A heart-breaking case of a vulnerable rape survivor who was forcibly removed back to Uganda is being considered by the European Court of Human Rights. Final representations were submitted in June by a pro-bono legal team co-ordinated by Women Against Rape (WAR). The case turns on whether the court agrees that the UK government breached Articles 3 (Prohibition of torture*) and 8 (Right to respect for private and family life**) of the European Convention of Human Rights when they insisted on deporting Ms FN despite overwhelming evidence and an immigration judge’s decision that her rights would be breached if they did.
Ms FN fled to the UK after she was gang raped by soldiers in Uganda in 2000. She claimed asylum but like most rape survivors, was disbelieved. A judge overturned that decision and granted her the right to stay. But the government challenged that decision. WAR helped Ms FN fight on through the courts, providing evidence about the impact on her of the rape she suffered and the dire consequences of her being sent back. But in January 2009, Ms FN was removed to Uganda after judges ruled that whether or not she suffered rape was immaterial to her case. She was detained at the airport on arrival in Kampala and only the intervention of her MP John McDonnell secured her release. For three years she was destitute. She has faced suspicion, abuse and discrimination as a single young woman and as a returned asylum seeker. She hasn’t been able to find any support as a rape survivor and has had to keep everything that has happened to her hidden from the people around her as she fears what would happen if they knew. People have taken advantage of her vulnerability. Tragically in October 2010 during a call with a woman from the All African Women’s Group (which has been part of her support team) she revealed that she was pregnant as a result of rape.
Ms FN says
When I was sent back to Uganda, I was terrified and completely alone. I was begging and sleeping on the street. One evening a man offered me a job. I was afraid but decided to go with him because I was so desperate. When we arrived at his house he took out a knife and raped me. I thought he was going to kill me. After the rape, I couldn’t stop crying and thinking of suicide.
Three months later I realised I was pregnant – it is only the love and encouragement of my supporters back in the UK that has kept me alive and able to care for my son. Now I want what every mother wants which is to live in safety and to be able to raise my son without fear.
Kiki Axelsson from WAR says:
Ms FN is a caring and conscientious woman who has been treated brutally by the government. When she first came to WAR she was very shy and quiet, but after some time she started to come out of her shell and became one of WAR’s regular volunteers helping other rape victims. She was detained three times in Yarl’s Wood Removal Centre. While detained she could hardly speak or function. We won her release, but the third time she was detained we couldn’t stop her removal despite our best efforts.
Her removal to Uganda was horrifying but what she has suffered since is even worse. She is only one of many vulnerable rape survivors who have been sent back to the torture they fled from. All of the women we have managed to stay in contact with have ended up destitute and in danger like Ms FN. The government refuses to investigate or monitor what happens to so-called “failed asylum seekers”. Why?
Without support from WAR and other concerned individuals Ms FN is unlikely to have survived, but the government is using that support to say that she is able to make a life in Uganda and that sending her back to Uganda was not a breach of her rights***.
We are glad this important case is being considered by the European Court. We hope that the decision will not only enable Ms FN to come back to the UK to be reunited with her friends and the only family she has, but also provide more protection for rape survivors seeking asylum here.
Please contact WAR if you would like more information about Ms FN’s case and to find out how you can help.
Read about a family who has been re-united with the help of WAR here
What you can do to support WAR
*Article 3: Prohibition of torture: No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading
treatment or punishment.
**Article 8: Right to respect for private and family life 1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence. 2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
***Quotes from the UK Government’s submissions: “In any event, the... [letter from WAR] states that ‘a friend from the self-help group ... has been calling her on a weekly/fortnightly basis...’, that money has been raised for her by WAR... that WAR has been looking for alternative sources of income for her, that on arrivial at the airport in Uganda she was picked up...she has benefited from financial support from WAR... that with the financial support she received she has been able to keep her son.”