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Study on the treatment of tortured and traumatised asylum-seekers in eastern EU Member States
19.9.17
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A study by the Hungarian Helsinki committee (May 2017) looks at the treatment of asylum seekers who are victims of torture or traumatised in Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia and finds that while EU legislation generally "provides sufficient guarantees", tortured or traumatised asylum-seekers are not being identified or treated because of "the lack of or improper transposition" of the EU's Reception Conditions and Asylum Procedures directives, or because of "the lack of actual implementation in practice".

See: Unidentified and Unattended: The Response of Eastern EU Member States to the Special Needs of Torture Survivor and Traumatised Asylum Seekers (May 2017, link to pdf)

From the executive summary

This study looks into how relevant provisions of the Recast Reception Conditions Directive and the Recast Asylum Procedures Directive regarding the protection of victims of torture/traumatised asylum seekers are transposed into national legislation of the following Eastern EU Member States: Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.

The main findings of the study, which is based on a standardised questionnaire filled in by the national researchers, are the following:

  • EU legislation, in general, provides sufficient guarantees for victims of torture/traumatised asylum seekers. The reason why vulnerable asylum seekers are not being identified and treated in some of the focused countries therefore lies either in the lack of or improper transposition of the Directives’ provisions or in the lack of actual implementation in practice.
  • In all focus countries victims of torture/traumatised asylum seekers are considered vulnerable, however their special needs are not properly addressed in most of the countries.
  • This is primarily due to the fact that an early identification mechanism either does not exist or is not adequate and victims of torture/traumatised asylum seekers remain unidentified. A regularisation of this procedure is needed in order to make the use of the identification procedure adequate and mandatory for every single asylum seeker.
  • Statistics on victims of torture/traumatised asylum seekers are rarely collected. Such paucity in the collation of data is regrettable since it would enable Member States to better match service provision capacities with the actual number of beneficiaries. Statistics on referrals to specialists of pre-identified victims of torture/traumatised asylum seekers are also an important monitoring tool as to whether the early identification mechanism is functional in practice.
  • Despite the fact that legislation in all focused countries provides certain safeguards for the reception of persons with special needs, the findings show that this right is severely obstructed in countries where appropriate reception centres are lacking.
  • Serious obstacles in accessing mental health services exist in some of the countries, even in countries where entitlement to health care for asylum seekers is equal to those of nationals. Obstacles were reported mainly in terms of access, translation and under-funding or non-sustainable funding.
  • Lack of training on needs of victims of torture/traumatised asylum seekers was identified, especially for the judiciary, interpreters, social workers and detention officials. The training of asylum officials is lacking in countries where there is a big increase or rotation of staff. Asylum officers, lawyers and judges should also be trained on credibility assessment in asylum procedures, particularly on the fact that the state of health or psychological condition of the applicant can be a reason for any incoherencies and contradictions in the applicant’s statements.
  • Additional procedural guarantees such as the possibility to postpone the interview, the presence of family members, a psychiatrist or psychologist at the interview, if agreed by the applicant and if it is in his/her best interest, as well as an appropriate place for the interview to take place and avoidance of unnecessary repeated questioning about the traumatic events, should be guaranteed in all Member States.
  • The use of medical reports on past persecution or serious harm drafted in line with the Istanbul Protocol is not that common in the focus countries and reports written by specialised NGOs are not always given adequate evidential weight.
  • Vulnerable asylum seekers are not excluded from accelerated and border procedures in all focus countries.
  • The prioritised assessment of victims of torture/traumatised asylum seekers’ applications is the case in very few countries.
  • Half of the countries involved in the study still detain victims of torture/traumatised asylum seekers. An early identification mechanism is not used before ordering detention. Mental health services provided in detention are lacking or are not of adequate quality and interpretation is also an issue.
  • Many crucial services, such as early identification, mental health services and rehabilitation for victims of torture/traumatised asylum seekers are outsourced to NGOs. While this has a positive element since NGOs are specialised in providing such services, NGOs work is usually project based and lacks sustainable funding. When outsourcing such services, the States should therefore provide sustainable funding, which should not be project-based, ensuring that these crucial basic services are available without interruption.

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