Statement against the Family Returns Process . . . End Detention, End Deportation, We All Have the Right to be Here
We are the All African Women’s Group. Many of us have been in detention. We know the terrible impact it has. Women are on hunger strike right now against the torture of detention. We want an end to detention,but we do not want a worse alternative. We object particularly to the Family Returns Process
Women for Refugee Women (WfRW) are saying that the Family Returns Process (FRP) should be extended to all asylum seekers. Their report The Way Ahead (2017) describes FRP as an “Area of Success to Build on in the UK”. Interviewed on Woman’s Hour last week their spokeswoman said: “We now have this process called the Family Return Process which supports families with children under 18 to stay in the community up to the point they actually leave the UK, so yes there needs to be a system but that system doesn't need to include detention.”
WfRW are having a lobby of parliament on 8 March and we are worried that the Family Returns Process will be put forward to members of parliament as what women asylum seekers want.
We are against the Family Returns Process because its main focus is to deport us. It coins the words “support” and “engagement” as a cover for enforced removals. We do not accept that people should have to go back.
A report of the FRP says: “While some organisations believe families who want to stay here should never be returned home, they are few in number.” We are not few in number and our voices should be heard because we know best what horrors we face on return. We all have the right to be here in the UK. African and other Third World people have contributed over centuries to the wealth in the UK. We have suffered enough through imperial conquest, slave trades, proxy wars, Western backed dictatorships, rape and other torture…and through long treacherous journeys getting to the UK.
What we need are committed reliable lawyers to help us with our cases to overcome the terrible injustice we face. Most of the time when we make an application to the Home Office we are disbelieved, no matter what we say and what evidence we have. We want help enforcing our rights to be treated fairly as victims of rape and other torture and as vulnerable people. The Home Office has absolutely no interest in justice.
The FRP has four stages:
- ‘Family return conference’ to discuss any barriers to return.
- ‘Family departure meeting’ to discuss the family’s views about their options.
- ‘Required return’ where the family make their own way to the airport.
- ‘Ensured return’ reviewed by an “Independent Family Returns Panel”.
THIS PANEL IS NOT INDEPENDENT – it is funded by the Home Office. As a last resort detention for up to a week and enforced return is used.
The FRP says children can be forcibly returned with “the use of physical intervention”. Guidelines for restraining children are based on those used in secure units which include “the deliberate infliction of pain”.
The FRP report slanders mothers and accuses them of child abuse for not agreeing to enforced return: “Children have been subjected to unacceptable pressure from parents not to co-operate with Home Office officials and where such cases occur it is a form of child abuse.” How many children have been and will be taken from their parents with this excuse?
The FRP also slanders lawyers saying that “legal representatives lodge legal objections to removal at the last minute in order, it seems, to frustrate the process.” How dare they say that. We are women who have suffered rape and other torture and the Home Office makes it as difficult as possible for our case to be heard. Legal aid cuts have made it almost impossible to find reliable lawyers to help us. When we have the good fortune to find a lawyer to intervene they accuse us of abusing the system – not that the system abuses us.
- An end to detention and the immediate release of mothers and children, pregnant women, survivors of rape and other torture, people who are mentally or physically sick and other vulnerable people. Meet the hunger strikers demands.
- Reinstate legal aid for all asylum and immigration cases to ensure people get a chance of a fair hearing against the Home Office racism, sexism and determination to deport no matter how unjustly.
- No NGO collaboration with, and promotion of, so-called “voluntary” and “family returns”, and any other government processes that depend on injustice, destitution, detention and forced deportations to drive asylum seekers out.
Signed: All African Women’s Group (80 members)
Supported by: Black Women’s Rape Action Project; Brighton Anti-Raids Network; Brighton Migrant Solidarity; Brighton Plan C; Demilitarise King’s, Detained Voices; End Deportations; Jollof Café (Brighton); KCL Action Palestine, Legal Action for Women; Lesbian & Gays Support the Migrants; RAPAR (Refugee and Asylum Seeker Participatory Action Research); SOAS Detainee Support Group; Sussex Refugee and Migrant Self Support Group; Women Against Rape; Women of Colour in the Global Women’s Strike; North East London Migrant Action (NELMA); Gazelle Maria, Oxford; Zeenat Suleman, London