Women for Refugee Women Our Dreams Are Everyones Dreams

Our dreams are everyone's dreams

By Natalie Stanton

Few conferences wrap up with a spontaneous dance party led by Yasmin Kadi, a successful singer/songwriter from Sierra Leone, dressed in fluorescent carnival gear. But Women for Refugee Women’s event on 1 March wasn’t your average conference. A forum both to reflect on the vulnerabilities of refugee women and celebrate their immense strength, the National Refugee Women’s conference provided refugee women with a unique platform to have their voices heard, and the day echoed with songs and poetry.

Women for Refugee Women Our Dreams Are Everyones Dreams

Yasmin Kadi/photo by Briony Campbell

The National Refugee Women’s Conference 2017 marks a turning point in Women for Refugee Women’s work. Since the charity launched the Set Her Free campaign against the detention of women seeking asylum in January 2014, there have been a number positive policy developments around detention. For the first time, the UK government has explicitly stated that survivors of sexual and gender-based violence should not be detained. It has limited the duration that pregnant women can be detained to a maximum of 72 hours. And the Home Office has announced that women who are placed on constant supervision should never be watched by male guards. Each of these changes is a step in the right direction. However, one theme resonated from the conference loud and clear: more needs to be done.

“Shut down Yarl’s Wood, shut down Yarl’s Wood,” chanted the refugee women from Women Asylum Seekers Together Manchester, raising clenched fists into the air. The positive energy was contagious, and the cry soon rippled through the audience. It became clear that closing down this controversial detention facility, and others that serve the same purpose, was to be one of the key themes of the day. “There are ways to make people feel safe,” explained actress Noma Dumezweni (above) as she addressed the conference. “Detention isn’t one of them”.

Women for Refugee Women’s new report The Way Ahead: An asylum system without detention sets out a blueprint for how this could work. Overhauling the current “angry, punitive, racist and dehumanising” system, would create a space for “dignified, fair, protective and humane” policies characterised by a supportive case management system, says the charity’s policy and research coordinator Gemma Lousley.

Importantly, a number of members of parliament - from across party lines - agree that fundamental changes need to be made. Labour’s Kate Osamor took to the stage to denounce the UK’s current asylum policies, explaining how she has been working to raise awareness of the issues faced by women in detention since her election in 2015. Meanwhile, Conservative MP Richard Fuller made it clear that there should be no place for detention in the UK’s refugee system. He said, “we must fight and look forward to what we really want - a complete end to detention”. It may not be the most popular political issue at the moment, but MPs exist to “talk about people with the quietest voices, not the loudest”.

Amplifying refugee women’s voices

All speakers agreed that refugee women’s voices are slipping under the radar of the dominant narrative. But for many, this is nothing new. Mina Jaf, a refugee from Iraq and founder of Women Refugee Route, recalled how as a child she heard her mother and a friend discussing the rape and domestic violence some women faced regularly inside their refugee camp - the next day watching them pretending to live a happy life among their peers. Meanwhile, Eritrean refugee Saadia, who spent time living in the informal camp in Calais explained how so many other women in that context can’t speak enough English to seek help or tell their stories. “There are people across the sea who don’t have anything,” she said. “That’s why I’m here, to make sure they are heard”.
The first panel of the day provided an insight into the adversities faced by women during their journeys to safety - these range from an absence of menstrual products, to systematic unfavourable treatment by camp management. Speakers included Liz Clegg who set up the Unofficial Women and Children’s Centre in Calais and founding director of the Refugee Rights Data project, Marta Welander, who led a major research study on refugee women in Greek camps last year.

A second panel investigated which actions refugee women are taking to help improve the dire conditions faced by women on their journeys. Zrinka Bralo, chief executive of Migrants Organise, said “the fascists are winning right now because they’re organised”. She launched a compelling call to action: “We need to connect in solidarity and start organising”.

