This is the joint website of  Women Against Rape and Black Women's Rape Action Project. Both organisations are based on self-help and provide support, legal information and advocacy. We campaign for justice and protection for all women and girls, including asylum seekers, who have suffered sexual, domestic and/or racist violence.

WAR was founded in 1976. It has won changes in the law, such as making rape in marriage a crime, set legal precedents and achieved compensation for many women. BWRAP was founded in 1991. It focuses on getting justice for women of colour, bringing out the particular discrimination they face. It has prevented the deportation of many rape survivors. Both organisations are multiracial.

 

 

 

Stop collaborating with the most repressive and racist immigration laws ever

Open Letter to: Refugee Council, Refugee Arrivals Project, Refugee Action & other voluntary groups

The Immigration & Asylum Act 1999 imposed vouchers, forced dispersal and increasingly detention (imprisonment) of asylum seekers. The Home Office set up the National Asylum Support Service (NASS) giving £8m for two years to the Refugee Council and others to implement NASS policies – a form of privatisation. This new "Poor Law" costs more to administer than the benefits it denies asylum seekers; thousands of women, children and men are forced to live without cash and well below the poverty line. It has inflamed racism and opens the way to depriving everyone – single mothers, people with disabilities, homeless and older people - of cash benefits.

The Refugee Council administers NASS’s dispersal and accommodation policies. They are "legally obliged" - paid - to "discourage" people from ever applying to NASS or compel them to move to designated areas, leaving behind family, friends, church and other support networks, on which mothers particularly depend. People put in emergency accommodation are deprived of basic necessities and facilities, forced to queue for food available only at set hours, and isolated with no money for travel and little privacy. Those who are dispersed are often ghettoised in hostile environments, sitting targets for racist attacks. Housing Associations off-load "hard to let" housing, and private landlords make millions from government providing filthy, dangerous and sub-standard housing for the most vulnerable people. This system could not have been imposed if voluntary organisations had refused to do the government’s dirty work.

As with privatisation of railways, layers of sub-contracting means no agency takes overall responsibility – all can pass on the blame – and brutality and corruption at every level is encouraged. Voluntary organisations administer NASS policies of dispersal, provide legal advice via "one-stop shops" and in "reception centres", making up with unwaged volunteers cuts in government funding. Amnesty International, NACAB and the Terrence Higgins Trust are part of a "Stakeholder Group" which meets behind closed doors with the Home Office, the Association of Chief Police Officers and others to "provide support and consultation on issues relevant to NASS". Advocacy groups which have such a financial stake in implementing government policy represent no one but the government and their own careers. Even their advice is tainted and many people are misinformed about their rights. Asylum seekers pay the price for this new industry, sometimes with their lives.

With increased witch-hunting of "foreign nationals", by so-called anti-terrorism laws the lives and safety of immigrants, asylum seekers and people of colour are even more at risk. We often don’t have the resources, contacts or even the language to defend ourselves, or get justice. In August 2001, Firsat Yildiz, a Kurdish refugee, was stabbed to death in a Glasgow estate. In November 2001, Joseph Crentsil from Ghana was killed while fleeing an 'immigration snatch squad'. How many others have been or will be injured, raped, deprived of essentials, tortured or killed, in Britain or as a result of being deported?
It is not true that ‘someone’s got to do it’ or ‘ I can make it more humane’. None of this could happen if major voluntary sector organisations refuse to be bought. The less you oppose the more you justify the inhumanity you are implicated in.

We urge those organisations and individuals who genuinely want to help, support and work with asylum seekers to stop co-operating with NASS and speak out against these inhuman laws, and those who benefit from implementing them.
There can be no human rights or justice without:
# An immediate end to forced dispersal
# Shutting down all "reception" and detention centres
# Full entitlement to benefits and housing, wherever people want to live; no vouchers; no "smart" cards

We call on organisations and individuals to take a position with asylum seekers and endorse our Open letter.

Signatories so far:
Asylum From Rape Initiative (Women Against Rape);
Black Women for Wages for Housework;
Black Women’s Rape Action Project;
IMF/World Bank Wanted For Fraud Campaign;
Incapacity Action;
Legal Action for Women;
Payday,
Steve Cohen,
Richard Solly.

