Living under “lockdown” – Gloria, All African Women’s Group

When did you come to the UK?

I’ve been in the UK since 2002.  I was forced to leave [Uganda] because I feared for my life.  I was married to an extremely violent, controlling and powerful man who was able to abuse me and get away with it as he had many friends among the police. When I came here I lived underground for two years.  I didn’t know I could claim asylum – but I knew going back would put me in danger as I heard he was still looking for me. So I applied for indefinite leave to remain but was refused.  

What is my current situation?

I did odd jobs to survive, looking after children, cleaning – housework. Sometimes I wasn’t paid because they took my money for food and living cost. In 2007 I started relationship with a British national who knew my situation.  Soon after he began to abuse and insult me. I was desperate to leave him, but with nowhere to go and no one to help me I suffered in silence.  In 2019 I was picked up by the immigration authorities and taken into Yarl’s Wood Detention Centre.  My partner didn’t help.  It was inside that hell hole that I came across a copy of Legal Action for Women’s SH Guide for Asylum seekers. I read it from cover to cover and finally understood my rights. I put in an asylum claim. It was very painful as I was forced to recall some of the dreadful things that happened to me. I was released after a few days. I went straight to the Crossroads Women’s Centre, the best decision of my life, I was able to smile again.  I joined AAWG and volunteered every week until the lockdown.  With their support I grown in confidence determined to fight not only for myself but for the many 1000s of women like me who don’t know who to turn to.

The CORVID pandemic – has made our live which were already fragile even harsher.  My accommodation set up has no nowhere to have quiet/private time.  It’s mental torture and brings back memories of being in detention.  I’m trapped with a man who knows he can do what he likes.  I tread on eggshells every day to avoid firing him up.  I manage to find a way to speak with women in GWAD most days and join the weekly phone meetings. This precious time stops me from going crazy because I can hear a friendly voice with genuine concern that lifts my spirits. 

What I fear in coming forward for help

Many charities that we have turned to for help, have been working in cahoots with the Home Office.  We don’t know who we can trust and fear of being reported to the authorities.   With no money of my own I’m at the mercy of my “host”.  I’m trying to get financial help from NASS– it will be small, but having any money will give me a little more independence.  Despite the awful situation I’m in – with CORVID – it would be far more dangerous to move.  I would have to start over again in another city where I don’t know anyone – I’ve had to do that too many times in my life already.

What changes would you like to see?

Women like me were destitute and in “quarantine” long before CORVID – I would like to see people getting our papers, to access accommodation and healthcare. Everyone must be released from detention and have the right to live.  People back home are in lock down and even worse eking out a living from hand to mouth without food or running water – never mind hand sanitiser.

Is there anything else you think is important?

Women are the main carers in this world – we make sure our households, animals and crops survive come rain, drought or virus – yet we get now money for this. We must have a care income for our work – that’s what I think is important to fight for now and win!

AMNESTY FROM DEPORTATION, ACCESS TO HEALTH, HOUSING AND FOOD

SIGN THE PETITION HERE

An Open Letter to the Prime Minister of the UK and the Taoiseach of Ireland

cc:   UK Home Secretary and UK Health Secretary,
Irish Health Secretary and Irish Minister for Justice and Equality,
All UK MPs, All Members of the Irish Parliament (the Oireachtas),
All Leaders and CEOs of Local Authorities and Health Services in the UK, All CEOs of Councils and Health Services in Ireland, Professor Neil Ferguson, Imperial College, London, Dr. Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer, Ireland, Prof Ruairi Brugha, Professor of Public Health and Epidemiology, Ireland

27th March 2020

Dear Sirs

RE: ACCESS TO HEALTHCARE, HOUSING AND FOOD FOR ALL

We call upon the British and Irish States to act immediately so that all undocumented, destitute and migrant people in the legal process in both the UK and Ireland are granted Status Now, as in Leave to Remain.  In this way every human, irrespective of their nationality or citizenship can access healthcare, housing, food and the same sources of income from the State as everyone else.  

Everyone has the right to be in an environment where they can follow the Public Health directives necessary to limit COVID19 viral transmission to the absolute minimum and to care for themselves, their loved ones and their living and working communities.

It is imperative – being in everyone’s best interests – that the basic needs of all are met.