Getting organised

So what would getting organised look like? Clare Ryder, who helped to plan the 100,000-strong Women’s March on London, provided some pointers. “There are tons of ways to protest,” she said. Just gathering outside Yarl’s Wood and making noise can have an enormous positive impact on the morale of those inside. Moreover, tiny seeds can grow its something much bigger - the Women’s March started with just eight people coming together on Facebook and deciding to take action. Feedback from the afternoon’s workshops contributed a wealth of other ideas to the discussion, from encouraging organisations to open their resources to refugee women, to planning a national day of lobbying, and ensuring that actions are scattered around different parts of the UK.
These ideas shine a light on a potential path forward. Women for Refugee Women’s founder and director Natasha Walter explained that a delegation representing the organisation would be delivering a card signed by conference delegates to the Home Office, and requesting a meeting with Home Secretary Amber Rudd. There are also other strategic plans brewing, for instance to ensure that International Women’s Day 2018 has a firm focus on refugees.

However, the most powerful messages of the day were those relating to community, solidarity and keeping up this sense of momentum over space and time. “My dreams are everyone’s dreams, my struggles are yours, my freedom is yours,” sang London Refugee Women’s Forum, who took to the stage ablaze with colour, waving #SetHerFree placards.
At a time of growing political extremism, it would be easy to feel despondent about the future. “But how can we lose hope when we have such inspiration from refugee women?” asks Women for Refugee Women’s grassroots coordinator Marchu Girma. You certainly can’t argue with that.

Women for Refugee Women Our Dreams Are Everyones Dreams

Kate Osamor MP/photo by Briony Campbell

 

Women for Refugee Women News Our Dreams are Everyone's Dreams


Women for Refugee Women News The UN Migration Summit

Will the UN Migration Summit Bring Actions that Save Refugees from Lifejackets?

By Shahd Abusalama, a Palestinian journalist who was born and raised in Gaza's Jabalia Refugee Camp

As world leaders meet in New York for the UN Migration Summit, activists transformed Parliament Square, the doorstep of British decision makers, into a graveyard of thousands of lifejackets. These lifejackets had been once worn by refugees that made it to the European beaches. No one knows if they arrived alive or as a lifeless, unidentified body.

I am a refugee myself for the second time of my life in the UK; I was born as a third-generation refugee in Gaza’s Jabalia Refugee Camp, and I have recently been granted refugee status in the UK. But I am one of the lucky ones who managed to enter this country by aeroplane and claim asylum successfully. Over the years I’ve met so many refugees who are stuck behind closed borders, putting up with bureaucratic barriers that they experience as a slow death sentence.

When I first saw the display, I was struck by the children’s lifejackets which made up the majority of them. It evoked the picture of the Syrian refugee child Alan Kurdi, whose little body lay dead at the shores of Turkey. Though his story resulted in a growing movement of solidarity with refugees, this movement hasn’t yet been strong enough to enforce world leaders to take concrete actions to help these refugees and offer alternative safe passages to such deadly routes.

This graveyard of lifejackets puts the child Alan in the context of 4,176 people have died or gone missing on the Mediterranean since his death, according to UNHCR. These numbers are most likely to be rising as world leaders meet at the UN Migration Summit.

This disturbing scene aims to remind world’s decision makers of the ongoing suffering of tens of thousands of refugees who continue to take such deadly routes as they flee war and persecution. It is a call for immediate actions, based on humanity and solidarity, to put this suffering to an end. Most importantly, it is to emphasise that such decisions are about lives that do not have the luxury of time. These refugees continue to lead a daily struggle for survival.

So many stories behind these numbers have gone untold. Rahela Sidiqi, trustee of Women for Refugee Women and an Afghan refugee in the UK, narrated some of these stories that floated on the surface of her memory as she saw this scene. “I automatically remember my friends, my relatives, and so many people who died in the Mediterranean,” she said with eyes open wide as she contemplated the display of lifejackets. “A relative of a friend of mine who was 7 months pregnant died in the Mediterranean as she fled war in Afghanistan. Her husband has gone mad following her death that he couldn’t see any evidence for, except for her disappearance. He gave up on the humanity of world and decided to stay in Turkey, waiting in vain to find the dead body of his wife.”

