Heidi Hautala presented a question to the Commission/EEAS at the meeting of the Subcommittee on Human Rights on 25th of January about the ending of EU funding to the torture victim rehabilitation centres. [:]
EU has decided to end the EIDHR-funding of European based Rehabilitation centres. This decision has been taken on the basis that “while activities in all third countries and in EU Member States may continue to be eligible, support to rehabilitation activities in third countries will be considered as a priority. In line with the external dimension of the Instrument, support to activities within the EU will only address situations where access to rehabilitation remains demonstrably insufficient so as to avoid that the phasing out of EIDHR support will be at the cost of torture victims. Instead, Member States should assume a greater financial responsibility for rehabilitation centres situated in their territories, in line with the provisions of the CAT and relevant EC legislation”.Member States, of course, already are obliged to provide such assistance. Under the Reception directive (2003/9/CE) it is stated in Article 15.2 that “Member States shall provide necessary medical or other assistance to applicants who have special needs.” However, there are serious shortcomings in the implementation of this Directive. Severe problems have been identified with the Member States’ ability to identify victims of torture and very few Member States offer the instructed rehabilitation, many have no assistance to offer at all. Beside, torture victims in Europe are also Member State Nationals having suffered from past regime as in Romania. Should the EEAS/Commission accept that the decision to end the EIDHR-funding would place more focus on this directive, could the EEAS/Commission explain how they plan to address this issue under internal competencies (for example under Fundamental rights/ health)?
The European Refugee Fund should not be considered as an adequate alternative source of funding as it has been noted to present notable disadvantages such as lack of focus on the rehabilitation of torture victims and general inability to secure funding for long term programmes and cannot provide support to victims who are member states nationals.
Closure of the rehabilitation centres carries a heavy human cost. How will the EEAS/Commission ensure that the European based rehabilitation centres for victims of torture will continue to have access to sustainable funding?
In their response, the EEAS assured Ms Hautala that it is important issue and the impact the European Parliament has had in developing this facility. EEAS representative noted that while the EIDHR has been able to reach many people it is true that the funding inside Europe will be scaled down. This is due to the fact that EIDHR is not primarily meant to fund activities taking place inside European sphere and will thus be rescheduled elsewhere. EEAS remains mindful of the care of the people and therefore hope that alternative funding be secured. Here, it should be noted that the member states also have a duty to help. To add, he noted that there have been several additional yet separate initiatives taken to provide assistance to torture victims in different ways.
Hautala agreed with the achievements mentioned by the representative but remained somewhat unconvinced as to the security of ensuring the funding. Indeed, it is most important that the victims will not be left without support when the funding ends.