People living in extreme poverty and/or destitution and/or without immigration status in the UK or Ireland and/or without access to the NHS or the Irish Health System:

•             Are unable to socially isolate as needed
•             Cannot access health care, and income and other social support
•             Cannot contribute openly and without fear, to making the population as safe as possible, alongside everyone else. 

Key Points
–              Currently, migrant people who are in the legal system cannot keep physically safe on their allowances, because those allowances don’t amount to enough money to eat healthily, or buy and apply appropriate cleaning materials, and many are living in accommodation where they cannot socially isolate as they may want and need to.

–              People who are destitute and/or undocumented and living in the shadows fear what will happen to them if they identify themselves, cannot access healthcare, emergency shelter and food, nor report or seek protection from domestic violence, rape, exploitation and other abuses – levels of which are already rising.

Please direct your responses, as a matter of urgency obviously, to admin@rapar.org.uk

Yours sincerely,

All African Women’s Group
ATD Fourth World
BASW Cymru – British Association of Social Workers, Cymru
BFAWU – Bakers’, Food & Allied Workers Union
Black Women’s Rape Action Project
Comhlamh
Commonword/Cultureword
DocsNotCops
Doncaster Conversation Club
DPAC – Disabled People Against Cuts
EYST Wales – Ethnic Minorities and Youth Support Team, Wales
GDWG – Gatwick Detainees Welfare Group
Haringey Welcome
Highly Skilled Migrants UK
Legal Action for Women
Lichfield City of Sanctuary
Lichfield Refugee Aid
Lichfield Quaker Meeting
Manchester City of Sanctuary
MASI – Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland
Medical Professionals in the UK Seeking Registration
Middle East Solidarity Magazine
Migrants Rights Network
MOJUK – Miscarriages of Justice UK
MRRC – Manchester Refugee Rights Collective
No-Deportations – Residence Papers for All
Oldham Unity
Positive Action in Housing
Poverty Truth Community
Project 17
Public Interest Law Centre
QARN – Quaker Asylum and Refugee Network
RAPAR – Refugee and Asylum seeker Participatory Action Research
Remodel
Samphire
Reclaim the Power
Women of Colour/Global Women’s Strike

(Preliminary Signatories)

NEWS FLASH: Victory after living for 17 years in limbo!

Ms O from Cote D’Ivoire – announces today 3 March 2020 that she has finally won refugee status.

Speaking at today’s self-help session (which BWRAP helps coordinate) Ms O described how the immigration judge at her appeal hearing intervened to stop the Home Office barrister from putting intrusive and upsetting questions to her about her experiences.

One of the French-speaking sisters in the session translated for her – “I hardly knew what was happening in the hearing because when the Home Office started interrogating me I broke down with my hands in my head. The judge was so angry and told them to stop. Last week I got a call from my barrister who confirmed I can finally stay here – I’m so happy after living so many years destitute and suffering terrible things here in the UK too. I thank everyone for their support over all these years“.

Ms O’s victory is the latest in a series of fantastic successes at Appeal by women using our collective self-help support overturning racist and sexist decisions in the Home Office’s hostile environment.

Come to the Crossroads Women’s Centre International Women’s Day event to find out more about our work and how you can get involved. . .

Urgent Christmas appeal for destitute women and children

Dear Friends,

As Christmas and the school holidays are almost here, we write to ask again if you could kindly donate to our annual Christmas appeal for destitute women and children in the All African Women’s Group (AAWG) — the self-help group of women asylum seekers based with us at the Crossroads Women’s Centre. About 2/3 of women in the AAWG have been in detention and many of them are mothers, some are lesbian women. Each year we have been able to ensure that women have some money in their hands to cover essentials over the holiday period when they are without the usual support, including food and second hand clothes, that the Centre provides.

We appreciate that the people we approach for help often don’t have much themselves and are always amazed at the generosity, lovely comments and good wishes we receive.

Last year people as a result of this generosity, we were able to give 50 women a one-off payment of approximately £50 with which they were able to buy food and other essentials. We worked together to distribute the money raised.  A third of women at AAWG meetings, are destitute without any income.Many are suffering from physical and mental health problems from rape and other torture that they suffered.

Like millions of people in this country women are dependent on food banks throughout the year. Some women are on National Asylum Support but can barely survive on the weekly allowance of £37. Some are living in terrible slum housing with abusive landlords who take advantage of their vulnerable position. Mothers are particularly desperate. Having a little cash in their hands means that women get some respite from dependency and the grinding worry of how they are going to survive the day or week.

