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Asylum guidelines issued by UN Committee against Torture and by British Psychological Society

Date of Publication: 
1 March 2018

New UN guidelines on non-refoulement, new guidelines for psychologists working with asylum seekers

Asylum guidelines issued by UN Committee against Torture and by British Psychological Society

01 March 2018

The United Nations Committee against Torture has released important new guidelines on non-refoulement and the rights of asylum seekers to avoid torture or other ill-treatment.

The 17-page document can be downloaded here. The document, known as a General Comment, gives guidance on how governments should approach Article 3 of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in the context of Article 22.

Article 3 of the Convention states: "No State Party shall expel, return ('refouler') or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture."

The Committee against Torture's guidelines aim to help governments assess whether an asylum seeker faces a personal risk of torture or ill-treatment in his or her country of origin, if returned there.

It provides a checklist of guarantees and risk factors for governments to consider when deciding whether removal would lead to a risk of torture.

Governments are asked to consider specific human rights situations such as, for example, whether the person has been a victim of brutality or excessive use of force by public officials, or whether the person has been a victim of sexual or gender-based violence without intervention of the competent authorities.

Jens Modvig, Chair of the Committee against Torture, said: "The list could also help people at risk of being sent back, by assisting them in making their claims before the national authorities."

The guidelines also emphasise that the preventive measures needed to guarantee the principle of non-refoulement include providing access to a lawyer and to free legal aid when necessary.

Also released earlier this month by the British Psychological Society were comprehensive new guidelines for psychologists working with refugees and asylum seekers.

You can download them from here. They are available in 28-page summary form and in 66-page extended form.

The British Psychological Society says its guidelines are intended not only for frontline psychologists and others working in the field, but also for practitioners in related disciplines.

The guidelines offer guidance on supporting different client groups such as adults, families and children, young people and unaccompanied minors. There is also guidance on working in the wider community and in settings such as the workplace and nurseries, schools and colleges.

Professor Jamie Hacker Hughes, founder of the Society's Presidential Taskforce on Refugees and Asylum Seekers, said: "As a discipline and a profession, psychology has a wealth of knowledge, experience and talent to apply in this area to help improve the lives of those who have fled their countries and are seeking safety. Psychological evidence and practice can help to equip individuals, organisations and communities with the knowledge, skills and understanding that they need in order to help them navigate challenging experiences in a complex world."