In her work with Women for Refugee Women, Ms Sidiqi has visited the Calais’ Jungle Camp to meet vulnerable women stuck at the borders after surviving terrifying journeys. “A lady I met in the Jungle was in the middle of the ocean with her four children when the engine of the boat suddenly went off,” she recalled. “Her only wish to God was not to die in the ocean because she didn’t want her dead body to go missing or unidentified, and to be reduced to a number among the thousands of victims. She survived that terrible crossing, but she is still stuck behind closed borders, in limbo under unliveable conditions, waiting for a safe passage for her and her children.”

We refugees are increasingly facing different forms of anti-refugee attitudes from the public and even official bodies in our host countries, including detention, deportation, interrogation. Such ill-treatment is encouraged by the distorted narrative of xenophobia and fear against refugees. This narrative that frames us as a ‘threat’, a ‘burden’ or a ‘problem’, not as an added value to the society. Such a narrative should be discussed at the UN Migration Summit and challenged.

When we think about the alarming numbers of refugees who continue to be forced to undertake such deadly journeys, we must think about their suffering. But also about the utter failure of others to understand, to empathise and to take action.


Shahd Abusalama is a Palestinian journalist who was born and raised in Gaza's Jabalia Refugee Camp. She is a graduate of Media and the Middle East MA program at SOAS, University of London. Shahd is the author of Palestine from My Eyes blog and book. Follow her on Twitter @ShahdAbusalama.


Women for Refugee Women News Women at the Borders

Women at the Borders

By Marchu Girma, Grassroots Coordinator

‘We are thankful we made it here alive,’ Sarah tells me, as she shows us around the small cabin she shares with her 4-year-old daughter in the Calais refugee camp. She left her home in Eritrea three years ago, and has been living in Calais for about 10 months.

‘I travelled through the Sahara desert like many other Ethiopian and Eritrean refugees. Only people who have made this journey understand how difficult it is.The journey is from one desert to another; we had no one to welcome us,’ she explains. Her daughter was just two years old when they boarded a crowded lorry to cross the Sahara; on arrival in Libya, they were amongst 700 people crammed into a rickety, 350-capacity boat, transporting desperate refugees across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe. Had she been frightened for her daughter? ‘It was my daughter’s luck that shielded us from the worst fate,’ she said.

We met Sarah and her daughter by the camp’s ’Unofficial Women and Children’s Centre’ – a blue double decker bus which was donated by members of the public, including actress Juliet Stevenson – on WRW’s recent visit to Calais. The bus stands bright and tall above the muddy shanty town around it, and provides activities for children as well as a place where women can meet, chat and pick up essential donations, from sanitary towels to shampoo. It’s a welcome breathing space for women and children in the huge Jungle, where up to 4,000 people have made temporary homes in tents and wooden shelters.

The Jungle has no official status as a refugee camp, and the people we met are hugely reliant on the efforts of grassroots organisations such as the Unofficial Women and Children’s Centre and Help Refugees, which provides support including food and clothes through a great team of volunteers.  We also visited the government sponsored Jules Ferry centre on the edge of the Jungle, which houses and provides safety to some 160 women and 30 children.

I’m an Ethiopian refugee and Amharic speaker myself, and we’d travelled with my Tigrinya speaking friend, so we were able to strike up a rapport with the Ethiopian and Eritrean women we met there – many of whom, like Sarah, were keen to share their experiences with us.

Helen*, an Ethiopian woman with a sure, welcoming manner, showed us to her room in the Jules Ferry Centre and introduced us to her room mates. There were 12 beds, and some of the women were sleeping, which we learned was very common – many of those living in the camp sleep during the day, as they are up and about at night, trying to get onto lorries  to cross the Channel. Although Helen at first seemed so confident and full of laughter, at one point a toddler ran into the room and her face changed. ‘He is like my son’ she said, and  took out a photograph of the boy she left with her mother in Ethiopia more than a year ago when she fled political persecution. ‘I miss him,’ she said.

Her roommate Hanna* also spoke light-heartedly as she shared her anecdotes about life in the camp and the struggles she’d been through trying to board lorries. But then she spoke of the brutality of the French police, who enjoyed beating them with truncheons and robbing them of their shoes, leaving them to walk back to the camp barefoot. She described being trapped in a refrigerator lorry with 19 other people. ‘We were all about to die because we had run out of air, but in the last few breaths I had, I called the French police to rescue us,’ she told us. ‘When the police arrived, they stopped the lorry and broke down the door.’ Many of the refugees fainted as they were dragged out.

