Women for Refugee Women is seeking a freelance consultant in communications

Women for Refugee Women is seeking a freelance consultant in communications.

WRW is starting an exciting new strategic communications project.

We are planning to carry out research on how we can change attitudes among our key audiences, in order to step up our communications work at this challenging time, to build more support for asylum-seeking women.

Before we get started, we want to look at where we are now and what we already know.

So we are commissioning a freelance consultant to carry out a literature review on existing knowledge about how to improve public support for progressive narratives in women's rights, migration and anti-racism.

We would also like this consultant to carry out a workshop with our team, to lay out this existing knowledge and its practical implications for our work.

If you would be interested in carrying out this literature review and this workshop, please take a look at the brief for the work and how to apply.

We'd like to hear from you by the end of July.

Please email samantha@refugeewomen.co.uk or natasha@refugeewomen.co.uk if you have any questions.

 

 

 


Women for Refugee Women and Refugee Women Connect are recruiting a freelance evaluator

Women for Refugee Women and Refugee Women Connect are looking for a freelance evaluator.

Power Up! is a three-year project funded by Comic Relief and delivered by Women for Refugee Women (London) and Refugee Women Connect (Liverpool).

The project is aimed at developing the capacity of asylum-seeking and refugee women in the UK to advocate on gender-based violence and the need for a fairer asylum process, building a movement of women with lived experience that can connect with decision makers in order to effect change. The ambition of the project can be broken down into three core elements:

Empowerment: Increasing confidence and agency through activities that include rights and entitlements workshops and building skills in advocacy, research and campaigning;

Influence: Supporting advocates to raise awareness and influence positive narrative change through research and awareness raising in the media and online;

Change: Connecting asylum-seeking and refugee women with those in positions of power to effect positive change in the asylum system.

The main activities of the funded project include:

  • Sisters Not Strangers Coalition – UK-based network of organisations and groups supporting asylum-seeking and refugee women. Together we campaign against hostile asylum policies. See more.
  • Refugee Women Connect Advocacy Group – Expert by Experience group based in the North West involved in advocacy and influencing, peer research and training for other lived experience advocates.
  • London Forum – a group of asylum-seeking and refugee women promoting advocacy and wellbeing, based in London.

As the second year of the project comes to an end in August, we are looking for an experienced evaluator to speak with members of the three above-mentioned groups, as well as with staff and volunteers from both organisations, in order to measure our success and feed into our Year 2 report.

Aims of the evaluation

  • To assess the effectiveness of the Power Up funded work over the specified period against the outputs and outcomes set out in the project proposal to Comic Relief.
  • To consider outcomes and outputs using Comic Relief’s power framework, assessing changes in; agency of individuals, power of movement, narrative power and institutional power
  • To assess successes and challenges, making recommendations about how these should shape the final year of the funded project.

Key deliverables (outputs) and budget:

  1. To submit a written evaluation report by 15th September 2021, ready to feed into our Year 3 grant reporting.
  2. To make recommendations, based on findings, for the design of the final year project delivery, including a participatory evaluation led by the women themselves.
  3. To present findings and recommendations of the interim evaluation to asylum-seeking and refugee women who have contributed to it, in a format accessible to them.
  4. The proposed budget is £2,000.

Timescale

  • Tender deadline Monday 19th July.
  • Shortlisting Tuesday 20th July.
  • Interviews Friday 23rd July.

Interim evaluation report for the period September 2019-August 2021 to be submitted by Wednesday 15th September 2021.

Interim evaluation report for the period September 2019-August 2021 to be submitted by Wednesday 15th September 2021.

Person Specification

We are looking for someone with the following experience:

Essential:

  • Extensive experience of monitoring and evaluation
  • Understanding of the UK’s asylum system and the impact of hostile environment policies
  • Experience of working collaboratively with women who have experienced multiple intersecting vulnerabilities

Desirable:

  • Lived experience of seeking asylum or of migration
  • An understanding of campaigns and movement-building
  • An understanding of power frameworks and outcome harvesting

Recruitment

Please submit a CV, a cover letter explaining how you meet the person specification, and an outline of how you would approach the brief (including key milestones and perceived challenges) to joinus@refugeewomen.co.uk.

Interviews will take place on 23th July 2021 for immediate start.

 

Women for Refugee Women Logo

 


Local leaders and public figures unite to oppose the new detention centre for women in County Durham

Today, 12 May 2021, over 200 MPs, councillors, faith leaders, people who have sought asylum, charity and community group leaders, health workers, academics and university staff, and public figures raised or based in the North East of England write to the Home Secretary to express concerns about the proposed new immigration detention centre for women at Hassockfield in County Durham.

Signatories include Mary Foy, MP for the City of Durham; Ian Mearns, MP for Gateshead; Kate Osborne, MP for Jarrow; Emma Lewell-Buck, MP for South Shields; Jamie Driscoll, Mayor, North of Tyne Combined Authority; Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys; Peter Flannery, playwright and scriptwriter for Our Friends in the North; Umme Imam, executive director of the Angelou Centre; Michael Fawole, centre director of the North East Law Centre; Julian Prior, CEO of the Action Foundation; Rabbi Sybil Sheridan of the Newcastle Reform Synagogue; Father Adrian Tucker, vicar of Caritas Hexham and Newcastle; Professors Cheryl McEwan, John Nash and Catherine Donovan, Heads of Department at Durham University; and many more influential leaders.

