We Care – Strategies and Modells of Well-integrated Support to Victims of Violence and Torture

Project duration
Responsible for the project
Péteri György
European Refugee Fund Community Actions

It has been acknowledged that a large number of governmental and non-governmental players are involved in providing care and support for previously tortured asylum seekers. In order to improve the quality of such care and support, standardized practices and models need to be established to help these professional stakeholders to adequately address the special needs of such populations. The WE CARE Project, funded by the European Refugee Fund 2009, aims to contribute to the above goal by identifying best practices and useful procedures that can evolve into stable models to follow at the national and the European levels.

The WE CARE initiative is unique in a way that it directly links three national reception cases (Italy, Spain and Hungary) of differing immigration patterns to represent multiple practices.Geographically speaking, the Project’s participants can be divided into two regions: Europe’s Southern Belt and Central-Eastern Europe. Studying their practices, and making a comparison of these participants is particularly interesting for the reasons outlined below. On one hand, while Spain and Italy have similar reception policies and even receive asylum seekers from many of the same sending countries (for example Nigeria and the Ivory Coast), their differing experiences can be explained by the largest ethnic groups represented in their asylum seeker populations. Italy receives a significant number of Eritreans, while Colombians constitute the most sizeable group arriving to Spain. On the other hand, Hungary has a completely different reception policy and vastly different refugee populations (for example from Serbia and Montenegro). In addition, we have compared two older European Union member states that have clearly been acknowledged as immigration countries to a relatively new member state, whose immigration is on the rise (UNHCR 2010) and whose status as an immigration country (as opposed to a transit country) is fairly new.In this setting each national reality, which includes approaches towards integration and guiding national policies, determines how knowledge is implemented and how models are compared. The overall goal of identifying and codifying common methodologies remain at the center of the Project, and it enables the creation of a model that is workable at numerous national settings and on the European level, but at the same time it acknowledges differences and allows for the country-specific development of training programs.

The Project covers a highly heterogeneous group of refugees who were victims of torture or violence. The mental health state of victims of torture is not as easily assessed as visible scars, nevertheless highly important, because they significantly affect the social and family environment of the individual. Numerous European studies attest that some 35% of refugees have been the victims of torture. It is important to note that not all victims of torture come from areas of explicit war zones or civil conflicts, and they may flee from politically repressed anti-democratic regions.Due to their lack of in-depth knowledge on the above issues, governmental authorities, associations, social services, and in particular the public health system do not seem adequately prepared to provide suitable answers to the problems that affect victims of torture. The Project aimed to share proficiency and to develop tools in the field of diagnosis and delivery of care. Such tools are to be applied during primary outreachfunctions, such asreception, orientation, active listening, psychological support, language and cultural mediation.

Overall, the WE CARE Project aimed to address the demand for the establishment of adequate support practices for tortured asylum seekers. It set out to compare and share the experience and methods used by the involved public and private sector parties, to develop shared models and to strengthen the much needed collaboration that can lead to improved quality measures and practices towards these vulnerable populations. 

The best practices and recommendations of the WE CARE project is available here under the title of "Strategies and Models of well-integrated support to victims of violence and torture"