the medico-legal reports or make clinical judgments of their own about medical evidence”.
However, it was concerning to read in Freedom from Torture’s recent ‘Proving Torture’ report that over three quarters of the asylum claims they looked at, which had originally been refused by the Home Office, eventually had this decision overturned by a judge at appeal.
This only adds to the concern that I already have about the Government’s recent increasing of asylum tribunal fees by as much as 500%. These increased fees would have forced some of the most vulnerable in our society – such as asylum seekers fleeing war, persecution, or torture – to pay what I consider to be unaffordable fees to have a chance at securing justice and protection.
It was welcome that the Government decided to listen to the various representations that were made on this issue and has since reversed these fee increases while it reviews them. This was a significant climb down by a Government and I await the outcome of the Government’s review.
It is important that we stand up for the rights that every human being is entitled to, and I hope the Government will pay attention to the ‘Proving Torture’ report and work closely with Freedom from Torture and others to review and develop its policy and training.