The women we met all had one aim: to get to the UK. One woman joked that the borders of England are so well guarded, it must be easier to get into heaven. ‘If I’d used the ten months I’ve been here to pray on bended knees, surely my entrance to heaven would be guaranteed!’ another quipped. Many of the women we met assumed we were new arrivals, and immediately asked us about our journey to the camp. When we explained that we were from England, they couldn’t believe it, and looked at us with questioning eyes, as if to say: ‘why would you want to be here?’ Outside the gates of the Jules Ferry centre we met a woman who was six-months pregnant and desperate to see a doctor. She told us she walks for two hours each night to try her luck boarding a lorry, and when she is unsuccessful she walks for another two hours back to the camp. She is full of fear about what she will do when the baby comes, and she will no longer be able to struggle on to the lorries.

 

Women for Refugee Women Women at the Borders

Members of the WRW team in Calais recently; Marchu Girma is second from right

Many people who hear about the situation for refugees in Calais wonder why they don’t claim asylum in France. The situation for the women we talked to varied, but most of them were trying to join family members already in the UK. Sarah’s husband, the father of her daughter, is actually living in Leeds and has refugee status. That should give him the right to ‘family reunion’, and give Sarah the right to cross into the UK to have her case heard here. But to exercise such apparently straightforward rights, the family needs a decent lawyer. It seems that they had been let down by one British lawyer already and they are currently trying again with another solicitor. Tied up in red tape, they are struggling to survive in the camp, where a recent survey found that 97% of the occupants are men, and where there are constant anecdotes about sexual violence that goes unreported to the police.

Sarah prefers to sleep at the Jules Ferry centre for safety, but comes to her cabin during the day for some privacy. ‘I do not feel safe in The Jungle. Our minds never rest, this is not where we want to be. This place is terrible!’ she said. A staff member at the Jules Ferry centre told us that although the centre is a place of safety for many women, she is concerned that many of the women who stay there continue to be exploited by men outside. ‘Sexual violence and prostitution are widespread in the camp,’ she told us, ‘I hear the going rate for a prostitute is as low as €3-5’. One night Sarah and her daughter joined the others trying to get on-board a lorry because she couldn’t see any other way forward. While they were trying, her cabin was ransacked and taken over by men.

Sarah’s daughter is a bright, bubbly girl, who can already speak five languages, and has seen far more than many adults in her short lifetime. When we asked her about life in the camp, she said: ‘no money, no paper’. What four-year-old has to be worried about her citizenship? Children are resilient, but this child has already seen too much.


 

Over the coming months, Women for Refugee Women will be working on a new project, Women at the Borders, in partnership with Help Refugees and Safe Passage UK, a Citizens UK programme. The project has two aims, to provide solidarity and support to women in northern France, and to work with the Safe Passage project to enable vulnerable women to access their legal and moral right to join their family members in the UK.


Women for Refugee Women News House of Lords Votes to End Detention of Pregnant Women

House of Lords votes to end detention of pregnant women

Update 11/05/16

This amendment to end the detention of pregnant women was rejected by the Government. However, the Home Office has now responded to the widespread concern about pregnant women being locked up. There will now be a time limit of 72 hours on the detention of pregnant women. Although this falls short of the absolute exclusion we hoped for, we welcome this as a positive first step. Thank you for joining us in this important campaign! We will be in touch shortly with further actions.

*

Yesterday, the House of Lords voted in favour of an amendment to the Immigration Bill that, if it passed into law, would end the detention of pregnant women in Yarl's Wood.

We at Women for Refugee Women are delighted that the Lords have voted so resoundingly in favour of this amendment. It's wonderful that so many peers decided that it's time to protect vulnerable women. We have been recommending an end to the detention of pregnant women as part of our Set Her Free campaign, and were pleased to see that recommendation echoed by Stephen Shaw in his January 2016 review of vulnerable detainees, which was commissioned by the Home Office. We hope the Government takes on board the clear consensus that pregnant women should not be detained when the Immigration Bill returns to the Commons.

