The Doctors without Borders (MSF) reports that the majority of patients in its center for survivors of tortures and ill treatment are migrants, including minors, and expresses concern at how the incidence of torture in Libya is underestimated.
"Despite being contrary to international law, torture, ill treatment and abuse are still being used in many countries around the world and the global medical community is largely unprepared to identify survivors of these horrible practices amongst its patients," writes MSF, recalling how "the majority of patients at its rehabilitation centres for the survivors of torture and inhumane and degrading treatment are refugees, asylum seekers and migrants, including unaccompanied foreign minors".
950 people treated in 2018
"Many of the people we treat in Rome have come through Libya where they were tortured and ill-treated. It is essential for those of us who see the physical and mental consequences of torture every day to express our dissent with respect to those who speak of the rhetoric of torture," said MSF Italy head of mission Anna Garella.
The organisation runs rehabilitation centres for the survivors of torture, abuse and ill-treatment in Athens, Rome and other places along the migration routes. "Some people suffer this treatment in countries of transit or destination, while others flee from their country of origin to escape persecution, torture and abuse." The organisation explains that most suffer from chronic pain, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression.
MSF launched its first project along a migration route in 2012. The Athens centre opened in October 2014, followed by centres in Rome and Mexico City the following year. Approximately 950 patients have been treated by 182 aid workers so far this year. Multidisciplinary support MSF staff work in teams of five - a doctor, a cultural mediator, a social worker, a physiotherapist and a psychologist.
They all meet with patients separately and then come together to draw up an appropriate treatment programme. "MSF uses a multidisciplinary approach because in this way all aspects of the patient's life are taken into consideration," writes the organisation, explaining that torture survivors are also offered legal assistance throughout their asylum application process.
"After years of working with patients we have come to realise that torture is more than a matter of health. It should be seen as a sociological and anthropological issue that has repercussions for physical health. It creates visible and invisible scars," said MSF doctor Gianfranco De Maio. "Our approach aims to help people rebuild their social relationships with others." .