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.

 

 

 

Ministers deliberately making asylum seekers destitute, say MPs

In the Media

Press Association, Friday March 30, 2007 Guardian Unlimited

Ministers are deliberately making vulnerable asylum seekers destitute, a committee of MPs and peers claimed today. They accused the government of inflicting unacceptable and inhumane treatment, and described the asylum system as a "confusing mess".

A deliberate policy of refusing benefits to some asylum seekers combined with a ban on legal working left many would-be refugees in "appalling" circumstances, a report by the Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) said.

It highlighted one case of a destitute Rwandan asylum seeker who suffered bowel cancer and had a colostomy bag but was refused treatment by a hospital and could not even register with a GP.

In another, a woman was forced to live rough for three months - sitting at crowded bus stops all night because she was terrified of being alone - but on winning her asylum appeal was ruled entitled to immediate support.

It also reported how parents of a three-week-old baby were housed in a "filthy, bug-infested room" in Leicester, and how a penniless Chinese asylum seeker arrived "exhausted and distressed" at an agency after carrying her newborn baby around in a towel for a week.

Andrew Dismore, chairman of the JCHR, said: "The system of asylum seeker support is a confusing mess, and the policy of enforced destitution must cease.

"Asylum seekers as a group do not always get the greatest sympathy from society or the media but what we have seen and heard provides very hard evidence of appalling treatment that no human being should suffer."

The report said: "Many witnesses have told us that they are convinced that destitution is a deliberate tool in the operation of immigration policy.

"We have been persuaded by the evidence that the government has indeed been practising a deliberate policy of destitution of this highly vulnerable group.

"We believe that the deliberate use of inhumane treatment is unacceptable."

In many cases the denial of healthcare for asylum seekers and their children amounted to a breach of human rights laws, it added.

It raised particular concerns about the treatment of children by the asylum system, especially when they are held in detention.

The committee called for an end to detention, or at the very least an automatic bail hearing for families with children after seven days.

In 2005, 1,860 children were locked up under immigration powers, with some held for more than 28 days.

Mr Dismore said: "Innocent children should never be detained; alternatives must be developed.

"Some of our proposals, which some people might find contentious, are surely just common sense.

"If an asylum seeker is in the middle of an appeal process which is delayed for reasons outside their control and they are not going to be able to leave for 12 months, they should be able to seek work, at least on a limited basis, to support themselves, rather than having to be dependent on benefits at public expense.

"Healthcare policy should just be decided on the basis of common humanity: a dying person should not be deported to a country where they will have no palliative care, and pregnant women should have access to care until they leave the country.

"If we do not treat people who have serious infectious diseases it clearly poses a wider public health risk; this is simply common sense."

Earlier this week a report by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust said many of those refused asylum were living in "appalling and inhumane" conditions.

They found themselves in a "tattered safety net" and were left homeless, hungry and hidden, it added.

Anna Reisenberger, the acting chief executive of the Refugee Council, said: "This report is a devastating indictment of the government's asylum policy.

"It criticises almost every aspect of the asylum system, suggesting that, in numerous areas, international obligations are being breached and asylum seekers are being denied their basic human rights.

"We have been campaigning and lobbying on all these issues and are very pleased that this influential group of MPs and peers have come out in such clear terms in calling for change."