Presenting the amendment in Parliament yesterday, Baroness Ruth Lister told the House of Lords: 'As Women for Refugee Women argue, refusing to accept Shaw’s clear recommendation of an absolute exclusion from detention on the basis of what would appear to be a small number of cases each year where swift removal might be possible, and when there is clear evidence that allowing decision-makers discretion results in significant numbers of pregnant women being detained in circumstances that are far from exceptional...is not sensible, effective or humane policy-making.'

You can read the full debate here.

The Bill now goes back to the House of Commons, so this amendment can be debated by members of Parliament.

If you haven't already, please take a moment today to email your MP (you can find their details here) and encourage them to speak up about vulnerable women in detention.

You may want to say that:

  • You are concerned about why the government is locking up pregnant women in Yarl's Wood, even though the Royal College of Midwives says: 'The detention of pregnant asylum seekers increases the likelihood of stress, which can risk the health of the unborn baby.'
  • You are concerned that the government detained 99 pregnant women in 2014, even though Home Office policy says pregnant women will only be detained 'in exceptional circumstances'.
  • You would like to know what your MP is doing to stand up for vulnerable women who cross borders, and whether your MP will speak up for women in detention when the Immigration Bill goes back to the House of Commons.

You can read a fuller briefing on the detention of pregnant women, with answers to frequently asked questions, here.

You can read one pregnant woman's story here and watch a short film by Mumsnet on the detention of pregnant women here.

Do feel free to share these materials widely.

We hope that by informing more MPs about this issue we can ensure that fewer vulnerable women are locked up in detention.

There are other progressive amendments on the Immigration Bill that will be debated next week. You can also ask your MP to support the amendments on asylum seekers' right to work and on bringing unaccompanied child refugees to the UK.


Would you like refugees to find a fair hearing and dignified treatment in the UK? If so, don't keep your views to yourself - let your MP know!


Women for Refugee Women News Detention is No Place for Pregnant Women

'Detention is no place for pregnant women'

By Sarah Graham, Communications Executive at Women for Refugee Women
All photos by Shyamantha Asokan

As part of our ongoing Set Her Free campaign, we are currently focusing on the detention of pregnant women. This is because pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to the distress caused by being detained. The Royal College of Midwives has said: 'The detention of pregnant asylum seekers increases the likelihood of stress, which can risk the health of the unborn baby.'

And that is before you look at the longstanding concerns about conditions inside Yarl's Wood - including male guards routinely watching women in intimate situations, high levels of depression and self-harm, allegations of sexual abuse, and poor quality healthcare. Medical Justice has found that pregnant women in Yarl's Wood often miss antenatal appointments; that some women have no ultrasound scans during their time in detention; and that women do not have direct access to a midwife.

Home Office policy states that pregnant women should only be detained under exceptional circumstances. However, in 2014, 99 pregnant women were detained in Yarl's Wood. Moreover, just 9 of these women were deported. The remaining 90% were released back into the community to continue with their claims. Their detention was unnecessary, and very traumatic for the women concerned.

On 22 March 2016, Caroline Spelman MP (Conservative) hosted an event for us in Parliament, with Medical Justice and Bhatt Murphy Solicitors, in which she described the practice of detaining pregnant women as 'obsolete' and urged the Government to 'do all it can to stop holding pregnant women in detention centres once and for all'.

Women for Refugee Women Briefing Detention for Pregnant Women

We were privileged to be joined by former Prisons and Probation Ombudsman Stephen Shaw, who authored the recent Home Office review into the welfare of vulnerable people in immigration detention; as well as the Royal College of Midwives (RCM)'s head of midwifery, Louise Silverton; Stephanie Harrison QC from Garden Court Chambers; and a number of women who were detained in Yarl's Wood while pregnant.

Women for Refugee Women Briefing Detention for Pregnant Women

Stephen Shaw stated: 'The recommendation that I make in my report is that there should be an absolute exclusion of pregnant women from detention. Detention does undeniable damage to both the pregnant woman and her unborn child.' It was great to hear his words of encouragement to 'redouble your efforts... [and] take this forward with all your energy.'