Women who are fighting for asylum knowing that their lives would be in danger if they were sent back are able to get help and support with this too. Using LAW’s Self -Help Asylum Guidewomen take part in weekly work sessions with Black Women’s Rape Action Project and Women Against Rape to work on their own and each other’s cases,  including taking calls from women in detention. All are encouraged and strengthened by the collective work at the Centre.

Women also speak at public events about the often hidden situation of women seeking asylum.With the climate crisis at the forefront of everyone’s minds, AAWG women have been speakingas farmers and as mothers, the primary carers in every society, who do the work of ensuring that people are fed, and who have been evicted or seen their land destroyed by environmental devastation.

This year we have had more lovely victories including a young woman from Albania who was at risk of honour killing if returned to her home country who won her case after nine years. Yet even having won this  may not be the end of the struggle as some women are fighting for housing years after winning their status and many are still fighting to be reunited with children they were forced to leave behind when they fled.

We are trying to raise at least £2000 to ensure that the women who regularly attend AAWG’s monthlyself-help meetings get a small cash payment. Anything you can give, no matter how small, will help.

Best wishes,

Niki Adams

How to donate:

  1. Through Crossroads Women’s Christmas Asylum Appeal 2019 fundraising page. If you are a taxpayer the value of your donation is increased by 20% atno extra cost to yourself if you choose to add Gift Aid to your donation.
  2. Money transfer to Legal Action for Women, Unity Trust Bank, account number – 50728361, sort code – 086001.  If donating online or direct into our account, we would appreciate an email to let us know. 
  3. By cheque, payable to Legal Action for Women – please specify that you are donating in response to the Christmas Appeal.

If you would like to donate non-perishable food, toiletries or other essential items, these would also be very much appreciated.  They can be delivered any day before 19 December to the Women’s Centre in Kentish Town (25 Wolsey Mews, NW5 2DX).

Thank You!

Legal Action for Women

 law@allwomencount.net  
Crossroads Women’s Centre, 25 Wolsey Mews, NW5 2DX Tel: 020 7482 2496

London women tell UN poverty envoy about impact of welfare cuts

Residents of deprived Newham describe domestic abuse and hunger to Philip Alston

Women in London have told the UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty they are bearing the brunt of government welfare cuts, and described how austerity has left infants homeless and exacerbated problems including overcrowded housing and domestic violence.

More than a dozen women addressed Philip Alston at a highly charged meeting in Newham, east London, and urged him to tackle British ministers over the disproportionate effects on women of eight years of spending cuts.

A group including many immigrants told the human rights lawyer that as a result of austerity measures, some had been driven to sell sex, some had faced increased domestic abuse and others had been denied the ability to bring up their children properly.

One woman with a baby strapped to her back spoke through tears about how she fled domestic violence only to be made to wait for 20 hours at a social security office where she became so hungry she had to drink her child’s milk.

Alston arrived in one of the poorest boroughs in the capital on the eighth day of his tour of the UK, in which he has been examining extreme poverty, austerity, welfare changes and the impact of Brexit.

Reducing poverty was one of the specific legacy goals of the 2012 Olympic Games, which Newham helped host. Between 2010 and 2015, the borough rose out of the 20 most deprived neighbourhoods in England, but local activists say this improvement was not spread evenly across the borough, with areas directly around the sporting venues enjoying increased prosperity while others suffered.

Last year, child poverty in the borough was the third worst in the UK behind Tower Hamlets and Manchester. After housing costs, 43% of children were living below the poverty line, according to analysis of official figures by the charity End Child Poverty.

Among those who addressed Alston was Jane Williams of the Magpie Project. Her organisation has helped 215 of the estimated 2,000 homeless families with children under five who live in the borough. Williams said children had nowhere to play or be potty-trained, mothers could not sleep as several children shared a room, and some were spending one-third of their incomes on milk formula.

She read out testimony from one of the projects’ clients: “They have taken everything from me but my body. What do they want me to do? Do they want me to sell my body?”

Trinity*, a mother of a nine-year-old, told Alston: “A lot of women are forced into poverty and into prostitution. I have been destitute and homeless from one place to another.” She said she survived an attempted rape and had boiling water poured on her when she resisted.

