“Poverty can be the last straw that breaks people”: a new report from the UK

FFT poverty barrier

IRCT member Freedom from Torture has released an extensive and heartbreaking report on poverty, torture and access to rehabilitation in the UK.

Their report, entitled “The Poverty Barrier: The Right to Rehabilitation for Survivors of Torture in the UK”, sheds new light on the reality that poverty is “both a structural cause and a consequence of torture”, as Juan Mendez, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, writes in the foreword. This is also echoed in the London Declaration on Poverty and Torture that the IRCT released in 2011.

This research is especially salient in light of major steps made in advocating for torture victims’ right to rehabilitation services. Just last year, the UN Committee against Torture released General Comment 3 – a document that clarifies the obligations of states that are parties to the UNCAT to provide adequate, accessible and appropriate rehabilitation services to victims of torture.

As Freedom from Torture demonstrates in the UK context in this report, many countries are not living up to their obligations.

“Impoverished living conditions that deprive survivors of torture the safe recovery environment necessary for rehabilitative therapy to be accessible or effective raise serious questions about compliance by state parties,” Mendez writes.

In “The Poverty Barrier”, Freedom from Torture demonstrates clearly how torture survivors – asylum seekers and refugees in the UK context – remain in dire poverty as they move through and beyond the asylum system and how this poverty directly impedes their progress in rehabilitation. A vast majority – 67 of the 85 interviewed – reported they were living in poverty in the UK. This meant, for most, they could not afford sufficient food, clothing or health and hygiene items. Further, for many, poverty impeded their access to the asylum system and rehabilitation services as they could often not afford travel costs, such as bus and train fares, for essential appointments. Their inability to travel or work also contributed to their socially exclusion, with many being unable to visit family and friends or participate in the life of the community, which further impeded their full recovery from their torture and trauma.

The report is filled with examples from survivors of torture, clients of Freedom from Torture, and photos from their homes and daily life that demonstrate the poverty they endure. Visit Freedom from Torture’s website to read the full version of the report.

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