Stephanie Harrison QC described the case of Ms PA, who last year received a formal apology and promise of damages from the Home Office for being unlawfully detained while pregnant. 'Our case exposed, and the Home Office agreed, that it was necessary to review their policy,' Stephanie said. 'It is simply impossible to provide the same level of care in detention as in the community. [Detaining pregnant women] is unnecessary and cruel.'

Women for Refugee Women Briefing Detention for Pregnant Women

Our third speaker was Louise Silverton, who reiterated the Royal College of Midwives' support for the campaign. 'Women in detention are more likely to experience high risk pregnancies, and they are more likely to already be traumatised by their past experiences,' she said. 'The Royal College of Midwives is proud to stand alongside the individuals in this room calling for an end to this practice.'

Women for Refugee Women Briefing Detention for Pregnant Women

Finally, we heard moving testimonies from three of the women who were detained while pregnant in 2014. 'Detention is no place for pregnant women. I completely stopped going to healthcare because I lost faith in that department,' Lorraine told us. 'I hope and I pray that this concept of detaining pregnant women is abolished.'

Another former detainee stated: 'When I think about that time I start crying, it was horrible. I came here to claim asylum because I heard the UK is a champion of human rights, but I was wrong.'

Women for Refugee Women Briefing Detention for Pregnant Women

Many MPs and peers attended, including Paula Sherriff, David Burrowes, Richard Fuller, Baroness Lister, Baroness Hamwee, Lord Dubs, Tulip Siddiq, Paul Blomfield. Catherine West and Anne McLaughlin, as well as staff from the offices of Kate Osamor and Oliver Letwin.

Women for Refugee Women Briefing Detention for Pregnant Women

We are continuing to try to reach more Parliamentarians to ensure that pregnant women are no longer locked up in Yarl's Wood. This is a key moment in the campaign and we would like your support in reaching MPs on this issue.

Download our briefing here.

Watch the video we made with Mumsnet here, and read the story of one pregnant woman in detention in the Pool here.

And take action with us! Please write to your MP and ask them to raise this issue with James Brokenshire, the immigration minister, asking him to ensure that pregnant women are never locked up for immigration reasons.

If you need help with finding your MP's address or deciding what to write to them, please email us on admin@refugeewomen.co.uk


Women for Refugee Women News Celebrating and Demonstrating on International Womens' Day

Celebrating and demonstrating on International Women's Day

By Sarah Graham, Communications Executive at Women for Refugee Women

"It is not a question of if, it is a question of when Yarl's Wood is closed. This is the 21st century!"

That was the message of hope from Stella Creasy MP on Tuesday 8 March, when Women for Refugee Women marked International Women's Day with a gathering outside the Home Office.

 

Women for Refugee Women Celebrating International Womens Day

 

Chants of "Set Her Free!" resounded against the Home Office walls as we called on Theresa May to show compassion for her fellow women by ending the detention of asylum seekers in Yarl's Wood.

 

Women for Refugee Women Celebrating International Womens Day

 

We were joined by an array of brilliant female performers, speakers, and a crowd of more than 100 supporters, including more than 50 refugee women.

 

Women for Refugee Women Celebrating International Womens Day

 

Many thanks to Shami Chakrabarti, Kate Osamor MP, Stella Creasy MP, Sabrina Mahfouz, Zrinka Bralo, Gaggle, Natalie Bennett, Lips Choir, London Klezmer Quartet, Juliet Stevenson, Nyakaza African dancers, London Refugee Women's Forum, Sophie Walker, Demi Mseleku, Sula Mae, Caroline Lucas MP, Sajeela Kershi, Nimko Ali, and our speakers from Hope Project Birmingham and Women Asylum Seekers Together (WAST) London, for helping us to make a joyful and defiant noise outside the Home Office.

 

Women for Refugee Women Celebrating International Womens Day

 

We also launched our '99 women' solidarity action, with 99 inspiring women writing messages in support of their refugee sisters, which we delivered to Theresa May at the Home Office.

 

Women for Refugee Women Celebrating International Womens Day

 

Check out media coverage of the event, and the full gallery of photos on our Facebook page.

