The UK Government, past and present, seems ambivalent about torture: both our involvement in it; and the degree which we are prepared to acknowledge its existence in other states. I am greatly encouraged by early statements but appreciate words can be cheap.
The Coalition Agreement said “We will stop the deportation of asylum seekers who have had to leave particular countries because their sexual orientation or gender identification puts them at proven risk of imprisonment, torture or execution”.]. This was soon followed by the recent unanimous judgment from the UK Supreme Court ruling that homosexual asylum seekers should be granted refugee status if going home would result in them being forced to conceal their sexuality. This raises interesting issues which will without doubt come before the courts shortly. Are there only certain categories of people to whom imprisonment and torture is more risky ?
I have read the Home Office guidance to caseworkers assessing asylum claims: “If an applicant has already been subjected to persecution or serious harm, or to direct threats of such persecution or such harm, paragraph 339K of the Immigration Rules makes it clear that decision makers should regard this as “a serious indication of the person’s well founded fear of persecution or real risk of suffering serious harm, unless there are good reasons, to suggest that such ill-treatment will not be repeated”. I am trying to make sense of the Coalition statement, the High Court Judgement, The Home Office Guidance, and Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights: “The absolute right to be free from torture and ill-treatment”….in the light of the experience of the often disregarded expert evidence by The Medical Foundation for Victims of Torture among others.
By what date is the UK Border Agency required to take note of the above ? Is there an acceptable time-lag during which time torture “does not count”? Is torture only recognised as dangerous to the individual in certain contexts? Is there a gap in between government thinking and operational management ? If there is, who is responsible for ensuring consistency of approach ?
In this, [as in all spheres of Government]: who should be responsible for ensuring clarity of policy and implementation. Could there be clearly published details of who; when; who is responsible for monitoring; how to provide feedback.
Why does this idea matter?
At the moment I believe there are sadly many spheres of life where “turning a blind eye” is institutionally disguised by administrative procedures [criteria, tick-boxes] that allow us to pretend we care and are effective. In reality they are a carapace to allow us [the Government, Local authorities and the public] to delude ourselves that the vulnerable…asylum seekers, [but also care home residents, unidentified neglected children, victims of domestic violence] , are treated intelligently and with compassion where appropriate.