Mike Gapes MP responds to constituents regarding the handling of asylum claims involving allegations of torture.
I recognise that a number of concerns have been highlighted about the effectiveness of our asylum system where claims of torture are involved, including around the use of medical evidence. Indeed, 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 I am worried that this could indicate a serious problem in the handling of these cases.
When allegations are made it is vital that they 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 and I agree that political uncertainties must not be allowed to get in the way of reviewing and developing policies and training where necessary.
The UK has a proud history of helping people fleeing violence and persecution and we have both moral and legal obligations to vulnerable people seeking asylum. However, there should be no place for the use of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment anywhere in the world. In the pursuit of stopping torture from happening, it is therefore crucial that the UK sets an example as a country that respects and upholds its human rights commitments.
I know that Freedom from Torture is 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.