Migration and torture: Building a map of knowledge


  • Pau Pérez-Sales Editor in Chief for the Torture Journal




asylum, torture, refugees, detention, mental health, distrust


We already have more than twenty-five years of academic research on migration and torture; the field has developed into an increasingly complex one since the first descriptive and epidemiological studies. This Editorial puts forward a conceptual map for helping to understand migration and torture and introduces the collection of papers in this issue of the Torture Journal. 


Allsopp, J., Sigona, N., & Phillimore, J. (2014). Poverty among refugees and asylum seekers in the UK An evidence and policy review. IRiS Working Paper Series, 1–46.

Alpes, J., Blondel, C., Preiss, N., & Monras, M. S. (2017). Post-deportation risks for failed asylum seekers. Forced Migration Review, 54, 76-78.

Amnesty International. (2017). Human Rights in the context of forced returns. (Vol. 1). https://doi. org/10.1007/978-3-319-39351-3_10

Asgary, R., Charpentier, B., & Burnett, D. C. (2012). Socio-Medical Challenges of Asylum Seekers Prior and After Coming to the US. Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health. https://doi. org/10.1007/s10903-012-9687-2

Baker, B. F. (2017). The Hidden Costs of Mass Deportation. Anthropology News, 58(5), e319– e323. https://doi.org/10.1111/AN.632

Ben Farhat, J., Blanchet, K., Juul Bjertrup, P., Veizis, A., Perrin, C., Coulborn, R. M., … Cohuet, S. (2018). Syrian refugees in Greece: Experience with violence, mental health status, and access to information during the journey and while in Greece. BMC Medicine, 16(1), 1–12. https://doi. org/10.1186/s12916-018-1028-4

Brooker, S., Albert, S., Young, P., Steel, Z., Flynn, M., & Flynn, M. (2016). Challenges to Providing Mental Health Care in Immigration Detention About the Global Detention Project Challenges to Providing Mental Health Care in Immigration Detention, (19).

Crisp, J. (2009). Refugees, persons of concern, and people on the move: The broadening boundaries of UNHCR. Refuge, 26(1), 73–76.

Daniel, E. V., & Knudsen, J. C. (1995). Mistrusting refugees. Berkeley: University of California Press.

EATIP, GTNM/RJ, CINTRAS, & SERSOC. (2002). Paisajes del Dolor, Senderos de esperanza. Salud mental y derechos humanos en el Cono Sur.

European Council. (2013). L 180/60. Common procedures for granting and withdrawing international protection.

Fazel, M., & Silove, D. (2006). Detention of refugees. British Medical Journal, 332(7536), 251–252. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.332.7536.251

Filges, T., Montgomery, E., & Kastrup, M. (2018). The Impact of Detention on the Health of Asylum Seekers: A Systematic Review. Research on Social Work Practice, 28(4), 399–414. https:// doi.org/10.1177/1049731516630384

Freedom for Torture. (2012). Sri Lankan Tamils tortured on return from the UK.

Freedom for Torture. (2016). Proving Torture. Demanding the impossible. Home Office mistreatment of expert medical evidence. London.

Gadeberg, A. K., & Norredam, M. (2016). Urgent need for validated trauma and mental health screening tools for refugee children and youth. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 25(8), 929–931. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00787-016- 0837-2

Good, A. (2004). Undoubtedly an expert? - anthropologists in British asylum courts. Journal of The Royal Anthropology Institute, 10, 113–133. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467- 9655.2004.00182.x

Griffiths, M. (2012). Vile liars and truth distorters. Anthropology Today, 28(5).

Gyulai, G., Kagan, M., Herlihy, J., Turner, S., & Lilli, H. (2013). Credibility assessment in asylum procedures. A Multidisciplinary Training Manual (Vol. 1). Hungarian Helsinki Committee.

Haas, B. M. (2017). Citizens-in-Waiting, Deporteesin- Waiting: Power, Temporality, and Suffering in the U.S. Asylum System. Ethos, 45(1), 75–97. https://doi.org/10.1111/etho.12150

Haoussou, K. (2017). Perspective—The long journey to rehabilitation for torture survivors i. Torture, 27(1), 66–74.

