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June 26 is the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. It commemorates the signing of the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment [CAT]. The United States, a signatory of the CAT, defines torture as “an act committed by a person acting under color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering upon another person within his custody or control”. Torture by officials around the world is inflicted on people in the dark recesses of prisons, jails, and secret detention centers where the only onlookers are complicit guards or prisoners in peril. Among torture survivors who have received treatment at specialized rehabilitation treatment centers which participated in a national study, 5.7% experienced asphyxiation and survived. We don’t know how many perished. Indeed within our own Center, we have heard some of our patients talk about how they too cried out for their mothers at those moments of total vulnerability. Torture is about exerting one’s total power over another, and often arises in authoritative systems worldwide that condone such violence upon another human being. The torture of Mr. George Floyd occurred in broad daylight. This raises questions about the prevalence of torture in the United States, the misuse of power, and the number of unknown victims within this country.
Linda Piwowarczyk, MD, MPH
Boston Center for Refugee Health and Human Rights
Statement of Solidarity
June 5, 2020
The Boston Center for Refugee Health & Human Rights (BCRHHR) stands in solidarity with those who are raising their voices against systemic racism in this country, those who demand justice for the killing of George Floyd and other unarmed Black men and women, and those who are experiencing anti-blackness whose Black humanity remains unrecognized. The evil of racism has brought pain and unimaginable levels of suffering and oppression and missed opportunities for people of color. We recognize it can take the form of implicit bias to outright torture and death.
Our patients know well the experience of torture and oppression by government actors, including the police, for standing up for what is right. Those specific experiences have led our patients to flee their homelands in search of safety. The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects the right to freedom of religion and the free exercise thereof, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the right to peaceably assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances – all of which is currently being demonstrated from one coast to the other.
Although the motto of police forces is to protect citizens and serve the community, a failure to uphold these duties results in the erosion of trust in the police and innocent people experience countless transgressions. When discriminatory or racist attitudes filter into other parts of society, the result is systemic violence, health disparities, massive incarceration, hopelessness, and denial of basic human rights. Against this background is how COVID-19 has disproportionately affected communities of color, especially African-Americans. We stand with torture survivors and communities whose members have been deeply affected by the unlawfulness of authorities.
The murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and others are an immense tragedy, and the consequence of white supremacy and the structural racism that is ingrained in the foundation of our institutions, and which continue to plague us today. The brutal and unconscionable torture and murder of George Floyd witnessed by the world is an act of dehumanization and blatant disregard for the life of a Black person.
We hope that we are truly at a tipping point that will usher in a just society for everyone regardless of their race, gender, age, sexual orientation, immigration status, and background. However, we are collectively responsible at individual, community, and institutional levels for identifying and addressing the ease with which our society and its actors (us) engage with and enable anti-blackness. We must seek to right the wrongs. Doing so will require reflection and action by all elements of society.
The Bail Project bailproject.org
Equal Justice Initiative eji.org
Thank you to those who are responding to our call for Visa cards for clients who are unable to buy food and basic items during this time. The cards have been sent to clients in the greatest need and we are so thankful for your support! For anyone else who would like to help our clients by purchasing Visa cards or International Phone cards, please visit our Amazon Wish List:
To our patient family and friends
of the Center,
During these unusual times, the Boston Center for Refugee Health and Human Rights at the Boston Medical Center’s Immigrant and Refugee Health Center, is concerned about the health of all clients and staff. We are taking measures to ensure that we do not increase the spread of the coronavirus and are now conducting all of our work remotely, including doing all therapy over the phone. This allows clients to continue sessions with our staff while also practicing the social distancing techniques recommended by the health care community.
At this time, clinicians and social workers at Boston Center for Refugee Health and Human Rights (BCRHHR) will still be available to clients during regular work hours (from 9am-5pm, Monday – Friday). However, we are no longer able to accept in-person appointments or walk-ins. For those seeking our services, please contact Dana Rous at firstname.lastname@example.org or (617) 414-4648.
For those in immediate need of our assistance, please call the Samaritan line at (877) 870-4673.
Call or Text 24/7.
For attorneys who believe that their clients may be in need of an affidavit immediately, please indicate that on your referrals to BCRHHR. Please find the referral form by visiting this page: https://www.bcrhhr.org/make-a-referral
As the situation continues to unfold, please check our website regularly for any updated information about our services:
To Donate Visa cards, International phone cards and Uber cards to our clients, please visit our Amazon Wishlist:
Resources for refugees and asylum seekers
If you are feeling like you need to speak with someone immediately, you can call the
Samaritan Line at
(877) 870-HOPE (4673) |
Call or Text 24/7
To view more information on their website, click HERE
OR Call B.E.S.T.
(Boston Emergency Services team)
To view more information on their website, click HERE
Food Pantries are still open! To find out hours and information about food resources in your area call the
Food Source Hotline: 1-800-645-8333
If you are looking for more information about the hospital’s response to the coronavirus, please check
the hospital’s website by clicking HERE
There is a special website for immigrants and asylum seekers who have corona virus questions made by lawyers, which you can view by clicking
This is the Official Website of America’s Medical Office for Viruses – it is called the CDC or Center for Disease Control. You can learn more by clicking
This is a website with information in charts so you can view pictures for easier understanding by clicking
Caring Communities Info. Session on Zoom:
To learn more about our center, our clients and how you can help, please join our next Caring Communities Info. Session on July 28th, 12noon- 1pm
Email Robbie Adams to register &
receive the Zoom link:
BCRHHR staff at De Novo's Award Ceremony.
April 29, 2019, De Novo Center for Justice & Healing presented the 2019 Dr. Joseph H. Brenner Award to the Boston Center for Refugee Health and Human Rights (BCRHHR) at their annual Volunteer Appreciation event. Read More...
Dr. Lin Piwowarczyk with the Goldman Family.
Open Avenues Foundation presented it's 2018 Humanitarian Award to Dr. Lin Piwowarczyk at the “Response to Migrant Family Separation Crisis Fundraiser” on September 27, 2018 at the Intercontinental Hotel in Boston for her twenty years of work providing mental health services to refugees and survivors of torture. Read more...
“I am very sincerely grateful to Boston Refugee Center for rescuing and healing me from my fears, sickness, hopelessness, tension, loneliness, poverty, and death.”
– An Asylee from Sub-Saharan Africa