Paula Peters, from Disabled People Against Cuts, described the difficulty of a a 54-year-old carer in accessing universal credit, including seven attempts to fill out online forms, as well as needing to borrow money to eat and at one point not eating for a week.

Another woman’s benefits were sanctioned, Peters said, “because she didn’t look happy” at a meeting with the welfare officer.

Another woman unfurled a banner in front of Alston with the names and photos of dozens of people said to have died as a result of benefit sanctions and austerity.

Alston told the group: “It will be interesting to me to ascertain the extent to which the authorities are really aware of the sort of issues you presented, the extent to which they have tracked those impacts of those policies.”

Alston will spend the rest of this week in London having meetings with Esther McVey, the work and pensions secretary, and John Glen, the economic secretary to the Treasury, as well as officials at departments including the Department for Exiting the European Union.

He will then draft a report to be delivered at a press conference on Friday. It will examine how the UK government, councils and devolved assemblies have been handling extreme poverty, the impacts of austerity policies and the roll-out of universal credit.

Alston is also expected to address Brexit and whether it might deepen poverty in some areas of the country, and will look at how the increasing reliance on computers to deliver welfare and even make judgments about benefit decisions using algorithms will affect people.

Several women described how universal credit could “facilitate economic abuse” between men and women, because it is normally paid in a single payment. Requesting split payments in violent households could escalate abuse, one woman said.

A mother of two who gave her name as Doris said she had lived in 40 places in the past decade as a result of welfare insecurity. “I have said to my sons: if you could come back as a woman, would you? They said no way, not the way you’ve been been treated,” she said.

*Trinity was one of the women from our centre at the hearing, she is a member of the All African Women’s Group.

Fantastic news: single donation of £1000 received for Brigitte & her daughters!!!

Brigitte’s pro-bono legal team at Kingsley Napley have just announced that they will cover the full cost of her daughters air fares! 

Brigitte is overwhelmed by the kindness and the generosity, not only of her solicitors, but of everyone who has been moved to make immediate donations.  A further £172 has been received so far.  These and any further donations will be used to cover additional/inevitable costs incurred by moving from the DRC and settling here in London.

Thank you all for your care and support for Brigitte and her children.  We will be back in touch once they are with us!

Black Women’s Rape Action Project. 

Brigitte Nongo-Wa-Kitwa, one of All African Women’s Group’s (AAWG) longest standing members, is finally to be reunited with her two daughters after a traumatic thirteen year forced separation.  Her daughters have just been granted their “indefinite leave to remain” visas.  However, the authorities have only given them a “30 day window” to reach Britain otherwise their visas will expire!

Brigitte urgently needs to raise £1000 just to cover the girls fares from Kinshasa to London.  Since time is running out for Brigitte and her daughters, we hope you will please give as quickly and generously as you can.

Thank you.

BACKGROUND

Brigitte fled the Democratic Republic of Congo having been detained and tortured in prison by the authorities for her own and her family’s involvement in the opposition movement.  Once in the UK she spent seven years fighting for the right to stay whilst doing what she could to find her five children who were lost to her.

In 2013, with BWRAP’s help, Brigitte won indefinite leave to remain but was denied the right to automatic family reunion.  Later that year, miraculously, she found two of her daughters alive in DRC, but living in terrible conditions.  She wanted to bring them to Britain, but couldn’t afford to pay a lawyer. BWRAP was able to secure pro bono representation from Katie Newbury at Kingsley Napley and Rebecca Chapman at 2 Garden Court. Applications for family reunion were made in May 2016, but rejected three months later. None of the evidence so painstakingly gathered was addressed.  Statements from her daughters detailing their vulnerability to destitution, the history of the abuse they had suffered after Brigitte fled, and the traumatic impact that ongoing separation had on them, were dismissed and ignored.

Brigitte appealed.  BWRAP and Women Against Rape gave witness testimony at her hearing and Brigitte was supported by 19 women from AAWG all crammed into a tiny court. Unlike some judges who dislike public scrutiny, Judge Lingam thanked everyone for attending.

Finally in March 2018, Judge Lingham granted Brigitte the right to family reunion in Britain – a monumental victory. It could never have happened without a mother who refused to give up, a dedicated team of women campaigners and a legal team all ready to put their expertise and their hearts into the struggle together.  Brigitte says:

I’ve watched other mothers like me live for the moment they’re precious children come back. Words cannot express what we feel, but we know that no mother or child anywhere in the world should have to suffer so much to live together.

