Torture and asylum

The effectiveness of our asylum system where claims of torture are involved has been called into question, particularly around the use of medical evidence.

It was concerning to read in Freedom from Torture’s Proving Torture report that of the asylum cases the organisation looked at involving claims of torture, over three quarters eventually had a refusal by the Home Office overturned by a judge upon appeal. This rate is alarmingly high and could indicate a serious problem in the handling of these cases.

It is vital that allegations are fully investigated and that there is confidence in the process and its outcome. The government said earlier this year that it would review the cases that are referred to in Freedom from Torture’s report. Political uncertainties must not be allowed to get in the way of reviewing and developing policies and training where necessary.

We have both a moral and legal obligations to vulnerable people seeking asylum. There should be no place for the use of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment anywhere in the world. The UK must set an example as a country that respects and upholds its human rights commitments.

Freedom from Torture is also calling on the Home Affairs Committee to undertake an inquiry into the handling of medical evidence in asylum claims. Committees determine their own lines of inquiry and I am sure that Freedom from Torture’s representations will be carefully considered. I have also written to the Home Affairs Select Committee to request this proposal be given serious consideration.