Up to 30% of refugees worldwide are victims of torture, and so are a significant portion of the refugees arriving in Greece from countries like Syria and African countries. However, despite being part of a vulnerable group, they are not identified in time, as their identification and certification requires specific expertise. Especially in cases where evidence of torture is hard to document, victims are at risk of losing access to international protection. The programme “VicTorious: Identification and Certification of Victims of Torture” has as its main goal the strengthening of the protection of victims of torture through three complementary activities: a) the certification of victims of torture, b) the training of relevant actors, and c) awareness-raising, information, and advocacy.
Following the suspension of activities of the Medical Rehabilitation Center for Torture Victims (MRCT) in 2008, METAdrasi took on the responsibility of covering the gap that had been created in our country regarding the identification and certification of victims of torture.
Since September of 2011, METAdrasi has taken over the identification and certification of victims of torture. An interdisciplinary team consisting of social workers, doctors, psychologists, and lawyers (many of whom are former members of MRCT, with over 30 years of experience in the field) examine all cases referred to the programme.
METAdrasi is the only organization receiving, since 2013, official referrals from the Asylum Service and the Reception and Identification Service, for its specialised team to certify victims of torture.
The whole certification procedure is based on the “Istanbul Protocol”, a set of international guidelines on the effective investigation and documentation of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
The steps followed in this process include:
- Receipt of the completed referral form (attached for reference)
- Preliminary interview conducted by a social worker, during which the social history of the applicant (marital status, education, political involvement, occupation, etc.) is recorded
- A clinical examination and assessment by a specialised doctor, who uses their findings to evaluate the applicant’s claims of physical torture
- A structured interview with the team’s psychologist, where the applicant’s current psychological state is recorded alongside their need for further psychological support
- A final interview conducted by a specialised lawyer, who references the findings from previous interviews and investigates the compatibility of findings with the prevailing social/political conditions in the applicant’s country of origin during the alleged events.
Up to December 2020, 1,467 individuals were certified by METAdrasi.
All interviews are conducted with the assistance of a trained interpreter, unless the beneficiaries can communicate directly with the experts in English or French.
Each specialist then conducts a final review of the findings and assesses the likelihood of the individual having been tortured, according to the scale provided by the Istanbul Protocol. Finally, if the panel of experts agrees to the admissibility of the case in accordance with the Istanbul Protocol, the relevant certificate is issued and received in-person by the applicant. In tandem, the applicant is referred to other specialised actors for further support.
In accordance with international law, only the applicant can decide whether or not to use the certificate in order to support their asylum application. For asylum seekers, who represent the majority of certified persons, the certificate is legal evidence for their asylum cases.
Another particularly important action of the programme, for which there is a great need, is the training of employees of involved services, so that the most evident cases of torture are recognized immediately, and only the most difficult cases are referred to METAdrasi for investigation.
The programme’s third pillar contains activities of information and advocacy, with the goal to highlight and raise awareness about this particularly vulnerable group, both in those directly involved, and in the general public, as well as to exercise pressure for the creation of a suitable framework.
The programme “VicTorious: Identification and Certification of Victims of Torture” is implemented in the framework of the programme “Active Citizens Fund”, by METAdrasi – Action for Migration and Development.
The Active citizens fund in Greece is supported through a € 12m grant from Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway as part of the EEA Grants 2014 – 2021. The program aims to develop the sustainability and capacity of the civil society sector in Greece, and to strengthen its role in promoting and safeguarding democratic procedures, active citizenship and human rights. The Fund Operator for the Active citizens fund in Greece is Bodossaki Foundation in consortium with SolidarityNow.
More information: www.activecitizensfund.gr/en/