It never happened to me, so I don’t know if there are procedures”: identification and case management of torture survivors in the reception and public health system of Rome, Italy


  • Caterina Spissu Médecins Sans Frontières - Operational Centre Brussels
  • Gianfranco De Maio Médecins Sans Frontières - Operational Centre Brussels
  • Rafael Van den Bergh Médecins Sans Frontières - Operational Centre Brussels
  • Engy Ali Médecins Sans Frontières - Operational Centre Brussels
  • Emilie Venables Médecins Sans Frontières - Operational Centre Brussels
  • Doris Burtscher Médecins Sans Frontières, Vienna Evaluation Unit, Vienna, Austria
  • Aurelie Ponthieu Médecins Sans Frontières - Operational Centre Brussels
  • Mario Ronchetti Azienda Sanitaria Locale Rome 6, Rome, Italy
  • Narciso Mostarda Azienda Sanitaria Locale Rome 6, Rome, Italy
  • Federica Zamatto Médecins Sans Frontières - Operational Centre Brussels



Background: Access and linkage to care for migrant torture survivors is contingent on their identification and appropriate referral. However, appropriate tools for identification of survivors are not readily available, and the (staff of) reception systems of host countries may not always be equipped for this task. This study explores practices in the identification and case management of torture survivors in the reception structures and in the public health sector in Rome, Italy.

Method: Data were analysed manually and codes and themes generated.

Results: A non-homogeneous level of awareness and experience with torture survivors was observed, together with a general lack of knowledge on national and internal procedures for correct identification of torture survivors. Identification and case management of torture survivors was mainly carried out by non-trained staff. Participants expressed the need for training to gain experience in the identification and management of torture survivors’ cases, as well support and increased resources at both the reception and public health system levels.

Conclusions: The crucial process of identification and prise en charge of survivors of torture among migrant and refugee populations is relegated to nontrained and inexperienced professionals at different levels of the reception system and public health care sector, which may carry a risk of non-identification andpossible harm to survivors. Additional resources and structured interventions are urgently needed, in the form of developing procedures, training, and adapted multidisciplinary services.


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How to Cite

Spissu, C., De Maio, G., Van den Bergh, R., Ali, E., Venables, E., Burtscher, D., Ponthieu, A., Ronchetti, M., Mostarda, N., & Zamatto, F. (2018). It never happened to me, so I don’t know if there are procedures”: identification and case management of torture survivors in the reception and public health system of Rome, Italy. Torture Journal, 28(2), 38–55.