This is the joint website of  Women Against Rape and Black Women's Rape Action Project. Both organisations are based on self-help and provide support, legal information and advocacy. We campaign for justice and protection for all women and girls, including asylum seekers, who have suffered sexual, domestic and/or racist violence.

WAR was founded in 1976. It has won changes in the law, such as making rape in marriage a crime, set legal precedents and achieved compensation for many women. BWRAP was founded in 1991. It focuses on getting justice for women of colour, bringing out the particular discrimination they face. It has prevented the deportation of many rape survivors. Both organisations are multiracial.

 

 

 

My life was decided in 10 working days

Isata.JPGIsata Ceesay Denton
Women speak out in Parliament against detention, deportation, privatisation and profiteering. 14 January 2010
Report of meeting and more speaches

During my 6 month detention in Yarl’s Wood I was shocked at the injustice vulnerable women and children suffer.

I am a mother of four children. I fled Gambia after I was sentenced to death under Sharia law after being accused of having a lesbian relationship. When I went to claim asylum in Liverpool I was immediately detained and put on the Fast Track. I found a solicitor and after going thro my evidence she agreed to take my case. I told her that I had been found guilty of having an extra marital lesbian relationship which is a taboo and a state crime in Gambia.

The following day at the Home Office screening interview with the Fast Track team they told me I couldn’t use the solicitor I chose and had to use the duty solicitor – Sheikh & Co. The Home Office refused my claim. They denied me the time to gather evidence for the appeal.

The solicitor dropped my case claiming that if he were to take it on he would have to do a lot of work. He finally sided with the Home Office saying my case has no merit.

I had to represent myself at the Appeal two days later. Sheikh & Co had sent an expert country report which was useless, because the expert had not been to the Gambia for a long. I had the Amnesty report which states that the Gambian President openly asks for lesbians and gays to be beheaded. I told the court this and that I did not stand a chance of surviving if returned. I also told them I am an active member of the opposition party the United Democratic Party and that I was going to be forced to perform Female Genital Circumcision on young girls and babies. I was not able to tell the judge that I was a lesbian. I was too scared of what might happen.

Two days later I found out that instead of giving me protection the judge recommended internal relocation in Gambia and asked the Home Office to give me money, like a bribe, to start a new life. But no amount of money would protect me from the death sentence.

I was devastated - I thought my life was at an end . I was told two days later that I had exhausted all appeal rights and would be removed. My life was decided in ten working days – the fast track process has to end.

I contacted a number of organisations who slammed the doors in my face. The Immigration Advisory Service refused to take my case cause everyone was on holiday, Asylum Aid said that if the judge has asked me to relocate then I should go back. Others never got back to me.

I was becoming increasingly depressed when another woman gave me a copy of Legal Action for Women’s Self Help Guide. After reading it I saw there was hope: I contacted the Centre and spoke to Black Women’s Rape Action Project. They suggested I complain about the solicitor which I did. BWRAP kept in touch with me and encouraged me to fight on. I managed to introduce a number of women to them and the concern they show regardless of women’s culture, background, religion, race or sexual orientation was immense. Just knowing that someone else cares helped to make people in detention have hope and can manage to go thro the darkest times. Inside YW we used the practical information in the Guide to fight our own and each other’s cases. We also shared our problems so when one girl was dragged naked by four guards trying to deport her – we all went on hunger strike that day. Word spread and many others joined us. The detainees who were working in the dining room refused to go to work. The guards had to do their job. The officers begged them to work but most stayed on strike.

Some of the officers are extremely rude and treat us all as criminals. If we ask for toiletries and soap they say “This is not Tesco’s”. Officers have sometimes left us waiting outside of the unit for ages knowing that we desperately need to use the toilet – women have even wet themselves waiting and been mocked. A couple of officers, a Nigerian man and a local woman told us they don’t like the treatment we are getting and left. At least seven left while I was there.

Detention has to end. Even convicted prisoners have time limits but in detention there are none. I know at least three women have been in there over two years. Women who can’t speak English don’t get translation. They go the Legal clinic which is supposed to help them but come back with papers they cannot read. We try to help them understand what is happening, but for Chinese women in particular – most don’t have any English so we can’t tell them that their appeal dates pass. Heavily pregnant women are being flown out of the country – people are being beaten and forced into planes – some without being given removal directions – it has to stop – we only come here because we need protection.

In Gambia – there are lots of settled English people who are being treated nicely and we welcome them, but the way we are treated when we come to seek refuge is worse than animals. Britain has always portrayed itself as leading on human rights but where are our Human Rights when they are sending us back to persecution?

Those of us who get out have to fight for those who are left behind – we are their voice in the outside world.

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