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2022 • 73 Pages • 4.03 MB • English
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A labour-saving, life-saving Guide I was detained in Yarl's Wood and was two days away from being deported. It took many urgent letters, phone calls and a new solicitor to submit a fresh claim to stop my deportation and get me out. My supporters followed the steps in this Guide and won. With this Guide others can also win. Ida V, All African Women's Group Legal Action for Women, a free legal service whose determination to win justice puts many lawyers to shame, has put together their experience of day-to-day legal case work and campaigning in this exciting Guide. Not only is it invaluable for those fighting in their own defence or that of their family and neighbours; it is also essential reading for lawyers, advocates and other professionals who will benefit greatly from its practical information and advice. At a time when principles of international protection for those fleeing persecution are being undermined in Europe and elsewhere, and asylum seekers battle even to get their case heard in court, this Guide is needed more than ever. Ian Macdonald QC, author of the standard text on immigration law and practice Legal Action for Women, started in London in 1982, is a grassroots user-led anti-sexist anti-racist legal service. It combines experienced lay workers with access to a network of trustworthy lawyers. It is widely used by sex workers, immigrant women, single mothers and many others facing injustice. [email protected] -Help Guide ntion & deportation A Self-Help Guide against detention & deportation For Asylum Seekers and their Supporters A Self-Help Guide against detention & deportation by Legal Action for Women For Asylum Seekers and their Supporters - A Self-Help Guide Against Detention and Deportation © Legal Action for Women 2005 Published by CROSSROADS Books First edition June 2005 Revised editions June 2013 & January 2015 ISBN 978-0-9568140-0-5 Editors Niki Adams and Nina Lopez General editor Selma James Cover design Cristel Amiss Formatting Cristel Amiss, Fanny Weed Thanks to: Cristel Amiss (Black Women’s Rape Action Project), Kiki Axelsson, Sian Evans, Anne Neale (Women Against Rape) for their invaluable contributions based on years of experience working with rape survivors against deportation; the All African Women’s Group whose organising against detention and removal has been the starting point for this Guide; and Emily Burnham and Ian Macdonald QC for legal oversight. CROSSROADS Books Crossroads Women’s Centre PO Box 287 London NW6 5QU, England Tel (020) 7482 2496 voice and minicom Fax (020) 7267 7297 [email protected] CONTENTS Preface to the second edition Introduction to the first edition: A labour-saving, life-saving handbook l Five basic principles for asylum seekers and supporters fighting for justice and protection II Your Right to Stay in the UK 1. How to make your claim as strong as possible 2. Making your claim 3. If your claim is refused 4. Making a “Fresh Claim” 5. Claiming under ECHR Article 8, the right to private and family life 6. How to protect yourself when you report to the authorities 7. What to do if you are detained 8. Your rights in detention 9. Getting out of detention 10. Detained Fast Track 11. When you have the right not to be removed 12. When you can make a case that you should not be removed 13. How to get your lawyer to act for you 14. What you can do if you are taken to the airport against your will 15. How to get in touch with a Member of Parliament 16. How you can defend the rights of someone in detention and/or about to be deported 17. Campaigning to stop a removal or deportation 18. Going to the media 19. Use every victory to win more III Appendices A. UPDATE: Women on Hunger Strike in Yarl’s Wood IRC B. Sample case summary C. Two women speak about detention D. Sample letter of support E. Sample press release F. Useful contacts Preface to the second edition When the first edition of the Guide was published in 2005, we imagined that it would be a labour saving device: that the help and support we had been giving over the phone and in person, now brought together in a handbook, would reach more people and require less work. But that’s not what happened. Hundreds more women, including from detention centres, contacted us. Orders came in from around the country; and whilst this uncovered an active and determined network of grassroots groups and individuals supporting asylum seekers, we were also a little overwhelmed. A month after the Guide was published we wrote to a number of prominent people and organisations asking for help, and outlining what we were doing and how we were doing it, in response to the many calls from women in detention: We ask women to fax brief details about their case and find out: what outside help they have and suggest where best this help can be directed; advise them what to press their lawyers to do and how to get that lawyer to do what is needed; give them the contact details of their MPs so they can be con- tacted directly. A number of women from the All African Women’s Group (including women who have been in detention themselves) have committed to regular sessions at the Centre to do this work. Most of this initial contact with women inside has been done by them supervised by women from LAW along with Black Women’s Rape Action Project (BWRAP) and Women Against Rape, depending on the situation of the woman in detention We also outlined the problems. Many of the women are repeatedly having to change lawyer to try and find someone who will help them . . . women in de- A SELF-HELP GUIDE 5 tention and anyone who calls on their behalf with a non-Eng- lish accent face blatant racism . . . even the better [voluntary organisations] don’t pursue cases with the determination that is