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A Nigerian police unit set up to combat violent crime has instead been systematically torturing detainees in its custody as a means of extracting confessions and lucrative bribes, Amnesty International said in a report published on 21 September 2016.


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Thus, migration detention is a primary research field in which the perspectives of migration scholars and clinical psychologists meet. A linking concept evolves in the study of torture as a means of deterrence (e.g. Bhatia and Bruce-Jones, 2021; Brooker et al., 2017; Pérez-Sales, 2018). Still, research often remains within its disciplinary boundaries. The present study aims at crossing these boundaries with an interdisciplinary investigation of migration detention as torturing environments in the particular case of the US-Mexican migration regimeFootnote 1. In this study, we geographically focus on the Mexican territory, especially on its Southern border. While the mental health impact of the detention facilities on the US side of the border has been scrutinised from multiple disciplines (e.g. MacLean et al., 2019; Ochoa et al., 2010; Saadi et al., 2020), clinical research on the Mexican immigration detention facilities is scarce.

Our findings emphasise that detention in the estaciones migratorias meets the criteria of a torturing environment (Pérez-Sales et al., 2021) with lasting impacts for the mental health of the detainees. The mixed method results suggest that they reach beyond the duration of detention and lead to prolonged mental distress, social exclusion and inequality.

To address the impact of the migration detention centres, this research builds mainly on the first section of the Torturing Environment Scale (TES, Pérez-Sales, 2016). The TES is a validated instrument that indicates whether an environment can be considered torturing. Its original version was published in Spanish. Translations into English and French are available.

Taken together, 44 items of the eight above-mentioned subscales were included with either four or eight items each. Total values were calculated for each subscale. Values in single TES subscales of five or more indicate the existence of a torturing environment. Yet, it is important to notice, that the TES is not supposed to measure the suffering of persons (Pérez-Sales et al., 2021). Its indication of exposure to a torturing environment can be bound to a person having suffered from torture but does not necessarily equal it.Footnote 4 Still, the TES allows to explore correlations with clinical variables.

Figure 2 shows descriptive statistics of the TES subscales, as well as frequencies of options and cut-off criteria indicating a torturing environment. For an overview of the psychological stressors and environmental factors, frequency counts of the individual items were prepared (see Tables 2 and 3).

The following findings describe torturing environments as measured by the TES. Figure 2 plots the means and standard deviations for the subscales of the TES. Table 3 shows the tendencies of the answers per item according to all subscales. Figure 2 and Table 3 show the mean scores and variance of all subscales.

Especially the intentional infliction of post-migration stressors such as the emergence of torturing environments should be discussed: although human rights organisations have documented systematic torture in migration detention all over the globe (e.g. Amnesty International 2019, 2020a, 2020b; Global Detention Project, 2014; Kiama and Likule, 2013), scientific research of torture and its implications for the detainees within migration detention is sparse and focuses mainly on the detention of torture survivors (Storm & Engberg, 2013). Only some studies show that detention conditions might have a torturing impact (Hárdi et al., 2016; Perez-Sales, 2016).

Citing statements from prosecutors in court records, The Oregonian reported that Foster had tried to kill the Grants Pass victim while "intentionally torturing" her and confining her "in a place where she was not likely to be found." A fundraiser for the woman, who has not been publicly identified, said she is 35 years old and suffered severe injuries to her face and neck, it added. 041b061a72

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