Landmark compensation for torture victim and her family. A mother and her five children have won a precedent-setting, six figure compensation award from the Home Office for abuse and injuries sustained during deportation to Uganda in 2006. Ms A was supported throughout by WAR who found legal representation through Leigh Day & Co. solicitors.
During the deportation, Ms A and her children, the youngest of whom was just nine months old, suffered humiliating and degrading assaults that included Ms A being punched and having pressure applied to her throat; being forcibly handcuffed and forced to keep her head between her thighs for half the flight. Ms A’s teenage daughter was sexually assaulted by a female escort. Two months later Ms A was kidnapped and tortured by security agents. She managed to escape and eventually got back to Britain. Tragically she had no choice but to leave her children behind.
With WAR’s help, Ms A applied again for asylum but during the two long years we were fighting the case, only her son who had a British passport, was able to join her from Uganda. The other four children were left destitute. After receiving a heart-breaking letter from Ms A’s daughter saying how she had been raped whilst trying to raise money to support her brothers, we issued an urgent appeal for help. Sister Joan Faber, a nun who volunteers with us, organised for her sister community in Uganda to help. Together, we fundraised to pay a sum each month to ensure the children survived. Eventually, in October 2007, Ms A won her asylum claim, and in March 2008 the children joined her. Ms A says:
"When I got deported I thought I was finished but WAR and the All African Women’s Group kept me going. This money cannot even begin to compensate for what we have suffered. But I know that for a government with no heart, money is the only language they understand. Making them pay, I hope is one way to stop further violence."
Ms PB was detained under the Fast Track process in Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre, having fled rape and other torture in Cameroon.
She was not able to speak about the rape immediately when claiming asylum and her lawyer advised her not to raise it later, saying it would lead to her entire account being disbelieved. When she contacted us she was facing imminent removal. We found a pro-bono barrister who used our submissions to stop her flight and then found Ms B a new solicitor who made a fresh claim based on the rape she suffered. This was also refused by the Home Office At Ms B’s second appeal, Judge D Birrell noted WAR’s support and found that she had “very good reason” not to disclose the rape immediately. Unusually, Judge Birrell overturned Judge Warren L Grant’s previous decision on the fast track rubbishing Ms B’s credibility because it “was made in the absence of medical evidence which should be an integral part of such a finding”.Ms B says:
Join us to demand the fast track be abolished!
Home Office forces traumatised and destitute rape survivors to travel across the country to make fresh claims
It is now Home Office policy that all asylum seekers who are not under the New Asylum Model have to hand in fresh claims in person at the Liverpool office. There is no financial support to cover fares and no provision if people are destitute, have disabilities including symptoms of trauma and/or have young children. Many are rightfully terrified that they will be taken straight into detention and deported.
Ms K is deeply traumatised by the rape and other torture she suffered in detention in Uganda. She was detained in Yarl’s Wood and violently removed in 2004. The immigration officials who deported her left her at the airport in Uganda without travel documents. In order to identify herself she had to show the Ugandan authorities the refusal of her asylum claim, alerting them to her political activity in the opposition. She was immediately detained and subjected to two months of rape and other torture. Ms K managed to escape and get back to the UK.
When Ms K heard she would have to go to Liverpool to hand in her claim, she suffered repeated nightmares, headaches and panic attacks, fearing that she would be detained again, and sent back to certain death in Uganda. This new procedure is particularly discriminatory towards women, many of whom are mothers. How are destitute women supposed to raise money for a train fare to Liverpool when they don’t have money to eat? How many will have to turn to prostitution or begging? How many will be deterred from making a fresh claim by this cost or for fear of being detained?
Ms M wins the right to stay!
Ms M went through childhood rape, forced marriage and rape by soldiers in Uganda before fleeing to the UK age 25. When her claim was refused she was left destitute and pregnant and became so depressed she attempted suicide and spent many months in psychiatric hospital. Instead of getting the help she and her baby needed, he was taken away by social services and later adopted. After 7 years Ms M has now finally won the right to stay. No longer under threat of deportation, she still faces the terrible tragedy of being separated from her son, and he is deprived of her care and love. But Ms M is determined not to be defeated and hopes that when her son is older he will try to find her. She is a member of the All African Women’s Group based at the Crossroads Women’s Centre and a regular volunteer for WAR. She writes:
I have had the best experience at the Women’s Centre that I ever had before. The atmosphere is good and everybody is welcome. I was given the privilege of being with other women who are in the same situation. We have a chance to talk and be listened to; all women are valued and able to communicate their experiences. I have experienced sympathy from the caring, sensitive and honest people here. We work with self-help. Never give up, you are not alone, we are all family here. All women, African and from all different backgrounds, work together and help at the centre.
Winning under “Legacy3”
Where women have been in the UK for years, especially mothers and children, their asylum claim is now being considered under the “Legacy” process. A comprehensive application, with supporting evidence, can make all the difference to someone’s chance of success. We have done expert reports in a number of cases and, so far, in every case the woman has won her right to stay in the UK.
Under the Fast Track process an asylum claim is decided within days, with no time for medical or other expert evidence to be gathered or even adequate legal representation.
For Asylum Seekers and their Supporters: A Self-Help Guide against detention & deportation, Legal Action for Women, 2005.
An asylum claim should be in “legacy” if it was a) made before 1 April 2007, b) has not been decided yet, and c) is not being dealt with under the New Asylum Model.