needed. . . conditions in detention are horrendous -- daily racism for example, women being called black monkeys, inadequate and sometimes inedible food, punitive harass- ment, lack of effective complaints procedure and targeting of women who do complain, violent assaults during deporta- tions including sexual humiliation. And documented how the Guide had: . . . encouraged women to be in touch with and help each other, and take collective action against the daily injustices they face. Women who speak and write English better are helping those that don’t. Last week women got together and barricaded themselves into a room to prevent one woman’s deportation. Some individuals responded, and our (small) network of committed lawyers and other professionals grew. Case work like this has continued to this day and has contributed to making the Guide an effective tool. Self-help meetings held fortnightly started in 2003. They have grown in size to over 50 women. Individuals raise their legal cases and they’re addressed collectively, with follow-up work going to the daily work sessions. As cases on a particular issue mount up, a campaign is often spawned. For example, a Mothers’ Campaign highlights the injustice suffered by women who have been separated from their children since they fled to the UK (usually because it was not safe for the children to be identified or travel with their mother). After campaigning, including through the courts contesting Home Office decisions, a number of families have been reunited. Hunger strikes and other protests have burst out in removal centres. Some of the longest, most courageous and most effective protests of asylum seekers in detention, which have brought ASYLUM SEEKERS 6 together people across nationalities and despite language barriers, have been of women. What provoked at least one of the hunger strikes was, again, the issue of mothers separated from their children, this time by detention. Always dangerous for children to lose the protection of their mothers, asylum seekers risk their children being taken from them sometimes permanently, by social services. This along with sexual humiliation and abuse from guards, and violence during removals, was too much to bear. Support for many of the women on hunger strikes in Yarl’s Wood Removal Centre (in 2007, 2009, 2010) was co-ordinated by Black Women’s Rape Action Project (BWRAP) along with the other women’s groups at our Centre. BWRAP published the strikers’ demands, issued regular bulletins and press releases, organised for detainees to be interviewed by the media via mobile phones, kept in daily contact with scores of women, challenged the lies of Home Office ministers, found lawyers to resurrect or progress legal cases and organised public meetings where women spoke who had won their release. Unfortunately we saw little support for or even interest in the hunger strikers and their demands from mainstream feminism or organisations that claim a brief of anti-racism or from asylum NGOs. This lack of support may be one of the reasons why both New Labour and Tories have been successful in extending the cuts and repressive measures which, first imposed on asylum seekers, have been extended to others. Asylum seekers were the first to be dispersed out of London; forced to survive on vouchers instead of benefits, denied housing, healthcare and legal aid. We have been criminal- ised for trying to survive; faced abuse and even killings by G4S, a privatised security force; we’re accused of being terrorists if we are Muslim; we’re blamed for every social ill, which whips up hatred against us; and those of us who don’t A SELF-HELP GUIDE 7 have papers are being divided from people of colour who were born here.1 As government-imposed poverty increases (already one in four low-income mums are skipping meals so their kids can eat), destitution among people seeking asylum grows. Of the 50 or so women who attend the self-help meetings, two-thirds at any time are destitute, with no income at all. Women describe graphically what they have had to do to survive. I was left homeless when the woman I lived with died. I had nothing – no money, nothing. I went to pubs or the park and picked up men, offering them sex for a little money. Many of them took advantage, knowing that no matter what they did I couldn’t complain. Some were violent and others paid me only a few pounds or nothing at all. Some of the grassroots groups around the UK who were defending asylum seekers’ rights have turned to addressing this widespread destitution. They feel it is more productive than fighting legal cases since the laws have become more draconian, the judges more discriminatory, and since there is little or no access to legal representation. Others have found professionals to take legal cases for free. Asylum seekers become charity cases, and beggars as we know can’t be choosers. As the legal situation has deteriorated and requires more work for less or even no impact, we have worked to stay loyal to our principles. These are the principles that enable us to get the work done and sometimes to win: self-help is key; and so is an accountable relationship between those of us who have papers, and therefore more power, and those of us who don’t. We refuse to be either “poor victims” or ”do-gooders” to whom victims have to submit. Thousands of people who have been in the UK for years, are settled and may even have kids in school, now face deportation. Many have suffered horrendously both back home and here in the ASYLUM SEEKERS 8 UK. When Jimmy Mubenga died on a plane at Heathrow airport while being deported by G4S, there wasn’t one woman from the All African Woman’s Group who didn’t feel, “That could have been me.” Unless we are ready to live in a society where some of us are treated as dispensable, we don’t have the option to give up or even slow down. We hope that this