 

Women for Refugee Women Celebrating International Womens Day

WAST speeches for International Women's Day

Our weekly Women Asylum Seekers Together (WAST) London group also celebrated International Women's Day by writing their own speeches. Here are some extracts from those speeches:

Today being International Women's Day, I want to tell the Home Office that women are tired and fed up of being locked up in detention centres where they are mistreated, raped, and left with no help. Gone are the days when women are silenced. They nowadays speak with one voice that is unity, and share their problems. Freedom is near, women should never give up. Keep fighting the Home Office and one day your dreams will come true.

This country does not belong to anyone, why can't we all live in harmony? No one is better than the other. Home Office is not fair at all. I wonder why people have to report - it is out of order, it really is torture to the mind. All we want is to live a normal life, just like everybody else. When you are detained all your rights are taken away from you. No one is better than the other, we are all human beings, we should live in harmony and it would be a better world.

We have the right to stay in this country. We know what you have been doing in our countries - creating wars, stealing our natural resources to build your own country. We have the rights to live here and no human is illegal in any country! We are here to stay for our freedom!

As I can see, come on women, stop being cowards, be strong. We also need to use our voice and rights to stand and talk about how the Home Office makes wrong decisions on asylum and refugee applications. We also need to shout at them for detaining asylum seekers. No, no, no, that's wrong.

I will rise, yes
I will rise like the
Vision of tomorrow
I am sure to
Rise like the deep oceans
I will rise


Women for Refugee Women News Video End The Detention of Pregnant Women

Video: End the detention of pregnant women

Ahead of Mother's Day, we collaborated with Mumsnet on a short online film to raise awareness of the detention of pregnant women. In the film, three Mumsnet users read out the stories of women who have been detained at Yarl's Wood detention centre while pregnant.

This is a guest post from Hannah, of blog Budding Smiles, who read the story of Priya (not her real name) in the film.

Many thanks to Hannah, as well as Cash (The Comeback Mum), Leigh (Headspace Perspective), and the fantastic team at Mumsnet, for working with us to highlight this issue. 

As I write this, I am 33 weeks and 3 days pregnant with my second baby - a daughter for my husband and me, a sister for my 19 month old son. Throughout those 33 weeks and 3 days I have received care from my GP, midwife, sonographer, physiotherapist, husband, mum, friends... I've had a wonderful amount of care and support around me, and any difficulties that my pregnancy has presented have been checked upon and treated if necessary.

I'm lucky. I was born into a family home that was in a country not torn apart by war. I never feared for my life because of rape, gangs, homelessness, starvation. I never had to consider fleeing my home and my family in order to try and find safety. I am lucky, but many women are not.

I recently travelled to London to take part in filming a video with Women For Refugee Women, who are highlighting the plight of pregnant refugee women who are held at Yarl's Wood Detention Centre. Along with two other bloggers, two other mothers, we were filmed reading the stories of three women who have risked everything to get to the presumed safety of the UK.

We read of how these women have experienced being put back into their rooms after collapsing, without adequate medical checks as to why they fainted, of no psychological support for depression and anxiety, of having a 71p daily allowance to buy alternative food when the meals supplied triggered terrible sickness.

These women are detained indefinitely and, in 2014 alone, there were 99 pregnant women held in these sorts of conditions at Yarl's Wood.

Filming was highly emotional, we read the letters out without having previously read them so our reactions are completely natural and - as you can tell from the video - we were shocked and saddened to say the least.

As a pregnant woman, I've never taken my pregnancy for granted but I guess that I have taken the care that is accessible to me for granted. I've not had to think about picking alternative meals should certain food make me sick, I've worried about migraines and other prospectively dangerous symptoms but I've always been able to get medical attention immediately and had these things investigated thoroughly. I may have worried that my baby was in danger, but I never worried about the level of care I would receive.

These ladies and their babies have access to basic healthcare but basic it certainly is. Minimal scans, midwife checks, blood tests. A lack of friends and family to support them. Indefinite detention. For many of them, this was because they  feared so greatly for their lives that they truly felt that escaping and becoming a refugee was their safest option; to make a perilous journey across many dangerous countries in the hope of raising their babies in safety. No mother would do that unless she felt that she had no other choice.