The National Centre for Survivors of Torture, Spirasi, was founded in 1999 by the Spiritans in response to the rapidly evolving migration and asylum situation in Ireland.
Focus on Severe Trauma
Initially a place of welcome along with basic English classes was provided to vulnerable asylum seekers and refugees at 213 North Circular Road. On discovering that many of those attending classes were severely traumatised, the focus shifted to include specialist services to victims of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
Along with English teachers, Spirasi began to employ physicians, psychotherapists and psychosocial workers to provide Initial Assessments, ongoing psychotherapeutic and psychosocial supports, and Medico Legal Reports for the International Protection Process.
Numbers seen by Spirasi
Spirasi has now offered rehabilitation services to over 6,000 victims of torture and has seen over 2,500 English language students graduate.
Ireland’s International Responsibility to Victims of Torture
In 1999, Ireland signed the United Nations Convention Against Torture (UNCAT) which, in 2000, was ratified through the Criminal Justice (United Nations Convention Against Torture) Act.
Ireland’s Commitment under UNCAT
Article 14 of UNCAT affirms that each state must provide for “as full a rehabilitation as possible” for victims of torture within their jurisdiction. This applies to all persons, regardless of residency status.
In December 2012 the Committee Against Torture (CAT) published a General Comment on Article 14 stating that “The obligation to provide rehabilitation for victims of torture does not relate to the available resources of States parties and may not be postponed”.
Spirasi is the primary organization in Ireland implementing the obligations of the Irish State under Article 14.
Spirasi is a Dublin-based centre with a National remit. Recent years have seen the organisation expand its services providing on-the-ground therapeutic supports in Galway, Limerick, Cork and Waterford. The organisation aims to further expand and develop its rehabilitation model to improve accessibility for all people who require the service particularly those living in remote locations.