Saturday, 26 December 2015

Interpreting at Freedom from Torture

Pic of head made out of barbed wire to represent torture survivor

The ITI’s London Regional Group made its annual Christmas charity donation to Freedom from Torture this year. I visited the London Centre with a group of interpreters in September 2015. This NGO can offer best practice advice on interpreting in a challenging field.

Origin
Freedom from Torture evolved from Amnesty International 30 years ago. There was a recognised need for ongoing medical and psychological support for torture survivors that Amnesty International could not meet.

Freedom from Torture has 3 main aims:
  • Rehabilitation – using psychological therapy
  • Accountability – campaigning to make States accountable for their citizens' torture
  • Protection – to liaise with the UK’s Home Office on behalf of torture survivors.
Terminology
Strong emphasis is placed on the term “torture survivor”. “Torture victim” is never used. There may be no end to the suffering. Freedom from Torture helps its clients to come to terms with this.

Interpreting best practice
The NGO prefers to recruit its own interpreters. At the time of our September visit, there were 37 interpreters on the register covering 46 languages. 80-90% of clients are seen with interpreters. Many of the therapists are bilingual and will work in the client’s language if possible.

Freedom from Torture places great importance on paying its interpreters. Clients require the long-term commitment of familiar faces they can trust.

The charity has established best practice procedures. They appreciate that interpreters are not machines. Interpreters pick up all the same emotions for which a therapist has been professionally trained. Freedom from Torture has worked out a system of briefing and debriefing for interpreters to help them deal with any difficulties. Many of ITI’s members commented that they would welcome the same approach from the Home Office too.

The right atmosphere
Great care is taken to create the right atmosphere. The London building was specifically designed for Freedom from Torture. Corridors are curved to avoid any institutional feel. The therapists personalise their rooms to make them feel warm and welcoming. Comforting and reassuring aromas scent the family therapy floor. A colourful artwork of children’s handprints adorned the wall of one large family therapy room. The garden offers another peaceful haven.

Regional centres and recognition
Freedom from Torture has regional centres in Glasgow, Manchester, Newcastle and Birmingham. These are important as refugees are housed throughout the UK. Recent Syrian refugees arrived in Birmingham for example. 

A cross-party group of MPs congratulated Freedom from Torture on its clinical and advocacy work with torture survivors in December. They recognised that there is a growing requirement for this vital work.

Language requirements
The main languages in demand are Tamil and Sinhalese (for Sri Lanka), Arabic, Pashtu, French (for various African countries), Lingala (DRC), Turkish and Kurdish. A rise in demand for Arabic is anticipated to help Syrian torture survivors.

Volunteering and donations
60-70% of Freedom from Torture’s funding comes from individual donors. No funds are accepted from governments to avoid any conflicts of interest. The organisation needs to maintain its independence and integrity in the best interests of torture survivors. 

If you would like to volunteer or make a donation, please refer to Freedom from Torture’s website. 

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