Trading torture for poverty

As the Freedom from Torture charity publishes its report on the poverty of torture survivors, its clients have published photographs documenting their living conditions.

For a victim of torture, escaping the torment and fleeing to Britain should promise an end to misery. However, as the charity Freedom from Torture asserts in a report published today, on arrival in Britain survivors often face the dehumanising and oppressive effects of another evil: poverty. While still living with the physical and psychological trauma in cities such as London, Birmingham and Manchester, torture survivors are forced to live in squalid conditions.

These photographs, which accompany the report, were taken by the survivors themselves.

Many torture survivors fail to obtain social housing, meaning they live in public shelters, often sleeping in rooms with large groups of other people. A male survivor said: “I sleep with many people, who have many difficulties and this is where I have to sleep”. Freedom from Torture's clients often roam the streets aimlessly during the day, waiting for public shelters to open, which, in the winter particularly, is an arduous and dangerous experience. In addition, the lack of privacy can make dealing with the demons of their torture especially complicated.

A coat covers a broken bedroom window. The tenants’ housing manager promised to repair it, but it remains broken after several months. Insecure accommodation is rife. Often living in areas with high crimes rates, torture survivors are often at the mercy of their surroundings. One commented, “I don't go out but I hear fighting at night and I know other asylum seekers who have been attacked and brutally beaten.”

Due to often having little or no income, many torture survivors possess insufficient funds to pay for travel to essential appointments concerning their asylum claim and their mental and physical health. This has negative effects on their likelihood of success. Responding to this photo, one asylum seeker said: “This could be my seat but because I don’t have money I cannot take the train.” Another commented: “In order to save money for my appointments I was forced to feed from market leftover or unwanted goods.”

Short of change: Hunger is a grave and widespread problem negatively affecting many torture survivors' mental and physical health, mood, cognition and concentration. Prolonged periods of hunger often cause severe health problems; a survivor remembered a time he fell ill at the charity, “The doctor says I have to eat a lot of protein but I cannot afford to so I'm always weak. I faint. One time I fainted at Freedom from Torture. An ambulance came. I have dizziness.”

The open draw contains some medicine, a towel, a toothbrush, some documents and a tube of toothpaste. This is everything the photographer owns.

Lack of funds means this torture survivor cannot make his house a home. He is forced to cut the grass with scissors, as his landlord has refused to help him.

A young girl describes the discomfort of her bedroom: “This is the place I sleep - I sleep next to damp on the wall which is wet and smells”.

A torture survivor named his piece of pavement “Poverty place”.

“My bedroom - this is what it looks like and still looks like as I have no money to fix it.” A survivor describes his uncomfortable living conditions.

Filthy living conditions pose health risks and severly impact quality of life.

A lone flannel hangs on a damp and mouldy bathroom wall in torture survivor accommodation.

Freedom from Torture’s report “The Poverty Barrier: The Right to Rehabilitation for Survivors of Torture in the UK” was published on Wednesday 17 July.

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An alternative Trainspotting script for John Humphrys’ Radio 4 “Choose Life” tribute

Born chippy.

Your mole often has Radio 4’s Today programme babbling away comfortingly in the background while emerging blinking from the burrow. So imagine its horror this morning, when the BBC decided to sully this listening experience with John Humphrys doing the “Choose Life” monologue from Trainspotting.

“I chose not to choose life: I chose something else. And the reasons? There are no reasons. Who needs reasons when you’ve got Radio 4?” he concluded, as a nation cringed.

Introduced as someone who has “taken issue with modernity”, Humphrys launched into the film character Renton’s iconic rant against the banality of modern life.

But Humphrys’ role as in-studio curmudgeon is neither endearing nor amusing to this mole. Often tasked with stories about modern technology and digital culture by supposedly mischievous editors, Humphrys sounds increasingly cranky and ill-informed. It doesn’t exactly make for enlightening interviews. So your mole has tampered with the script. Here’s what he should have said:

“Choose life. Choose a job and then never retire, ever. Choose a career defined by growling and scoffing. Choose crashing the pips three mornings out of five. Choose a fucking long contract. Choose interrupting your co-hosts, politicians, religious leaders and children. Choose sitting across the desk from Justin Webb at 7.20 wondering what you’re doing with your life. Choose confusion about why Thought for the Day is still a thing. Choose hogging political interviews. Choose anxiety about whether Jim Naughtie’s departure means there’s dwindling demand for grouchy old men on flagship political radio shows. Choose a staunch commitment to misunderstanding stories about video games and emoji. Choose doing those stories anyway. Choose turning on the radio and wondering why the fuck you aren’t on on a Sunday morning as well. Choose sitting on that black leather chair hosting mind-numbing spirit-crushing game shows (Mastermind). Choose going over time at the end of it all, pishing your last few seconds on needlessly combative questions, nothing more than an obstacle to that day’s editors being credited. Choose your future. Choose life . . .”

I'm a mole, innit.