Hero migrants ©Erwan Rogard


Over the past decade, the tragic images of migrants fleeing torture, armed conflict, corruption, poverty, and marginalisation, have been known to all.

It is less known that torture is often closely related to migration, whether as an underlying root cause or as one of the worst crimes migrants have to endure on their journey. Moreover, once they reach safety, migrants who are torture survivors need support and treatment. Both are key to inclusion and rights-based policies.

States have been largely unwilling or unable to put in place minimum levels of protection for people on the move. In Africa - as elsewhere - existing migration laws and policies to protect migrants against torture have proven largely ineffective. Transit countries in the Maghreb and destination countries in Europe have implemented pullback and pushback policies that have recently increased the vulnerability of migrants to criminal groups and traffickers.

Additionally, many essential aspects of the torture and ill-treatment experienced by people on the move in, across, and at the gates of Africa, Latin America, and Asia remain particularly under-researched and undocumented. Torture, especially on the so-called new migration routes, is pervasive, but its human cost is never fully understood or is reduced to a few statistics, sporadic viral images on social media, or occasional coverage by the mainstream media. Moreover, once they reach “safe countries,” these men, women, and children don’t receive support and access to treatment and increasingly face detention or even the risk of being sent back to torture.

One in 30 people in the world is a migrant

This is why the OMCT and its global SOS-Torture Network work together to protect migrants from torture. They conduct detailed research and make recommendations that go beyond the humanitarian consequences of forced displacement, to improve the protection of migrants against torture and ill-treatment. Otherwise, these people will never be safe – whether at home, in transit, or at their destination.

In 2019, the OMCT brought together 12 experts from various members and partners of the SOS-Torture Network in Africa and Southern Europe, all of whom work with migrants who have been subjected to torture. This Migration and Torture Working Group carried out ambitious collective research to document torture along Africa’s migration routes, give a voice to its victims, and design protection strategies that could inform State policies and reinforce the protective role of international human rights bodies.

Agadez Bus Station Erwan Rogard2019
View of Agadez bus station where every Monday there are official departures of buses to Libya. October 2019 ©Erwan Rogard