updated edition Guide will be as useful as the first edition was, to the struggle against rape and other torture and for everyone’s right to live in safety. Self-help meeting at the Crossroads Women’s Centre Introduction to the first edition, June 2005 A labour-saving, life-saving handbook This Self-Help Guide comes out of intensive work over many years with women (and some men) seeking asylum. Legal Action for Women, Black Women‘s Rape Action Project, Women Against Rape and occasionally other organisations based at the Crossroads Women’s Centre, including Payday men’s network, have contributed to the pool of practical knowledge which is offered here. A first draft was presented to our National Gathering in 2004. This Guide is necessary because women, children and men continue to be detained and deported2 despite evidence of their torture and persecution which entitles them to asylum. In our experience, people seeking asylum have compelling reasons for leaving their loved ones and all that is familiar. They take this drastic, deeply painful decision to escape wars, ethnic or religious persecution and death. They are often in danger because they or family members have opposed dictatorship and repression. Many have undergone rape and other torture in prison or elsewhere, seen their loved ones killed or been forced to leave them behind and don’t know what may have happened to them. The terror they feel at the prospect of being returned is so severe that many attempt suicide or face destitution or detention for long periods rather than go back. Yet government pressure, including new Home Office targets for removal, ensures that immigration officials are geared towards refusing asylum applications regardless of what people have suffered, and that adjudicators and courts often make arbitrary decisions, rejecting even the most compelling cases. ASYLUM SEEKERS 10 Thousands are propelled out of Britain without ever having had proper consideration of their case. A combination of poor or even negligent legal representation, draconian immigration laws – such as those which curtail legal aid, fast-track deportations, criminalise people for coming into the country with false or no documents, and deny any form of support to people whose case is closed – reinforced by an often witch-hunting media, all ensure that the truth of what people have gone through is hidden from the public. Legislation gives social services the power to take children away from mothers who, having been made destitute, are then deemed to be incapable of caring for them. This is one of the latest sadistic measures aimed at forcing people to leave the UK despite the threat to their lives awaiting them on their return. In fact, no consideration is given to what happens to people who are removed. No government investigation has been done to find out how many people are imprisoned, tortured, killed or have to go into hiding when they are forced back to their country of origin. Information provided by deported asylum seekers and bodies such as the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), Amnesty International and others is ignored. As a women’s organisation, we work mostly with women and their families whose situation is often particularly desperate – and invisible. Approximately 80% of refugees and displaced people worldwide are women and children. As the primary carers in every society, women are most likely to have responsibility for children, and therefore are less mobile and more vulnerable to persecution. Women also have fewer resources and therefore fewer possibilities to escape. When the soldiers come and burn up a village it becomes very difficult for mothers to protect their children. You have to run for your own life and you have to make sure that the children’s lives are protected as well. It’s not easy, because the children might be small or babies and they cannot walk A SELF-HELP GUIDE 11 long distances. You have very little food and so the children get hungry. Those women who do manage to get out and claim asylum are immediately disadvantaged by the sexism, compounded by racism, which pervades the asylum process. Women’s political activity, as well as their vulnerability to punishment for the activities of other family members, are often dismissed, and with them their asylum claims. Estimates suggest that 50% of women seeking asylum have been raped; yet rape is often not recognised as torture. Rape survivors face hostility and disbelief (not unlike what happens to women in the UK who report rape and are often disbelieved and discredited by the criminal justice system). Many have survived repeated rapes over long periods whilst held in prison, and/or have been gang-raped by soldiers. Many have never spoken before about the rape or other sexual torture they suffered, and some are pregnant or have children as a result of rape – children they love but who are a constant reminder of that torture. Appeals are heard by Adjudicators who routinely ignore even their own guidelines on how women’s cases should be handled.3 In one notorious case, three Appeal Court judges dismissed rape by soldiers who were interrogating a woman about her son’s political activities, as “simple dreadful lust,” not persecution or torture, and refused her asylum. Only a public campaign saved her from deportation.4 Even when rape or other torture has been recognised, the Home Office and courts insist that women can relocate to a different part of the country they fled. Women and children are easy targets for detention and deportation – it is harder to drop out of the system when you have children to feed, clothe and educate – and many live in constant fear of immigration raids. Home Office figures5 show that up to 200 women are likely to be in detention at any one time. Though UN and Home Office guidelines say that victims of torture and other vulnerable