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‘T is for torture’: A to Z guide urges help for asylum-seekers

20 December 2013


THE voices of asylum-seekers who have fled from torture in their home countries to come to the UK are the centrepiece of a new campaign by the charity Freedom from Torture. "The Survivor's A to Z Guide to the Poverty Barrier" features recordings for each letter of the alphabet from 26 survivors who have sought asylum in Britain, and who share their experiences of the process.

In many of the short recordings, the survivors say that the trauma of claiming asylum becomes a fresh kind of torture. One of those quoted in the project, Buba, described how being bundled off to a detention centre was like being kidnapped. "All they said was, 'We are taking you somewhere for your safety.' It reminded me of how, in Gambia, when they took you to prison, they said they were taking you to a five-star hotel. My kidnapping in the UK gave me flashbacks. It brought me right back to my torture in the Gambia. It was another form of mental torture all over again."

Another asylum-seeker, Bety, used the word va'ashad from her native language to explain her experience. She said: "To live in va'ashad is to live in a state of terror. The Home Office . . . put me in a flat. I never felt safe. My 'neighbours' broke my windows, shouted at me, and threw cigarette butts at me. One day I came home and everything was gone. There was writing on the wall: 'If you come back to this house, I'll kill you.' I am never completely free from va'ashad. I experienced it before, in my country."

Freedom from Torture gathered the testimonies as part of a campaign urging the Home Office to reform how it treats asylum-seekers. The charity called on the Government to increase the financial support it offers while claims are being processed, to improve the temporary accommodation that asylum-seekers are placed in, and to make greater provision for the needs of torture-survivors.

A Home Office spokesman said: "We carry out detailed assessments to ensure victims of torture seeking asylum receive support which meets their specific needs."


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