Misjudging Asylum, Rape and Detention – 17 July 2007
John Mc Donnell MP and Lord Avebury hosted a packed meeting in the House of Commons which brought together women asylum seekers, MPs, Lords, lawyers, community and breastfeeding activists and other supporters to highlight the obstacles rape survivors face in getting their claims recognized. WAR’s speaker highlighted research to which we contributed, which found that 70% of women in Yarl’s Wood are rape survivors*, despite Home Office guidelines which say survivors of torture should not be detained. Many have never felt able to speak about rape before they contact us, or have been ignored or disbelieved when they did. Barrister Louise Hooper from Garden Court Chambers warned that solicitors will not be able to afford to take on “complex” cases when proposed legal aid cuts take effect in the autumn.
Misjudging Rape – Breaching Gender Guidelines & International Law in Asylum Appeals
Co-authored by WAR, the dossier examines the treatment of rape survivors claiming asylum and documents how immigration judges flout international law in their rulings and their own Asylum Gender Guidelines. These Guidelines are one of few official tools laying out how women's claims should be assessed which aim to: "ensure that the procedures used do not prejudice women asylum seekers or make it more difficult for them to present their asylum claims."
Key findings include: 20% of women had not been able to speak about the rape they suffered before the Home Office considered their case, and 14% still had not reported by the time of their hearing 43% of rulings completely disbelieved women’s reports of rape: an additional 14% only partially believed them. Click here to download Misjudging Rape
As a result of our findings, an Early Day Motion Rape and Female Asylum Seekers (406) was presented in Parliament, calling for women seeking asylum to be treated according to international precedents and the Gender Guidelines. Over 100 MPs have so far signed the EDM.
Supporting rape survivors in Yarl’s Wood Removal Centre
A rota of dedicated volunteers, including women who have been detained themselves, continues to provide daily support to rape survivors trying to pursue their asylum claims despite huge obstacles. At the end of May, over 100 women in Yarl’s Wood issued an appeal to Gordon Brown for an amnesty and many) went on hunger strike protesting that conditions had deteriorated after SERCO, a multi-national company, took over its management Many MPs and Lords raised parliamentary questions and/or wrote to ministers. More
Winning rights and protection
Ms X from Cameroon, detained in Yarl’s Wood and facing imminent removal, was able to disclose the rape she suffered after receiving our rape rights sheet and speaking with us. With our help she insisted that her lawyer submit a fresh claim despite his reluctance – he said her report of rape would be dismissed and even count against her. Ms X had not only fought her own case but helped other women with no legal representative, to present their cases to the courts. After being detained for over six months and almost removed on three occasions, she was finally released in June.
Ms X won compensation for unlawful detention, and the right to stay!
Ms Y from the Democratic Republic of Congo was granted full refugee status at appeal in July. WAR had found her a new lawyer and access to other expert support to make a fresh claim after she had been refused and her claim closed. Even though it had been accepted that she was raped and a victim of persecution, she was told it was “safe” for her to return to live in Kinshasa - some 1000 miles from her home where she knew no-one and would have no means of support. “Internal relocation” is frequently used to refuse women otherwise entitled to protection with no consideration of how they are to survive, contrary to legal precedents and international guidelines. WAR’s evidence helped establish that returning Ms Y would deprive a vulnerable rape survivor of support crucial to her recovery and so also contravene the Human Rights Convention.
NEWSFLASH – WAR will be speaking about why so few rape survivors secure protection at: SEEKING ASYLUM a perilous journey – to safety? on Saturday October 6th 2007 (10.30 am – 4pm) at Digby Stuart College, Roehampton University, Roehampton Lane, SW15. (For more details contact 0207 482 2496). Other events include running a workshop on rape at the No Borders Camp to protest the building of another detention centre.
In recent months WAR organised meetings with senior members of government and criminal justice agencies, where we conveyed the main obstacles to justice for rape survivors and the reasons for the low conviction rate for rape in the UK (5.6% of recorded rapes). Our delegation included survivors and their loved ones who spoke movingly about their personal experience of the effects of rape and injustice. We also submitted our priorities on women’s safety to the newly appointed Women’s Minister, Harriet Harman MP.
Rights & Information Sheet for survivors of rape seeking asylum in the UK
Misjudging Rape: Breaching Gender Guidelines & International Law in Asylum Appeals (Black Women’s Rape Action Project & Women Against Rape)
A “Bleak House” in Our Times: An investigation into women’s rights violations at Yarl’s Wood Removal Centre (Legal Action for Women, in collaboration with All African Women’s Group, Black Women’s Rape Action Project and WAR)