Hocking, D. C., Kennedy, G. A., & Sundram, S. (2015). Mental disorders in asylum seekers: The role of the refugee determination process and employment. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 203(1), 28–32. https://doi.org/10.1097/ NMD.0000000000000230

Hollifield, M., Verbillis-Kolp, S., Farmer, B., Toolson, E. C., Woldehaimanot, T., Yamazaki, J., … SooHoo, J. (2013). The Refugee Health Screener-15 (RHS-15): development and validation of an instrument for anxiety, depression, and PTSD in refugees. General Hospital Psychiatry, 35(2), 202–209. https://doi. org/10.1016/j.genhosppsych.2012.12.002

Home Office. (2015). Asylum Policy Instruction: Assessing Credibility and Refugee Status.

Hope Border Institute. (2018). Sealing the border. The criminalization of asylum seekers in the Trump era. El Paso.

HRW. (2012). UK: Halt Deportations of Tamils to Sri Lanka.

Human Rights First. (2017). Violations at the Border, (February). Retrieved from http:// www.humanrightsfirst.org/sites/default/files/hrfviolations- at-el-paso-border-rep.pdf

IRCT. (2016). Falling Through the Cracks: Asylum procedures and reception conditions for torture victims in the European Union. Copenhahue: IRCT.

Iversen, V. C., & Morken, G. (2004). Differences in acute psychiatric admissions between asylum seekers and refugees. Nordic Journal of Psychiatry, 58(6), 465–470. https://doi. org/10.1080/08039480410011696

Jesuit Refugee Service - Europe. (2010). Becoming vulnerable in detention - Civil Society Report on the Detention of Vulnerable Asylum Seekers and Irregular Migrants in the European Union (DEVAS).

Johnson, H., & Thompson, A. (2008). The development and maintenance of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in civilian adult survivors of war trauma and torture: a review. Clinical Psychology Review, 28, 36–47. https://doi. org/10.1016/j.cpr.2007.01.017 Johnston, V., Allotey, P., Mulholland, K., & Markovic, M. (2009). Measuring the health impact of human rights violations related to Australian asylum policies and practices: A mixed methods study. BMC International Health and Human Rights, 9 (1).

Jubany, O. (2017). Screening asylum in a culture of disbelief: Truths, denials and skeptical borders. Screening Asylum in a Culture of Disbelief: Truths, Denials and Skeptical Borders. https://doi. org/10.1007/978-3-319-40748-7

Kalt, A., Hossain, M., Kiss, L., & Zimmerman, C. (2013). Asylum seekers, violence and health: A systematic review of research in highincome host countries. American Journal of Public Health, 103(3). https://doi.org/10.2105/ AJPH.2012.301136

Kane, J. (2008). Judging Credibility. New York: American Bar Association.

Keller, A. S., Rosenfeld, B., Trinh-Shevrin, C., Meserve, C., Sachs, E., Leviss, J. A., … Ford, D. (2003). Mental health of detained asylum seekers. Lancet, 362(9397), 1721–1723. https:// doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(03)14846-5

Khosravi, S. (2018). After deportation. Ethographic perspectives. Palgrave McMillan.

Loneragan, C., Steel, Z., Touze, D. le, Harris, E., Ceollo, M., Susljik, I., … Brooks, R. (2006). Torture, Mental Health Status and the Outcomes of Refugee Applications among Recently Arrived Asylum Seekers in Australia. International Journal of Migration, Health and Social Care. https://doi. org/10.1108/17479894200600002

Lustig, S. L., Kureshi, S., Delucchi, K. L., Iacopino, V., & Morse, S. C. (2008). Asylum grant rates following medical evaluations of maltreatment among political asylum applicants in the United States. Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health / Center for Minority Public Health, 10, 7–15. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10903-007-9056-8

Lyytinen, E. (2017). Refugees’ ‘Journeys of Trust’: Creating an Analytical Framework to Examine Refugees’ Exilic Journeys with a Focus on Trust. Journal of Refugee Studies, few035. https://doi. org/10.1093/jrs/few035

Mackey, A., & Barnes, J. (2013). Assessment of Credibility in Refugee and Subsidiary Protection claims under the EU Qualification Directive Judicial criteria and standards Prepared by Allan Mackey and John Barnes for the International Association of Refugee.

