Detained Survivors of Torture

My best chance to get away from violence was coming to the US, but even here I feel like a criminal. I don’t know when my children and I will be able to leave because we cannot find a place to stay.

Women in detention

Many of the individuals detained by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security are asylum-seekers who have fled persecution and torture in their home countries. Given the severity of their former situations, detained survivors of torture face a particularly daunting and traumatizing reality. RAICES continually strives to establish, implement, and expand outreach efforts to provide free legal services and representation to detained survivors of torture in detention centers in Central and South Texas.

According to a report on detained survivors of torture by the Center for Victims of Torture (CVT) and the Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International (TASSC), it is estimated that 6,000 survivors of torture were detained, from October 2010 to February 2013, as they were seeking asylum protection in the United States. In principle, asylum is meant to offer a path for healing and relief to survivors of torture. However, the reality is that the process of obtaining asylum while in detention contributes to the on-going traumatic experiences of these individuals. Detained individuals report feeling confused, isolated, and shocked at the treatment they undergo while in detention. Asylum-seekers can be held for months or years in detention, where they receive limited access to information and do not know when they will be released.

In 2014, RAICES helped to close 17 cases involving under Convention Against Torture, a treaty that gives relief to individuals who demonstrate that they would likely be subjected to torture If they returned to their native country. Most of our clients that have obtained relief under Convention Against Torture have been East African women who have undergone genital mutilation. Through enhanced collaborative efforts with local partners, RAICES has been able to more successfully identify and provide relief to these individuals above and beyond immigration services, such as assistance with housing and financial matters.