The real NASS . . .

"Now our fears are of these reception centres. It is not reception centre. It is detention centre. They hope people will be so happy with the end of the vouchers that they will forget about the detention centres. But people came here because they were afraid in their country. They were in prisons. And they do not want this." Iranian refugee, The Guardian 30 Oct 2001

"NASS wanted to disperse me to Middlesbrough. I don’t know anyone there, and get counselling and support from Women Against Rape in London. NASS sent me to the Refugee Council who told me to get a letter from the Medical Foundation, the ones who had referred me to WAR. NASS cancelled my room; the hotel packed my bags while I was out. I only got my belongings and medicine back when my lawyer took legal action. I escaped Uganda to find safety. I didn’t think I would be treated as a prisoner. Many other women suffer like me." Mother from Uganda who fled rape by soldiers.

"Imprisoned in Ghana for protesting structural adjustment. I found no organisation here capable of making my case, and did the preparation myself. State funded organisations like British Refugee Council give the impression they help refugees. In reality they often implement repressive measures of the Home Office, hiding the government’s responsibility for creating conditions that force people to flee and become refugees in the first place." Refugee, African Liberation Support Campaign

"The role of the voluntary sector . . .has historically been to act as an advocate against state authority. Now there is a situation where parts of the sector have become a junior partner of the state . . . the objective reality is that these organisations now have a financial stake in implementation of the Act." Steve Cohen, Dining with the Devil – the 1999 Immigration & Asylum Act and the Voluntary Sector

"We intervened to stop a woman being dispersed two days before her hearing. She is on the Medical Foundation list and suffers from rape trauma syndrome. NASS insisted she go, telling us that dispersal took priority over hearings which they had the right to cancel without notification. A solicitor we consulted said this was unheard of. NASS then admitted there is no such policy! They lied so they could get away with what they wanted." Black Women’s Rape Action Project

"I have always worked in the 'voluntary sector’. . . all sorts of voluntary groups decided to co-operate with NASS because they genuinely thought it would be the best way to help people. The trouble is, once you are part of the government's system, you have to play your part in a system which is hurting people. Being part of the NASS system undermines the independence and moral credibility of the voluntary groups involved." Richard Solly

"We have worked to prevent the dispersal of rape victims, who are already traumatised by the rape and violence they fled. We see many women locked in detention or sent miles away from anyone they know. This is totally devastating for anyone who’s experienced torture. Imagine the outcry if English women who reported rape were thrown in jail, or forced to move city." Women Against Rape

"I was told to go to Newcastle, three days before my hearing. BWRAP faxed NASS saying I needed to stay in London, but NASS claimed not to have got it. They were very angry that I refused to go. NASS said my hearing would be cancelled without them even telling me. I was supposed to see my doctor about injuries I had suffered, but NASS told me go; if I refused my things would be put in the street." Woman fleeing rape in detention in Ethiopia

The National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns agreed to "write to all the refugee agencies . . . implementing (NASS) policies and ask them to no longer take part in the shambles that NASS has created. . . . there is a conflict of interest between the role of advocate and NASS contractor." (June, 2001)

The real Refugee Council...

Asylum seekers evicted by private landlords protested at NASS and the estate agents. They later met the Refugee Council West Midlands (RC) which refused to help. On 31 October 2001, asylum seekers decided to occupy the RC which called the police. Two protesters were arrested, the rest escorted off the premises. The RC called the police against a second occupation later that day. Source: NCADC, Dec 2001

4 Dec 2001: Groups boycotted and protested outside a Refugee Council seminar encouraging community groups to "get more involved" with NASS. Protesters included women and men asylum seekers from Ethiopia, Ghana, Uganda, who described the inhumanity of NASS policies; plus Black women’s and anti-rape groups; church, legal rights, and disability organisations. The Open Letter was handed out, but RC Chief executive, Nick Hardwick rushed past refusing to take one or acknowledge the problem.

22 Feb 2002
 

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