Erioth Mwesigwa’s case refused – more help needed

Thanks to the 100s of people who wrote in support of Ms Mwesigwa, a victim of multiple rape by soldiers in Uganda, targeted because her husband, a prominent local politician, was suspected of opposing the President. Last Friday Ms Mwesigwa stopped her removal by refusing to go with the Yarl’s Wood guards when they came to take her to the airport. But the guards warned her that “next time” she would be physically forced onto the plane back to Uganda.

Ms Mwesigwa has been told that if she wants to appeal she has to do it from Uganda. This is both cruel and absurd. She won’t even have anywhere to live or means to feed herself, let alone access to lawyers and other support to pursue a legal case.

Ms Mwesigwa is still in great danger and needs your help to demand the Home Secretary allows her the right to an appeal in the UK. Ms Mwesigwa is a dedicated member of the All African Women’s Group which has organized a protest this Monday outside the Home Office. Ms Mwesigwa called to say:

“I do not understand why the Home Office gave refugee status to my ex-husband, who thankfully was able to escape with our children before anything terrible happened, yet refuses it to me when I was the one unable to get out in time and so suffered the terrible consequences. It took many years for me to escape from Uganda after the imprisonment and rapes. I lived those years in constant fear; hiding from place to place, rarely leaving the house and only in darkness. I had lost all hope, self-confidence, and nearly my mind. Finally I was found and ordered to make my husband come back to Uganda. My friends told me that I would be killed and organized my escape to the UK. It is here that I have found people who love and care for me. The men who abused me in Uganda are still in positions of authority. I can never go back and be safe.”

On Friday a High Court judge refused to grant an injunction stopping any further attempts to send Ms Mwesigwa back to Uganda.

WAR is writing in support of Ms Mwesigwa application for the High Court to get an oral hearing to investigate her case. We say her case has been dealt with unjustly:
• Ms Mwesigwa was imprisoned and raped because the President suspected her husband of being his political opponent. Ms Mwesigwa was told by the Home Office that she could go back to Uganda while her husband was given refugee status in the UK.
• The Home Office said Ms Mwesigwa has not shown “lack of state protection in Uganda”, that is she should have reported to the police that she was raped by soldiers. The UK Home Office is willfully ignoring the masses of evidence that show that rape survivors generally in Uganda can’t get protection from the police, let alone if your attackers are soldiers.
• Evidence of the ongoing and devastating impact of rape on Ms Mwesigwa has been ignored because she has not been able to get the resources and help needed to recover.
• No account has been taken of the terrible situation she would face if returned to Uganda.
• Her “enforceable right” as a victim of torture (accepted by the Home Office) under the UN Convention Against Torture to the “means for as full rehabilitation as possible” has been completely ignored. Instead she faces being sent back to Uganda where she has no-one to turn to for help, where she would be destitute and fears further rape and other violence.
• Ms Mwesigwa was accused by the judge of deliberately delaying her legal action to the last minute. But the delay was entirely the fault of Ms Mwesigwa’s previous lawyer at ROCK Solicitors. Despite taking £300 off her to pursue a Judicial Review, he failed to even return her calls for two months let alone do anything on her legal case.

Please write to Amber Rudd MP, the Home Secretary, to demand:
• That Ms Mwesigwa is given the right to an appeal in the UK.
• That government guidelines preventing the detention of vulnerable women are implemented and that Ms Mwesigwa, as a rape survivor, is released.

If you have written to the Home Secretary and not received a reply write again and protest to your own MP asking her/him to contact the Home Secretary on your behalf. Both the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister are women. What is the point of having women in high places if they pursue the same callous, sexist, racist policies as their male counterpart?

Please send your letter to:
Rt. Honourable Amber Rudd
Home Secretary
Home Office
2 Marsham Street, London, SW1P 4DF
Tel: 020 7035 4848
Email: privateoffice.external@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk

Please copy your letter to Ms Mwesigwa’s MP, Harriet Harman: harriet.harman.mp@parliament.uk

And to Women Against Rape: asylumfromrape@womenagainstrape.net

ERIOTH MWESIGWA, released from detention, but still fighting for the right to stay

We, the All African Women’s Group, send thanks from the bottom of our hearts for all the support you gave to our precious sister Erioth Mwesigwa. Erioth is a 58-year-old woman from Uganda who suffered multiple rape by soldiers in Uganda. She was persecuted because her husband was suspected of opposing the President. Her husband, who managed to escape with their children, was granted refugee status but when Erioth asked for the same she was turned down. Erioth was detained pending removal to Uganda. But she refused to go with the guards to the airport and on 23 February won her release from Yarl’s Wood IRC. She has asked us to send you this message.

“Inside Yarl’s Wood you are cut off from the whole world and everyone. I can’t express how happy and uplifted I felt to hear that people outside were thinking about me. It gave me courage so that, even though I was frightened, I refused to go with the guards when they came to take me to the airport.

“Rape makes you feel empty and alone. You start hating yourself and feel like everyone can see what has happened to you. The All African Women’s Group has given me hope because we are open with each other about what we have gone through and I know I’m not alone.”

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Women Against Rape are helping Erioth document how the traumatic impact of rape has made it so difficult to pursue her legal case, so that lawyers can ask the Home Secretary to reconsider her asylum claim. We will be getting back to you once the application has been made to ask for your support again.

All African Women’s Group (AAWG), Crossroads Women’s Centre, 25 Wolsey Mews, London NW5 2DX. Email: aawg02@googlemail.com. Phone: 020 7482 2496

From Ms PB who won £38 000 in compensation for unlawful detention

“I have been granted leave to remain in the UK.  I can not express my appreciation to Women Against Rape who played a vital role to make this day come true.

They called me almost every week while I was in Yarl’s Wood IRC and gave me moral support and encouraged me to be strong. I remember how we spoke on the phone while I was being driven to the airport to be deported to my country. They said, a barrister had been sent to court to stop my removal. I was nonplussed to know that people were out there fighting for me. They struggled to get me one of the best existing solicitors. Victory became mine since she started to represent me. WAR also wrote a letter concerning the rape I suffered and why some women can not report rape early.
I owe my victory today to Women Against Rape. The self-help guide* they sent to the detention centre in Bedford was a vital tool to channel me to this stage. Once more , I say thank you all.”

* For Asylum Seekers and their Supporters: A Self-Help Guide against detention & deportation by Legal Action for Women, 2005

Landmark damages for rape survivor detained unlawfully including interview with BBC Radio 4
£38,000 for asylum seeker illegally detained in UK the Guardian 10 March 2008