Freedom from Torture - 2016: Year in Review

2016: Year in Review

Events in the UK and around the world in 2016 have, in many ways, led to increased anxiety for survivors of torture who are seeking to rebuild their lives without fear of persecution. Yet despite the complex challenges, Freedom from Torture has – with the help of all those who support us – continued to work hard to ensure the rights of torture survivors are safeguarded and promoted.

Watch our short film summarising what you have helped us to achieve this year below and read on for more highlights. Thank you!

The last 12 months has seen a series of global events that challenge the protection of fundamental human rights and the plight of refugees, like those fleeing the devastating and on-going conflict in Syria. Threats by the UK government to repeal the Human Rights Act, Brexit, the Chilcot Inquiry, the closing of the Calais camp and election of Donald Trump, have all contributed to a particularly complex and difficult climate for survivors of torture in 2016.

However, 2016 has also been a year of successes for Freedom from Torture. Many thousands of people have stood in solidarity with torture survivors living in the UK, recognising their right to rehabilitation and supporting them in speaking out against torture.

In June, the theme for Refugee Week was ‘welcome’, kicked off by Freedom from Torture with a match between our football therapy group and Plymouth Hope, with both teams made up of refugees from around the world. The year then ended with Arsenal and Germany football star, Mesut Özil, ‘playing for’ Freedom from Torture in a Premier League fixture.

Continuing the theme of unity, more than 200 staff, survivors and supporters took to the streets of London for the ‘Refugees Welcome Here’ solidarity march. We marched alongside thousands of other activists in support of refugees around the world, emphasising the need for compassion and an environment of safety for refugees.

The treatment of those seeking asylum in the UK has been a key area of concern for Freedom from Torture this year. Our CEO, Susan Munroe, gave evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee on asylum accommodation, urging the establishment of an independent inspector to monitor the quality of housing and treatment of people living in asylum accommodation.

And, in November, we launched a new report in Parliament, called ‘Proving Torture’, which reveals how the Home Office often disregards or mistreats expert medical evidence of torture in asylum applications. The report received cross-party support from many parliamentarians and was featured across the media.

Internationally, we have continued our efforts this year to end impunity and ensure perpetrators of torture are held accountable for their actions. Freedom from Torture’s Head of International Advocacy, Ann Hannah, spoke out about on-going torture in Turkey and gave evidence to the UN Committee Against Torture, calling for urgent action to stop torture in Sri Lanka.

Meanwhile, Freedom from Torture’s survivor-led activist network, Survivors Speak OUT (SSO), had another busy year, which culminated at the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT) symposium in Mexico City, where key speaker, Kolbassia Haoussou, explored the ‘right to rehabilitation’ and what this actually means for survivors of torture.

Back in the UK, our ‘Write to Life’ creative writing group launched an ‘A to Z of Poverty’, documenting the personal experiences of torture survivors and what it means to be poor in an unfamiliar country. The group also gave a number of powerful performances throughout the year, including the launch of ‘Lost and Found’, a musical narrative of survivors’ journeys, which premiered in a spellbinding production at Camden's Roundhouse, London, in September.

Freedom from Torture supporters also continued to support our much-needed clinical work with survivors of torture in the UK. This year’s ‘Garden Appeal’ helped raise vital funds for our therapeutic gardening group, our ‘Solidarity Appeal’ resulted in many people ‘standing with survivors’ by wearing a blue safety pin and donating to Freedom from Torture, whilst our ‘Christmas Appeal’ has meant a gift for every torture survivor we supported in 2016. Meanwhile, some of the UK’s top chefs came together during Refugee Week for ‘The Great Street Feast’ and some of the greatest writers of our time supported our prestigious ‘Immortality Auction’.

And as 2016 began to draw to a close, international Human Rights Day in December was marked by a visit to Freedom from Torture by the Labour Party leader and constituency MP for our London Centre, Jeremy Corbyn. In preparation for his speech in Westminster to mark the occasion, Mr Corbyn met with torture survivors and listened to their views on a range of human rights issues.

Thank you to everyone who has supported our work in 2016. We hope that together in 2017 we can continue to make a difference for survivors of torture from all over the world.

Our work wouldn't be possible without donations from our supporters. You can make a donation here to support Freedom from Torture in 2017. Thank you.

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