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.

 

 

 

Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre staff caught “stealing” Guide on detainees’ rights

NEWS FLASH . . . 27 October 2008

Ms Wanjiku’s removal directions for Thursday 23 October were postponed as a result of last minute submissions by Jean Lambert MEP and Black Women’s Rape Action Project. Ms Wanjiku was seen by a doctor from Medical Justice Network and a legal team have said they will look into making a fresh claim. The other woman who was threatened with removal directions who also had her guide taken was RELEASED!

PRESS RELEASE . . . 20 October 2008

On 15 October, Ms Mercy Wanjiku[1], a rape survivor from Kenya, called from Yarl’s Wood IRC to report that Legal Action for Women’s Self-Help Guide against detention and deportation, which she had received by post had been confiscated by Yarl’s Wood staff. The Guide contains essential information that Ms Wanjiku needed for a legal hearing three days later. It took an official complaint, intervention by Black Women’s Rape Action Project (BWRAP), letters to her MP and a theft report lodged with the police to force Yarl’s Wood authorities to return the Guide.

Background

On 8 October, and despite her protests that it was an infringement of her right to privacy, Ms Wanjiku was forced to open her mail in front of Yarl’s Wood staff. The Self-Help Guide was confiscated even though Ms Wanjiku informed officers that she urgently needed access to information in the Guide as she had an appeal hearing for her asylum claim in three days and she had no lawyer (see notes below). She was told by a male member of staff that it was “illegal to have the book in here” and that he was following orders!

But no such orders exist. In fact, Detention Centre Rules, paragraph 4[2] state that “No letter or other communication to or from a detained person may be opened, read or stopped save where the manager has reasonable cause to believe that its contents may endanger the security of the detention centre or the safety of others or are otherwise of a criminal nature or where it is not possible to determine the addressee or sender without opening the correspondence.” Clearly nothing in the Guide could be construed in this way.

BWRAP, which has been providing support to Ms Wanjiku, took a statement from her by phone. We helped Ms Wanjiku make an official complaint to the UK Border Agency, to SERCO the multi-national company which runs Yarl’s Wood and report the theft to Bedfordshire police. Within hours, Gill Foley from the Detention Services UK Border Agency was forced to admit that the Guide had been taken in contravention of the Detention Rules. She apologised saying “we can only hold our hands up to it . . . officers have misinterpreted procedures”. Ms Wanjiku is still waiting for this apology in writing. Ms Foley assured us an investigation will be carried out into why the Guide was taken. Yesterday another woman reported having her guide confiscated and being told by a male officer that it was “forbidden”. Any investigation must address how many other women and men have been illegally denied information about their rights which could assist them in making a claim for asylum and protection.

Ms Wanjiku’s book was returned, nevertheless she is incensed that it was ever taken from her and said:

“What does it mean when the authorities can change the rules and deny me help to make my case to the Home Office? Are they aiming to deliberately sabotage our legal cases?”

Hundreds of women have relied on LAW’s Guide to provide crucial information for their case, information that should be provided by lawyers. But because of legal aid cuts there are hardly any lawyers ready or able to do this work. Over 60% of women in detention are going to their appeal hearings unrepresented[3]. Many are facing extortionate demands for money from lawyers promising to prevent their deportation who then do nothing knowing that once their client is removed from the UK they will not be able to hold the lawyer to account. LAW sends copies of the Guide free of charge daily to women and men in detention.

BWRAP and LAW have also had to complain on a number of occasions about efforts to contact women inside being obstructed by the authorities.

Legal Action for Women said:

“Once in detention, women are at an immediate disadvantage because they are cut off from outside support. If women are prevented from getting help and information then their efforts to get a fair hearing of their asylum claim are being deliberately sabotaged. Subject to a hasty and unjust process the consequences can be deathly – many women are being returned to their home countries and to further rape, other torture and even death”.

Additional information:

1. In Kenya, Ms Wanjiku, a qualified nurse, opened a clinic for young girls to protect them from FGM. This incurred the wrath of the Mungiki Sect and she was taken and tortured by them for two days. Having been left to die on a roadside, she was found by passersby. She has been living in Britain since 2001 but was arrested and detained in Yarl’s Wood on 28 August 2008 having been told she had no right to remain.

2. BWRAP is one of few groups providing information and support services run by and for African, Afro-Caribbean and other women of colour surviving rape, domestic violence, racist assault, other torture and persecution. We help co-ordinate a team of volunteers, including ex-detainees from the All African Women’s Group, which runs a daily help line to respond to enquiries from women in detention. Women who report they are rape survivors are referred either to Black Women’s Rape Action Project or Women Against Rape.

Ms Wanjiku is available for interview.

Contact: Black Women’s Rape Action Project

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