Thematic focus: Torture, trauma and its possible impact on drug use Many individuals who flee war and armed conflict, and particularly those fleeing persecution, are likely to have experienced trauma. This may include torture and inhuman or degrading treatment. They may also have family members or friends who experienced such trauma. Such experiences can occur in people’s country of origin. They can also take place while people are in transit and trying to enter the EU, as well as upon arrival in the EU. One way of coping with trauma can be the use of drugs (both licit and illicit), which is explored in the last section of this report. From a fundamental rights perspective, the prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment is an absolute, non-derogable right under international human rights law, as stipulated by the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 5), the 1966 Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Article 7), more specifically in the 1984 Convention against Torture (Articles 1 and 16); and, on a regional level, by the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) (Article 3).1 Torture is not allowed under any circumstance – including war, public emergencies or terrorist threats – and irrespective of the victim’s conduct, however undesirable or dangerous.2 Both international law and the ECHR not only prohibit torture, but also other forms of ill-treatment. The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has drawn distinctions between prohibited acts, essentially using a “threshold of severity” test Inhuman treatment is defined as at least such treatment as deliberately causes severe suffering, mental or physical, which in the particular situation is unjustifiable. The severity of pain and suffering forms the basis for distinguishing between inhuman and degrading treatment in accordance with ECtHR case law,3 which establishes that degrading treatment must include at least some form of “gross humiliation”. As for the perpetrators, not only state officials per se qualify and trigger state responsibility, but so do “other persons acting in an official capacity”. The ECtHR added to this the positive duty of states to provide protection against ill-treatment, even where such treatment results from the conduct of non-state actors. (For example, a state was held responsible for acts committed by a husband against his wife because state officials were aware of these acts but did nothing to prevent them.)4 MAIN FINDINGS • Limited data are available on victims of torture among applicants for international protection, with Greece the only EU Member State to regularly collect this information. Similarly, data on traumatised applicants are sketchy and information on suicide attempts incomplete. • Findings point to limited formal screening procedures to identify asylum seekers who are victims of torture or experienced severe trauma. Identification heavily relies on the expertise and knowledge of individual staff. Tools are increasingly being developed to facilitate identification by non-experts. • In most EU Member States, there is no evidence that would suggest recurrent violence or excessive use of force by state officials or entities working on their behalf. Information collected by FRA mostly focuses on individual and localised incidents. At the same time, serious incidents are more frequently reported along the external borders of the Schengen area. • Training, monitoring bodies and complaint mechanisms exist in all EU Member States, but their effectiveness in preventing ill-treatment varies from one Member State to another. • A recurrent issue restraining victims’ access to support services is the limited number of specialised medical staff who can provide psychological or psychiatric support. The lack of staff often leads to long waiting periods. Starting therapy when asylum applicants are homeless or the conditions in a reception facility are not adequate to sustain the therapy poses another challenge. • Limited information on the link between trauma and drug use has emerged. Drug use among asylum applicants particularly affects adolescents and young men, and has so far been given little attention. 2

Select target paragraph3