Learning Unlimited – 2nd annual seminar

Freedom from Torture at the Second Annual Seminar
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Freedom from Torture at the Second Annual Seminar

The second annual Learning Unlimited seminar took place on Friday 7th June, and we were delighted to welcome so  many friends and colleagues old and new. Our  keynote speaker, Keith Best, CEO of the charity Freedom from Torture, spoke movingly and passionately about the impact of torture on its victims. He highlighted the trauma of  both the literal and metaphorical journey to  safety and –  possibly – to recovery,
observing that it is a process that can  stretch for years or for lifetimes. And  he  forcefully reminded us how current  immigration policy can often make it worse – in particular what he called the ‘culture of  mistrust’ that means many genuine victims of  torture are routinely disbelieved when they  attempt to explain what has happened to  them.

Fire and Ice at the Second Annual Seminar
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Fire and Ice at the Second Annual Seminar

We next heard two dialogues  – based on the real experience and testimony of two victims of torture – performed by the Ice and Fire theatre company, followed by a very moving account of his own experience of surviving torture from Kolbassia Haoussou, of the Survivors Speak Out group.

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Survivor’s speak out at the Second Annual Seminar

These three testimonies together reminded all present of the truly  ‘front line’ nature of much of our work. Many of us will have encountered victims of torture and persecution in our classes, and we will have recognised the rights of such learners to our support and, in many cases, advocacy. Yet for many present – perhaps especially those of us involved in ESOL – the evening will also have raised some nagging questions about the relationship between language teaching and the ‘gatekeeping’ functions of citizenship requirements.