people should not be detained, rape survivors are not ASYLUM SEEKERS 12 specifically mentioned as the victims of torture or as vulnerable people. In any case, guidelines are often ignored. Detention is always traumatic, but for survivors of torture who are already traumatised, and for mothers driven crazy with worry for their children, it is particularly devastating. Women complain of having been left for weeks cold, hungry, isolated and without interpreting help, denied basics such as sufficient blankets, a change of clothes, sanitary towels, and nappies for their children. Personal belongings such as mobile phones are taken away, denying detained asylum seekers the means to contact friends or family and forcing them to depend on expensive phone cards. Even pregnant women and those with major health problems have been denied proper medical attention. The only help one woman got with her gravely sick child was endless doses of Calpol. Women also report racism from staff 6 and, on occasion, sexual harassment.7 In such conditions, it is impossible for a mother to provide the basic care and attention, let alone the education, stimulation and sense of security, which all children need to thrive. I was detained in Yarl’s Wood with my five-month-old baby who has a hole in her heart. I was breastfeeding but my milk dried up. The food they give you is no good and you feel sick and hungry all the time. We lost weight and my baby got diarrhoea. She was crying all the time because her stomach was hurting. There is nowhere to play with the baby. Once the officers told me to put the baby down so they could search me and she fell off the seat and hurt her- self. The officers did nothing to help. Some officers are very rude, they tell you to go back to your country even though I told them what had happened to me there. There is also growing evidence of brutal and violent treatment of people during removal – both in the vans taking them to the airport, and hidden from public view at the airport.8 Conditions in detention centres in Britain, often reminiscent of what asylum seekers fled, can precipitate extreme symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: nightmares, flashbacks, insomnia, panic attacks. A SELF-HELP GUIDE 13 Many asylum seekers will privately talk about the involvement of Western governments and corporations in their countries of origin: in the economic policies and arms trading responsible for wars, genocides, poverty, corruption, devastation and ongoing repression. Still, when their lives are under threat, they have little choice but to come here to seek protection. And they often express shock and bewilderment that the country they believed would save them treats them like criminals, demonises them and locks them up. This shocking realisation often leads to depression and other severe mental and physical health problems, including repeated suicide attempts. Many deportation orders are served at the weekend or on bank holidays, when officials know that women cannot access even the limited legal and interpreting help that might be available during office hours. Even worse: immigration officers and police turn up at your home in the early hours of the morning knowing you are likely to be in bed, as happened to one woman recently. They came to detain her and her year-old daughter at 5.30 am on Easter Sunday morning, armed with a refusal of her application for a fresh claim. Fortunately, she was not at home, having stayed with a friend so she could attend church with her! The asylum services industry Again unknown to the public, most organisations funded to help asylum seekers have allowed and even collaborated with this brutality. While some committed individuals will do what they can when asked, others turn on their answer phone on a Friday evening no matter how critical the case and are never available outside of office hours. Some don’t do what they could and should – even in office hours! Asylum services have been increasingly privatised. Voluntary organisations have accepted lucrative contracts to take on the ASYLUM SEEKERS 14 functions of the State: running emergency housing, organising dispersal of asylum seekers around the UK, etc. These contracts contain caveats: in accepting the money, the NGOs agree to co- operate with the deportation process. Thus the Refugee Arrivals Project demands that asylum seekers whose cases have been closed sign an agreement to be returned to their country of origin as a condition of eligibility for emergency housing. After my case was closed the Refugee Arrivals Project de- manded I sign a document to say I would go back to Eritrea. I wouldn’t sign so they threw me out and I had to sleep at Heathrow airport. Communications Co-ordinator at the Refugee Arrivals Pro- ject, Kaltun Hassan . . . said the charity was part funded by the National Asylum Support Service . . . and had to adhere to legislation in the Immigration & Asylum Act of 1999. . . “One of the requirements is you have to co-operate with removal. If the claimant refuses to fill out the form, we are unable to help.” 9 So funding contracts determine what well-funded organisations will or won’t do, rather than the needs of those they tell the public they are heling. The Refugee Legal Centre and the Immigration Advisory Service got exclusive contracts to give legal advice at Oakington Detention Centre, but only people whose cases are being fast- tracked qualify for such help; others, even if they face imminent removal, do not. Once the Home Office has deemed a person unworthy of protection, few organisations contest that view. The government said I was lying and turned me down and then the charity support faded away. We take the tough view that if someone has had a fair hear- ing and every opportunity to put their case, they have had access to good legal advice to make their case and appeal,