To donate, please mark your donation: “Brigitte’s Appeal”

Bank transfer: HSBC Account name: Black Women’s Rape Action Project, Account No: 61635581 Sort Code: 40-04-04

Or via PayPal: Black Women’s Rape Action Project.

More information: Tel 020 7482 2496, email bwrap@rapeaction.net

Statement against the Family Returns Process . . . END DETENTION, END DEPORTATION, WE ALL HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE HERE

We are the All African Women’s Group. Many of us have been in detention. We know the terrible impact it has. Women are on hunger strike right now against the torture of detention. We want an end to detention,but we do
not want a worse alternative. We object particularly to the Family Returns Process

Women for Refugee Women (WfRW) are saying that the Family Returns Process (FRP) should be extended to all asylum seekers. Their report The Way Ahead (2017) describes FRP as an “Area of Success to Build on in the UK”. Interviewed on Woman’s Hour last week their spokeswoman said: “We now have this process called the Family Return Process which supports families with children under 18 to stay in the community up to the point they actually leave the UK, so yes there needs to be a system but that system doesn’t need to include detention.”

WfRW are having a lobby of parliament on 8 March and we are worried that the Family Returns Process will be put forward to members of parliament as what women asylum seekers want.

We are against the Family Returns Process because its main focus is to deport us. It coins the words “support” and “engagement” as a cover for enforced removals. We do not accept that people should have to go back.

A report of the FRP says: “While some organisations believe families who want to stay here should never be returned home, they are few in number.” We are not few in number and our voices should be heard because we know best what horrors we face on return. We all have the right to be here in the UK. African and other Third World people have contributed over centuries to the wealth in the UK. We have suffered enough through imperial conquest, slave trades, proxy wars, Western backed dictatorships, rape and other torture…and through long treacherous journeys getting to the UK.

What we need are committed reliable lawyers to help us with our cases to overcome the terrible injustice we face. Most of the time when we make an application to the Home Office we are disbelieved, no matter what we say and what evidence we have. We want help enforcing our rights to be treated fairly as victims of rape and other torture and as vulnerable people. The Home Office has absolutely no interest in justice.

The FRP has four stages:

  1. ‘Family return conference’ to discuss any barriers to return.
  2. ‘Family departure meeting’ to discuss the family’s views about their options.
  3. ‘Required return’ where the family make their own way to the airport.
  4. ‘Ensured return’ reviewed by an “Independent Family Returns Panel”.

THIS PANEL IS NOT INDEPENDENT – it is funded by the Home Office. As a last resort detention for up to a week and enforced return is used.

The FRP says children can be forcibly returned with “the use of physical intervention”. Guidelines for restraining children are based on those used in secure units which include “the deliberate infliction of pain”.

The FRP report slanders mothers and accuses them of child abuse for not agreeing to enforced return: “Children have been subjected to unacceptable pressure from parents not to co-operate with Home Office officials and where such cases occur it is a form of child abuse.” How many children have been and will be taken from their parents with this excuse?

The FRP also slanders lawyers saying that “legal representatives lodge legal objections to removal at the last minute in order, it seems, to frustrate the process.” How dare they say that. We are women who have suffered rape and other torture and the Home Office makes it as difficult as possible for our case to be heard. Legal aid cuts have made it almost impossible to find reliable lawyers to help us. When we have the good fortune to find a lawyer to intervene they accuse us of abusing the system – not that the system abuses us.

WE DEMAND:

  • An end to detention and the immediate release of mothers and children, pregnant women, survivors of rape and other torture, people who are mentally or physically sick and other vulnerable people. Meet the hunger strikers demands.
  • Reinstate legal aid for all asylum and immigration cases to ensure people get a chance of a fair hearing against the Home Office racism, sexism and determination to deport no matter how unjustly.
  • No NGO collaboration with, and promotion of, so-called “voluntary” and “family returns”, and any other government processes that depend on injustice, destitution, detention and forced deportations to drive asylum seekers out.

