Doctor: torture victims handed death sentences

The director of a specialised healthcare centre claims Finland’s immigration service has a callous disregard for torture victims, as dozens are deported back to their homeland each year.

Pekka Tuomola of the Centre for Torture Survivors said that, in contravention of the UN Convention Against Torture, Finland sends many victims of physical and psychological abuse back to their country of origin when their asylum applications are refused.

According to Toumola, nearly 60 percent of asylum seekers suffer from some kind of torture trauma, whether it is psychical, sexual or emotional abuse; the latter is often caused by the anguish of watching family members killed and raped. He said that around 200 torture survivors are referred to the centre each year, but psychological torture cases are often ignored by immigration officials.

“We can make a well-grounded assessment of whether somebody has been tortured or not, and we write that in medical statements,” said Tuomola in a YLE report. “According to the UN convention, torture victims should not be returned to the country where they were tortured. The problem is that the Immigration Service does not always believe us, or consider our statements,” he added.

The centre, which is run by the Helsinki Deaconess Institute, often starts asylum seekers onto recovery programmes, only to have their progress interrupted when the patient is deported. “This is a really awful experience when you find out that a person is going to be returned to the same situation in which they were tortured. In effect, it’s a death sentence,” said Tuomola.

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