Listen to Ms PB being interview on Radio 4's "PM" program in December 2008 here.
Read about her fight against the racist attacks here which she and other women suffered in a Liverpool Hostel.
You may have heard about the case of Ms PB who was recently awarded £38,000 for unlawful detention including £6000 “aggravated damages” for the suffering caused to her as a victim of rape and other torture. Ms PB first spoke about the rape she suffered to her first lawyer, who told her not to raise it in court. It was not until she read the material we sent her, including WAR's Rights Sheet for Rape Survivors Seeking Asylum, and spoke to one of our volunteers, that she felt able to speak about it again. Our rota of volunteers continues to be a life-line for women in Yarl’s Wood who can get help nowhere else. For many women it has been the only way they have found the courage to speak about rape.
Ms PB was facing imminent removal. WAR wrote in support of her case and found her a new solicitor, Lisa Amin (then at Lawence Lupin Solicitors) who put in a fresh claim including evidence about the rape she had suffered. Barrister Alex Goodman pressed the Home Office for these substantial damages. Ms PB says:
“There would have been no damages if Women Against Rape had not stepped in to my rescue. Without their help I would no longer be in the country, I would have been sent back. When I first claimed asylum I couldn’t speak about being raped because the Home Office officials treated me so badly and I was sure they would think I was ‘dirty’. My case went to appeal but I had no lawyer and the Judge, Warren L Grant, asked me to tell him if I was raped without any idea of how hard that was for me. I could not speak in front of him and the court. Later I was not surprised when I learnt that even when women had told him about being raped, that Judge often accused them of lying. Someone that prejudiced shouldn’t be allowed to be in charge of appeals.”
Ms PB went on to win full refugee status.
Women sent back
Many other women in similar situations to Ms B are imprisoned in Yarl’s Wood. Many women are sent back because they are told they will be safe in another part of the country they fled. But those who have kept in touch with us report a very different experience: rape and other violence, including in detention; destitution; begging; prostitution are often the only way they can survive.
Our dear friend, FN, was sent back to Uganda in January. Over 60 people from all walks of life, some who knew F personally and many who didn’t but were moved to express their horror at her treatment, wrote heartfelt letters protesting her removal. MP John McDonnell raised her case with the minister. But despite all our best efforts, the Home Office went ahead and removed her. We and others continue to support F in Uganda and plan to take her case further. She is safe, at least for the time being, but virtually housebound for fear of being attacked again.
Asylum from Rape
Black Women’s Rape Action Project’s petition demands the official recognition of rape as torture and persecution and practical help for women to overcome the many obstacles they face in making their asylum claims – including scrapping of the “fast track” which allows no time to gather medical and other specialist evidence. Get your friends and colleagues to sign it, send it around to your network, and ask any organisation you are involved in to sign!
Ms S fled Sierra Leone after her village was attacked, her family killed and she herself was raped by soldiers. She got in touch with us from Yarl’s Wood and we kept in regular touch even after she was released. Her asylum claim was refused but she was given the right to have her case reconsidered because the Tribunal had not taken into account evidence from WAR. At the subsequent hearing, the judges cited WAR’s “ample experience” of working with rape survivors and our evidence of Ms S would face if sent back and granted her the right to stay.
Ms Y from the DRC has been granted indefinite leave to remain! Ms Y’s oldest son was taken away to be a soldier and she became involved in an organisation protesting against recruitment of child soldiers. She was arrested twice and raped by prison guards. Ms Y was forced to leave behind her other six children when she fled to the UK after her husband was killed. Her case was stalled due to bad legal representation and a psychiatric report which didn’t recognize the severe trauma she was suffering. WAR documented the compelling evidence in her case and the essential support we provide. Our assessment, which corroborated Ms Y’s account of rape and resulting trauma, was submitted as part of her asylum claim. We also prevented Ms Y from being dispersed away from the self-help group we help co-ordinate and that Ms Y has been attending since 2006.
Mothers reunited with their children
Ms X won full refugee status having first come to us in 2003 without a current claim and facing detention and removal back to Congo. She had been raped and witnessed the brutal murder of her father-in-law when he tried to protect her. Her husband and children had been taken by rebels. The Home Office refused to accept where she came from and rubbished her entire account. As a result, the Medical Foundation (MF) had at first said they could not help her but with our support, Ms X was given ongoing counselling and expert reports. Even though the adjudicator at Ms X’s appeal accepted everything that she said and criticised the Home Office for the way it had dismissed her terrible experiences, Ms X was told it was safe for her to be returned to Kinshasa, where she had no-one to support her and would have been treated with suspicion and hostility. We found Ms X a new lawyer at Fisher Meredith Solicitors who made a fresh claim. When the Home office called Ms X for yet another interview to go over her experiences, he rightfully challenged this, pointing out that her account had already been accepted by the court. But the Home Office refused Ms X’s claim on the technicality of non-compliance (with attending the interview) and her case went to appeal. She won full refugee status and so was at last able to start trying to find her children. In November, to the delight of all who knows Ms X, this family was at last re-united.
Mothers in the All African Women’s Group who are separated from their children have started a campaign to highlight their situation.
A heartfelt thank you to all of you who have helped during the last months. People who have given money, time, clothes and anything else! If you are interested in volunteering with WAR, please get in touch. We will keep you up to date with victories and updates in the coming year.