Signed: All African Women’s Group (80 members)

Supported by: Black Women’s Rape Action Project; Brighton Anti-Raids Network; Brighton Migrant Solidarity; Brighton Plan C; Demilitarise King’s, Detained Voices; End Deportations; Jollof Café (Brighton); KCL Action Palestine, Legal Action for Women; Lesbian & Gays Support the Migrants; RAPAR (Refugee and Asylum Seeker Participatory Action Research); SOAS Detainee Support Group;Sussex Refugee and Migrant Self Support Group; Women Against Rape;Women of Colour in the Global Women’s Strike;  North East London Migrant Action (NELMA); Gazelle Maria, Oxford; Zeenat Suleman, London

UPDATE: Yarl’s Wood Hunger Strike: “They’re trying to break us down”

STOP PRESS:  Emergency Demo Solidarity with Yarl’s Wood hunger strikers
4-5pm, Wed 28 Feb, outside the Home Office, Marsham Street, SW1P 4DF.
Called by Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants: co-hosted with All African Women’s Group, Black Women’s Rape Action Project, Docs Not Cops, End Deportations, Right to Remain, SOAS Detainee Support, The London Latinxs, and others

Update:  Yarl’s Wood Hunger Strike . . .  for immediate release

They’re trying to break us down but we’re not about to give in to them or their threats

“Theresa” currently on hunger strike told us that they are being denied the right to fax statements about their conditions and demands.  She said “we are about 20 women and 14 men taking complete hunger strike . . .  yesterday our statement was confiscated by an officer called Claire. Today we tried to send faxes of our demands from [the] health care [area] where we are holding a silent protest.  After we faxed, 2 officers came following us and tried to take our papers away . . . I refused to give them – tell the director to come pick them from me himself.”

Theresa says that threats have been made by the director Steven Hewer to take “trouble –makers” to prison – “protesters are being called to the Home Office one by one, supposedly to address our demands but instead they are updating people on their individual cases. . . our protest is a peaceful quiet one and we don’t appreciate having the threat of HMP prisons directed at us”.

Over and over again women protesting in Yarl’s Wood have been targeted for punishment– and the same goes for protesters against detention around the world.  See our sister Maru who has been targeted for deportation in the US.

From mothers threatened with being deported without their children to rape survivors who haven’t been able to speak about what they suffered in the “hostile environment” in which asylum claims are considered, women in Yarl’s Wood face removal without having had a fair hearing.  Sexism, racism and other discrimination result in the Home Office routinely refusing to believe women, flouting its own instructions about how it should treat “Gender Issues in the Asylum Claim”.  Legal aid cuts deprive women of legal representation and advice, and vital evidence to pursue appeals, instead judges “rubber stamp” Home Office refusals flouting their own guidance on how they should treat “vulnerable witnesses”.  Their cases having been unjustly closed, women face destitution, detention and deportation.

All African Women’s Group, Black Women’s Rape Action Project and Women Against Rape support the hunger strikers who are demanding:

  1. Shorter bail request periods [quicker bail hearings]
    2. Amnesty for those who have lived in the UK 10 years and above
  2. End indefinite detention
  3. End Charter flights
    5. No more re-detention
    6. End systematic torture in Yarl’s Wood
    7. Stop separating families
    8. No detention of people who came to the UK as children
    9. The beds need to be changed
    10. LGBT+ persons’ sexuality be believed
    11. Fit emergency alarms in every room in the detention centre
    12. Give us access to proper healthcare
  4. Give us proper food to look after our diets
  5. Release people with outstanding applications
  6. We want to speak to Alistair Burt MP for the constituency

We also call for:

  • An end to detention; immediately release mothers and children, pregnant women, survivors of rape and other torture, people who are mentally or physically sick and other vulnerable people.
  • An independent investigation into claims of rape and other sexual abuse against women held in Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre
  • Reinstate legal aid for all asylum and immigration cases to ensure women and men get a chance of a fair hearing against the Home Office’s racism, sexism and determination to deport no matter how unjustly.
  • An official investigation into what happens to people who are deported, including those deported from the unlawful Detained Fast Track, so that they can get the help they need.
  • No NGO collaboration with, and promotion of, so-called “voluntary” and “family returns”, and any other government processes that depend on injustice, destitution, detention and forced deportations to drive asylum seekers out.
  • Close down Yarl’s Wood and detention centres everywhere!

Those in detention have the right to be here. Those of us on hunger strike have the right to be here: count the contribution that African and other third world people have made over hundreds of years to the wealth in the UK.

