By Patrick Jones Edited by Thelma Ruskie
Asylum Aid is calling for basic protection of women fleeing persecution, FGM and other world’s most brutal wars and repressive regimes in the uK. Survivors of these atrocities fall through a protection gap in the uK asylum system because they are often treated differently from the local people. Our campaign is based on the suffering and discomfort we have identified among women seeking asylum in the UK.
We are an independent, national charity founded in 1990 to secure protection for people seeking refuge from persecution and human rights abuses abroad. As one of the UK’s leading NGOs working with people seeking asylum, we exist because we wish to improve the effectiveness of the asylum determination system as a whole for the benefit of all people seeking protection.
Asylum Aid receives funding from ROSA to provide legal advice and representation to victims of, or those at risk from, FGM. Advice is provided across the UK to clients and referral agencies via our weekly advice line Tel: 020 7354 9631 on Tuesdays from 1.00pm till 4.00pm. We also deliver legal outreach surgeries at day centres in London. We also offer legal services that range from initial expert diagnostic assessment, to full legal representation in the High Court.
The evidence generated through the legal advice and representation services we provide to asylum seekers is used to make recommendations for wider improvements, campaigning for an asylum system based on inviolable human rights principles, with a particular focus on women seeking asylum. This has led us to launch the Protection Gap Campaign.
hypocrisy associated with it, a new campaign has been launched that seeks to close this Protection Gap. It is run by the Women’s Asylum Charter, whose 350 supporters include Forward, Women for Refugee Women, Rosa and the Royal College of Midwives.
The campaign states that “No woman seeking asylum should have to tell her story:
• In front of her children
• To a male interviewer or interpreter if she is not comfortable with this
• To someone who doesn't understand how trauma affects memory
• Without being given counselling
• Without information about her rights as a woman in the asylum system
Nafeesa from Yemen had a male interviewer for her asylum interview and could not effectively articulate herself. She told me “When it comes to FGM in my culture, you don’t talk to a man about it. Even your husband, even your brother, there is no man that you can talk to about it. Even just somebody who did not go through FGM, you cannot talk to them about it”.
Annick from Cameroon told me “I could have opened up more but my little boy was there.” Not all local asylum offices provide childcare. So a woman may have to choose between explaining her asylum claim fully and talking about FGM in front of her children.
Take action to close the Protection Gap today to ensure women seeking asylum should have equivalent rights to women in this country facing FGM.