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.

 

 

 

We can’t sit by while victims of rape and other torture are deported

Kristina Brandemo, Women Against Rape
Women speak out in Parliament against detention, deportation, privatisation and profiteering. 14 January 2010
Report of meeting and more speaches

I would first like to mention some international decisions grassroots women have won in pressing for rape to be acknowledged as grounds for asylum

UN resolution 1820 recognises rape as a method of war.

A Humanitarian Protection criteria for seeking asylum has been introduced in the UK. It specifically mentions rape as a form of “serious harm”. Until this the only way people could claim asylum was under the Refugee Convention which did not refer to women or rape and sexual violence.

But these victories have not fundamentally changed what women can win in the UK courts.

Through our campaigning and legal work, we try to make sure that rape survivors benefit from these international tools, and work with lawyers to establish new precedents. We have helped women to take cases to the European court on the right to family life and other issues.

One area where we are breaking new ground is in the use of UN Convention Against Torture. Shockingly, except in cases against so-called suspected terrorists this convention has not been applied to asylum cases despite the fact that many are victims of torture. We worked closely with the AIRE Centre on one case, arguing that the rape a woman had suffered was torture and that the UK had an obligation under the CAT to provide her with “redress”, including the means to recover. This is important because usually you have to prove that you would face persecution or serious harm if you were sent back to your home country. But we are arguing that if you are recognised as a victim of torture you are entitled to help and protection in the UK on the grounds of what you have already suffered. We are awaiting the outcome.

There are other precedents we are pressing lawyers to use. For example:
- AA Uganda ruled that a young rape survivor should not be sent back if she would face prostitution as the only way to survive.
- We also helped to win the precedent that a woman who didn’t reveal that she was raped when she first applied for asylum may have been “unable not unwilling” to speak about it, so that the rape should be allowed as part of her case.

I also want to speak about some of the things standing in the way of winning.

Professionals. We deeply appreciate the dedicated, determined, creative work of some professionals.

We are glad that Medical Justice doctors are visiting people in detention, confirming the trauma children face and speaks out about life-threatening treatment that passes for health care. But they should not have to substitute for services the state is supposed to provide.

Many other professionals are no good. Many lawyers are lazy, negligent, corrupt and money orientated. They leave women in the lurch knowing that they will be deported and there will be no comeback.

Social workers are increasingly using the destitution asylum mothers are forced into to accuse them of neglect and take children away from them. How cruel to the children let alone the mothers!

Asylum organisations. “Gender issues”, as they are called, are being used by some organisations to water down and undermine what those on the front line are demanding. They hide reality and make the government look like it is “listening/consulting/fair”.

People who expect NGOs to do good work may find this hard to believe. I’ll give a couple of examples.

Asylum Aid has produced a Women’s Charter, endorsed by many organisations which is presented as encapsulating what women seeking asylum want.

The Charter is based on the view that the government has made big improvements on rape and domestic violence and that women seeking asylum should be treated in the same way as women reporting rape in the UK. This is fundamentally flawed. WAR works with women reporting rape in the UK. It is our experience that rape cases are deprioritised by police and prosecution, and that’s the major reason why the conviction rate for rape is only 6%.

The Women’s Charter doesn’t even call for the abolition of the fast track. Yet the fast track, which has a10 days turn over, is particularly damaging to rape victims, most of whom have trouble speaking about their ordeal. 99% of cases decided under the fast track are initially refused, and only 6% are overturned on appeal compared to 17% of cases decided outside of the fast track.

The Charter also says that women who are removed should be treated with dignity and calls for "an appropriate gender balance for staff" to be involved in removals. This allows the government to claim “equality” is satisfied and hides the reality that many women staff are just as vicious and violent as men. One family we helped won a six-figure compensation sum for injuries and damage suffered as a result of a removal involving women officers.

Rights Of Women’s handbook for asylum-seeking women reports uncritically on the law and the Home Office procedures as if the law was applied fairly. If you don’t know what you are up against, how can you prepare your case properly?

Not surprisingly, a common demand from such groups is that of more training. What training do immigration staff need to treat women with a bit of humanity? One HO case worker who left her job in disgust described the treatment of asylum seekers as one of “general hostility, rudeness, indifference and aggression”. She said there was a “cult of power”, which probably stemmed from the fact that case-owners had too much power over people’s lives. She said the idea most prevalent was that “most claims are false”. She heard officials speak of unaccompanied minors saying “if it was up to me, I’d take them all outside and shoot them.” When asked where the prejudice and racism comes from, she said “from the top, from the Home Office. There are no documents written or directives telling people how they must act towards asylum seekers but they get the message.”

Some groups have profited handsomely from their collaboration with government. Through direct funding as well as privatised contracts to provide services. We cannot sit by and allow them to grow in size and influence while rape victims and other victims of torture are deported.

We hope that this meeting can establish a different standard for what changes are needed and look forward to working with people here to achieve that.
 

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