Africa: New report exposes torture as a defining feature of the migration journey

News release

Dakar – Geneva, 15 December 2021 (OMCT) – Torture is present at every point on the migration roads in Africa, said a report published today by the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT).

The report, titled The Torture Roads – The Cycle of Abuse against People on the Move in Africa, is the first to analyse comprehensively the experiences of migrants on the continent. It is the result of a unique collective research spanning two years, and covering eight countries in West, Central, East and North Africa that include places of origin and transit for migrants, asylum seekers and refugees who seek security, protection, and a better life. The research was carried out by a working group comprised of 10 human rights organisations from Africa and Southern Europe specialising in migration and torture, who interviewed over 250 refugees, asylum seekers and other migrants, as well as humanitarian workers and government officials.

While migratory movements to Europe keep attracting a lot of attention, the strong nexus between migration and torture has largely remained in the shadows,” said Gerald Staberock, OMCT Secretary General. “Our research exposes a crude reality: torture and other forms of ill-treatment are a trigger to migration; they are ubiquitous on the migration roads, where they have dramatically worsened over recent years; and finally, the vast majority of victims never receive any form of treatment, despite having suffered horrendous abuse.”

The report combines stories of violence and extortion by officials at borders, of human trafficking, forced prostitution and rape at the hands of criminal gangs, with comprehensive analysis of relevant legal frameworks. It also highlights how migration agreements signed by the European Union (EU) and some of its member States with a number of African countries have contributed to an increase in the exposure of migrants to this litany of abuse. The report offers a comprehensive series of recommendations to States, regional groups and international organisations, including the creation of safe and legal pathways to Europe.

Torture on the migration routes is not collateral damage. It is facilitated by national laws and policies that criminalise migrants“, said Isidore Ngueuleu, head of OMCT’s Africa desk. “The debate here is not about accepting migrants in our societies or not. It is about ending this appalling cycle of torture, sanctioning the perpetrators and rehabilitating survivors. Countries cannot close their eyes simply because these people are not their citizens.”

The report is a call to refocus on migration policies locally, regionally, and globally, integrating the protection of migrants and the prevention of torture as a priority. “In light of the real experiences of migrants, it is urgent to critically rethink externalisation policies by the EU and its members States and to redefine international support to often abusive border and law enforcement structures in Africa,” said Aminate Dieye, Chairperson of the working group. “The answer to this largely overlooked crisis is more rule of law, more protection and less repression”.

Read full report here

The SOS-Torture Migration and Torture Working in group in Africa is comprised of 10 experts from the OMCT SOS-Torture Network, and aims to analyse firsthand information in order to set out authoritative research and recommendations for the protection of migrants against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The group is sponsored by the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the Collectif des Associations Contre l’Impunité au Togo (CACIT), without whom this study could not have been carried out.

For more information, please contact :
Iolanda Jaquemet, Director of Communications +41 79 539 41 06