From Torture to Detention: Access of Torture Survivor and Traumatised Asylum-Seekers to Rights and Care in Detention


Date of publication:  01 Jan 2016 Author:  Maria Barna, Cordelia Foundation Gábor Gyulai, HHC Publisher:  Cordelia Foundation Publication type:  Legal / Policy Framework

This report, published by Cordelia Foundation, Hungarian Helsinki Committee, Foundation for Access to Rights, and the Assistance Centre for Torture Survivors, explores the experiences of migrant survivors of torture in detention in Hungary and Bulgaria. The findings are based on visits to detention centers by monitoring teams comprising of legal and mental health professionals, working on the Supporting Torture Survivors: Rehabilitation and Empowerment – a Need and Goal for Treatment and Help (STRENGTH) project by Cordelia Foundation and the Assistance Centre for Torture Survivors. The report outlines the legal framework of the detention of asylum seekers in Hungary and Bulgaria, identifies the problems with the existing system, and suggests recommendations for state governments to implement to improve the conditions for this vulnerable group. 

In particular, the report identifies the following problems in the access of torture survivor and traumatised asylum seekers to rights and care in both Bulgaria and Hungary: the lack of systematic identification; the scarce and confusing information which contributes to re-trausmatisation in detention; the lack of training and sensitization of staff; the unnecessary limitation of detainees’ contact with the outside world; the unavailability of interpretation; and the lack of availability of specialized medical, social, and psychological care, among others. 

The report provides the following recommendations to the respective state governments: 

  • Introduction of standard identification procedures led by experts, to be carried out upon registration or placement in a detention center
  • Dissemination of information about the asylum procedure and detention to asylum seekers by verified and trained asylum officers
  • Provision of sensitization training to staff of asylum and immigration detention facilities
  • Creation of formal cooperation with NGOs providing services in the field
  • Asylum seekers should be able to keep their mobile phones and be provided with wireless Wifi signal
  • Professional interpreters speaking the language of people detained should be made available
  • Detained asylum seekers who have been subjected to torture, rape or other serious acts of violence must have access to appropriate medical treatment or care and have their situation regularly monitored
  • Unnecessary limitations on internal freedom of movement in detention centers should be lifted, in order to reflect the non-punitive nature of immigration detention
  • Courtyards at detention facilities must provide the effective possibility for a meaningful outdoor stay
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