Masinda, M. T. (2004). Quality of Memory: Impact on Refugee Hearing Decisions. Traumatology. https://doi.org/10.1177/153476560401000205

McColl, H., McKenzie, K., & Bhui, K. (2008). Mental healthcare of asylum-seekers and refugees. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, 14, 452–459. https://doi.org/10.1192/apt. bp.107.005041

Mewes, R., Friele, B., & Bloemen, E. (2018). Validation of the Protect Questionnaire: A Tool to Detect Mental Health Problems in Asylum Seekers by Non-Health Professionals. Torture, This issue.

Mind. (2010). Achieving justice for victims and witnesses with mental distress. A mental health toolkit for prosecutors and advocates. London: Mind-For better health.

Momartin, S., Silove, D., Manicavasagar, V., & Steel, Z. (2003). Dimensions of trauma associated with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) caseness, severity and functional impairment: a study of Bosnian refugees resettled in Australia. Social Science & Medicine, 57(5), 775–781. https://doi. org/10.1016/S0277-9536(02)00452-5

Montgomery, E. (2011). Trauma, Exile and Mental Health in Young Refugees. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 124(September).

Mueller, J., Schmidt, M., Staeheli, A., & Maier, T. (2011). Mental health of failed asylum seekers as compared with pending and temporarily accepted asylum seekers. European Journal of Public Health, 21(2), 184–189. https://doi. org/10.1093/eurpub/ckq016

Níraghallaigh, M. (2014). The causes of mistrust amongst asylum seekers and refugees: Insights from research with unaccompanied asylumseeking minors living in the republic of Ireland. Journal of Refugee Studies, 27(1), 82–100. https:// doi.org/10.1093/jrs/fet006

Onyoin, C. A. (2017). A grim return : postdeportation risks in Uganda. Forced Migration Review, (February), 81–83.

Pearman, A., Psych, B., Olinga-shannon, S., & Hons, B. B. A. (2017). Australian immigration detention and the silencing of practitioners, 90–93.

Pérez-Sales, P. (2017a). Psychological Torture: definition, evaluation and measurement. London- New York: Routledge.

Pérez-Sales, P. (2017b). Psychotherapy for torture survivors—Suggested pathways for research. Torture : Quarterly Journal on Rehabilitation of Torture Victims and Prevention of Torture, 27(1), 1–12.

Pérez-sales, P., Witcombe, N., & Otero Oyague, D. (2017). Rehabilitation of torture survivors and prevention of torture: Priorities for research through a modified Delphi Study. Torture, 27(3), 3–48.

Pettitt, J. (2013). The Poverty Barrier: The Right to Rehabilitation for Survivors of Torture in the UK, (July).

Porter, M. (2007). Global Evidence for a Biopsychosocial Understanding of Refugee Adaptation. Transcultural Psychiatry, 44, 418. https://doi.org/10.1177/1363461507081642

Porter, M., & Haslam, N. (2005). Predisplacement and postdisplacement factors associated with mental health of refugees and internally displaced persons: A meta-analysis. Journal of the American Medical Association, 294(5), 602–612. https://doi. org/10.1001/jama.294.5.602

PROTECT Project. (2016). PROTECT. Process of Recognition and Orientation of Torture Victims in European Countries to Facilitate Care and Treatment. Brussels.

Quinn, N. (2014). Participatory action research with asylum seekers and refugees experiencing stigma and discrimination: the experience from Scotland. Disability and Society, 29(1), 58–70. https://doi.org/10.1080/09687599.2013.769863

Ramos, C. (2011). Unsafe Return: Refoulement of Congolese Asylum Seekers.

Robinson, V., & Segrott, J. (2002). Understanding the decision-making of asylum seekers. Home Office Research Study, (243), 84.