Some recent press coverage:

100 Immigrant Women Are on Hunger Strike at a Notorious UK Detention Center
https://broadly.vice.com/en_us/article/8xdkyz/yarls-wood-detention-centre-hunger-strike-sit-in

Yarl’s Wood female hunger striker facing deportation tomorrow
https://freedomnews.org.uk/yarls-wood-female-hunger-striker-facing-deportation-tomorrow/

Cristel Amiss, Black Women’s Rape Action Project on Yarl’s Wood hunger strike
https://youtu.be/tmfxL8iIoqo

Yarl’s Wood: Women on Hunger Strike “Our rights in here are being violated every day – we’ve had enough”

Over 100 women in Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre began a hunger strike on Wednesday 21 February.  The women from Avocet and Dove units along with a few men on the family wing are refusing food and are planning further protests. They have issued a statement with demands which include:

1. Shorter bail request period. Legally bail applications should only take 3-5 days to come to court. Delays of up to a month are common.

2. Amnesty to give legal status to those who have lived in the UK 10 years and more.

3. End indefinite detention so that no-one stays inside for longer than 28 days.
4. End Charter flights. These are inhumane because women get no prior notifications, which leaves no time to make arrangements with family members.

5. No more re-detention. No-one should be re-detained if you are complying with the law.

7. Stop separating families. Some women inside are married or have British partners and children outside.

8. No detention of people who came to the UK as children. They should not be punished for their parents’ immigration histories.

9. The beds need to be changed. Some of us have been here for a year on the same bed and they are the most uncomfortable beds.

10. LGBT+ persons’ sexuality be believed. It should be understood that explaining your sexuality is difficult.

11. Fit emergency alarms in every room in the detention centre. Only some rooms have them, and people have got very ill in places where they can’t call for help.

12. Access to proper healthcare. Women with serious conditions have been left for days without treatment.

13. Give us proper, nutritious food.

14. Release people with outstanding applications.

15. We want to speak to Alistair Burt, MP for the constituency.

The statement describes conditions inside as “torture”:

“At any point an officer could turn up and take your room mate; you’re constantly on edge, not knowing what will happen next. Those who are suicidal have their privacy taken away because officers come in without warning. You don’t know if an officer is coming to check on you or take you away. Our rooms are searched at random and without warning; they just search first and explain later.”

Ms L who spoke from Yarl’s Wood to Ms Titah from the All African Women’s Group[i] commented:

“Some of us are victims of rape and other torture including human trafficking.  Even when we have scars and other physical injuries and suffer trauma we’re told by staff who have no qualifications that there is nothing wrong – all to justify keeping us locked up. 

Black Women’s Rape Action Project and Women Against Rape reported that over 70% of women in Yarl’s Wood are rape survivors and documented that women have endured “a regime of predatory sexual abuse” from guards over years. The government’s refusal to investigate and hold those to account has led MPs to describe it as “state sanctioned abuse.”

Ms L continues:

“A lot of medical conditions are going untreated here.  We can’t get appointments to see doctors . . . women fall ill with low or high blood pressure but all we’re given is paracetomal – it is very dangerous.  Last month one woman was ill for days and ignored until she collapsed.  They rushed her to Bedford hospital at 3am and she needed a blood transfusion. 

“Detention is mental torture. . . .  Some have been there a year. . . .  We try for bail but even when we have all the documentation we are turned down and left in limbo.  One judge routinely refuses everyone’s applications no matter what.  Some of us have paid thousands of pounds to private lawyers – it’s a money making racket”.

Women say they are not going to give up and are planning further action on Monday.

For interviews with women please call: 07456525227

 

[i] A group of women asylum seekers based at the Crossroads Women’s Centre.

All African Women’s Group, Black Women’s Rape Action Project, & Women Against Rape 14/15 Feb @ LUSH Human Rights Summit

Performance: We are Here – because You are There
Our interactive play has been on tour to Coventry, Sheffield & the DSEI Stop to Arms Fair. Performed by asylum seekers from the All African Women’s Group, it depicts the real life injustices faced by rape survivors and others throughout the asylum process. Wed 14 Feb 1-2pm
Human Rights Room

Exhibition: For Those Who Died Trying
The dangers and issues faced by environmental rights
defenders in Thailand told through those who survived assassination attempts.
Filmed, photographed & edited by Luke Duggleby

Workshop/exhibition/films:
Support not Separation
Mothers speak of their struggle to keep and protect their children against unwarranted removal by social services and forced adoption. Plus art exhibition and protest films by Women Against Rape.
Wed 14 Feb 3-4pm