Visit to the Center of Rehabilitation for Torture Survivors

"Amnesty lintu."

Today, in our wish to visit the services that might be beneficial for our Jade-project clients, we went to visit the Center of Rehabilitation for Torture Survivors (Kidutettujen kuntoutuskeskus), located in Helsinki. Psychologist Ferdinand Garoff, who works at the Center, told us about the services that are available, the structure of the center and the ways in which potential clients can access it.

We discussed Finland’s obligations on this regard. The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment is an international human rights treaty, under the review of the United Nations, which aims to prevent torture and other acts of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment around the world.

The Convention requires states to take effective measures to prevent torture in any territory under their jurisdiction, and forbids states to transport people to any country where there is reason to believe they will be tortured. Finland signed the convention in 1985 and ratified it in 1989.

In Finland the Center of Rehabilitation for Torture Survivors has been mainly the organization that has been providing specialized care for victims of torture. The Center is part of the Helsinki Deaconess Institute (Helsingin Diakonissalaitos) and is funded by Finland’s Slot Machine Association (RAY).

Regarding the professional team, those who provide help to adults are a head nurse, three psychiatrists, a neurologist, a physiotherapist, a psychotherapist and a psychologist. In addition there is a project to provide help to children and young adolescents who have been victims of torture, which counts with a psychotherapist, a family therapist, a child and adolescent psychiatrist and a project coordinator. At the office there is also a secretary and a person undergoing non-military service.

The clients are refugees and asylum seekers and their families, who reside in Finland. They come to the Center through a doctor’s referral. The services are free of charge for the clients. According to different studies, around a 30% of the refugee population has symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. A proportion of those has suffered the horrors of torture and is in need of specialized care for this particular issue. At the Center they have the opportunity to talk to a professional that will help them to heal and live a dignified life.

According to Amnesty International, nevertheless, not all of those who need help as victims of torture receive the treatment that they need in Finland. That is why Amnesty requests from the Finnish state to arrange the necessary treatment all over the national territory and to provide permanent state funding for these services. The issue of denying refugee status to individuals who are at risk of suffering torture in their home countries has also been problematic in Finland.

The visit was kindly organized by Finnish Psychologists for Social Responsibility (Psykologien Sosiaalinen Vastuu, PSV), which was founded in 1982 by the Finnish Psychological Association, the Finnish Psychological Society and the Finnish Psychology Students’ Association. The aim of PSV is to promote the universal right to mental and social well-being of all people and encourage people of all professions to work for this aim.