Robjant, K., Hassan, R., & Katona, C. (2009). Mental health implications of detaining asylum seekers: systematic review. British Journal of Psychiatry, 194(4), 306–312. https://doi. org/10.1192/bjp.bp.108.053223

Roman, E., Baird, T., & Radcliffe, T. (2016). Why Turkey is Not a “Safe Country.” Statewatch Analysis, 2013(February), 1–26.

Rosenthal, E. (2018). The right of people with disabilities to asylum and protection from deportation on the grounds of Persecution or Torture Related to their disability.

Schock, K., Rosner, R., & Knaevelsrud, C. (2015). Impact of asylum interviews on the mental health of traumatized asylum seekers. European Journal of Psychotraumatology, 6(March). https://doi. org/10.3402/ejpt.v6.26286

Silove, D. (2000). Policies of Deterrence and the Mental Health of Asylum Seekers. Jama, 284(5), 604. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.284.5.604

Silove, D. (2013). The ADAPT model: a conceptual framework for mental health and psychosocial programming in post conflict settings. Intervention, 11(3), 237–248.
Sobhanian, F., Boyle, G. J., & Bahr, M. (2006). Living in the Australian Community Psychological Status of Former Refugee Detainees From the Woomera Detention Centre Now Living in the Australian Community. Psychiatry, Psychology and Law, 13(2), 37–41.

Special Rapporteur Against Torture. (2018). Migration-related torture and ill-treatment (A/ HRC/37/50). United Nations. https://doi.org/ CAT/C/MAR/CO/4

Stedman, S. J., & Tanner, F. (2003). Refugee manipulation. War, politics and the abuse of human suffering. Washington: Brookings Institution Press.

Steel, Z., Chey, T., Silove, D., Marnane, C., Bryant, R. A., van Ommeren, M., & Steel Z, Chey T, Silove D, Marnane C, Bryant RA, van O. M. (2009). Association of torture and other potentially traumatic events with mental health outcomes among populations exposed to mass conflict and displacement: a systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA : The Journal of the American Medical Association, 302(5), 537–549. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2009.1132

Steel, Z., & Silove, D. M. (2001). The mental health implications of detaining asylum seekers. Medical Journal of Australia, 175, 596–599.

Stefanovska, V. (2016). Diplomatic Assurances and the State ’ s Responsibility When Considering Extraditing a Person Whose Human Rights May Be Violated. VARSTVOSLOVJE, Journal of Criminal Justice and Security, (2), 167–182.

Storm, T., & Engberg, M. (2013). The impact of immigration detention on the mental health of torture survivors is poorly documented - A systematic review. Danish Medical Journal, 60(11), 1–7.

Tay, A. K., & Silove, D. (2017). The ADAPT model: bridging the gap between psychosocial and individual responses to mass violence and refugee trauma. Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences, 26(02), 142–145. https://doi.org/10.1017/ S2045796016000925

Tirado, M. C. and I. G.-S. (2008). Quality in and Equality of Access to Healthcare Services. Country Report for Romania. Brussells.

Ulusoy, O., & Battjes, H. (2017). Situation of Readmitted Migrants and Refugees from Greece to Turkey under the EU-Turkey Statement, (15), 1–42.

UNHCR-International Detention Coalition - OAK. (2016). Vulnerability Screening Tool. Identifying and addressing vulnerability: a tool for asylum and migration systems. UNHCR. (2017). UNHCR- Global Trends. Forced displacement in 2016. Geneva. Switzerland.

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Viñar, M. (2007). Civilization and torture : beyond the medical and psychiatric approach. International Review of the Red Cross, 89(867), 619–633.

Voutira, E., & Harrell-Bond, B. (1995). In search of the locus of trust: the social world of the refugee camp. In E. V. Daniel & J. C. Knudsen (Eds.), Mistrusting refugees (pp. 207–225). University of California Press.




How to Cite

Pérez-Sales, P. (2018). Migration and torture: Building a map of knowledge. Torture Journal, 28(2), 1–14. https://doi.org/10.7146/torture.v28i2.106906