The letter outlines serious concerns about the plans to open a new immigration detention centre for women:

  • Research has shown that the majority of women who are locked up in immigration detention are survivors of serious human rights abuses, including torture, rape and trafficking. Detention is deeply re-traumatising and harmful, and women’s immigration cases can be more effectively and humanely resolved within the community. The Government has previously committed to reduce its use of immigration detention, and so these new plans represent a concerning change of direction.
  • The site of this new detention centre (the former Medomsley Detention Centre site) has a disturbing history of abuse. During the 1970s and 80s, hundreds of young men were physically and sexually abused by members of staff while held there. Durham Police’s investigation into the abuse, Operation Seabrook, is ongoing, and to date over 1,800 men have come forward to give evidence. The reopening of the site is also likely to have a traumatising impact on those previously abused there.
  • Local people have been disregarded in the development of these new plans. The site had previously been earmarked for new homes, yet without any local consultation, these plans have now been cancelled.

The letter was coordinated by Women for Refugee Women, No To Hassockfield, the Durham People’s Assembly, Abolish Detention - Hassockfield and students from Durham University.

Agnes Tanoh, who was herself detained at Yarl’s Wood before being granted refugee status and who is now detention campaign spokesperson at Women for Refugee Women, says:

“I claimed asylum here because I was being persecuted in my country and I thought I would be killed. Instead of finding safety, I was locked up at Yarl’s Wood immigration detention centre for 3 months in 2012. Now, the government has agreed that I should stay in this country, and I have refugee status, but I still struggle with the emotional impact of being locked up in the UK when I most needed protection. I know how detention destroys a woman. Women become depressed and suicidal in detention. I don’t want to see this happen to any of my sisters who are looking for safety.”

Mary Kelly Foy, MP for the City of Durham, says:

“This detention centre will allow the Government to effectively imprison 80 vulnerable women at a site with an appalling history of abuse, despite genuine alternatives to detention existing.

Rather than seeking to extend their hostile environment policy to a small community hundreds of miles away from Westminster, the Government should focus on creating an asylum system that treats people with the compassion and care that they both need and deserve. This starts with scrapping the plans for this abhorrent detention centre.”

Severin Baker, final year Geography student at Durham University who coordinated a separate letter to Mary Foy MP in opposition to the new detention centre (with fellow-student Rachel Cope-Thompson) that was signed by over 1,600 students and staff, says: 

“The plans to open the Hassockfield Detention Centre have prompted a strong reaction across Durham University, with 1,600 students, over 100 members of staff, and the Vice Chancellor signalling their opposition. This University-wide mobilisation epitomises the local discontent for a regressive and egregious development designed to dehumanise and harm women who are seeking asylum in the UK”

Peter Flannery, scriptwriter of Our Friends in the North, says:

"We should welcome, support and protect refugee women, not seek to detain them. So we do not need to build more detention centres. Let's display, and be proud of, our common humanity.”

Owain Gardner, Organiser of The No To Hassockfield Campaign, says: 

“The human rights and mental health implications of the site being re-used for detention are enormous, not least because of its horrendous past. The choice of Hassockfield for the proposed Removal Centre is insidious, because of the lack of access to legal representation - County Durham has one of the lowest number of suitably qualified Lawyers in the UK. So we will redouble our efforts to ensure that this Immigration Removal Centre does not open. No one is illegal!” 

Mollie Brown, chair of the Durham People’s Assembly, says:

“Durham People’s Assembly are opposed to this detention centre for two reasons. Firstly, the immorality of incarcerating people who are looking for safety and secondly because of the horrendous history associated with the site dating back to the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s and the impact this still has on the community. Whilst we welcome good jobs in the community, we strongly refute the claim that the detention centre will provide this. The types of companies that the government are contracting to run and maintain the site have a history of poor working conditions and exploitative practices for both employees and people who are detained. Good jobs do not come off the back of cruel and inhumane detention.”

A spokesperson for Abolish Detention - Hassockfield says: 

“We strongly oppose the plans to build a new detention centre, especially on a site with a horrific history of abuse. The detention centre entails renewed violence, abuse and mistreatment for migrant women. Its construction is yet another part of the government’s cruel immigration policy that continues to cause senseless and needless suffering. This must end.

No one is illegal. Migration is not a crime.”

 


Women seeking asylum respond to the consultation on the government's new plan for immigration

Refugee and asylum-seeking women in our London network share their responses to the government's harmful new plan for immigration.

The deadline for submitting a personal response to the consultation is 11.45pm tonight (6 May 2021). It is so important that we all use our voices to amplify the concerns of women seeking asylum. We have produced a simple guide to support you to target your response to highlight why these plans are so dangerous for women. You can download the guide here.

Please help us to amplify these women's responses - these are the women who know what needs to change in the asylum process because they have lived it.


'O' says:

"I have been here for 3 years trying to put my life together and having only temporary protection would not be helpful at all. It would be very bad for my mental health. How can I progress in my education and career if I have no access to resources?"

'E' says:

"I am so worried about the effects this plan will have on women. It will lead to mental health issues such as stress, depression and anxiety. There are many women who have children and will be affected by this new immigration bill in the sense that, they will be stressed for their future and those of their kids. Many migrant women or asylum seekers or refugees have been abused in their home countries. So sending them back will put them in danger.

The government is a racist political body that doesn't care about asylum seekers. It is treating asylum seekers as if they are not humans. Trying to bring back a fast track which was deemed inhumane is absolutely insane. Opening more detention centres, old army barracks or wanting to send asylum seekers to isolated islands is not fair especially during this covid crisis.

The government should instead figure out how they can create safer routes for people who need to claim asylum to enter the country. No one will choose to be locked in the back of a lorry or to take a boat to enter Britain if they have any other choice. It is very risky to take a lorry and seek asylum, you should not say that people who come on a lorry are not ‘genuine’ asylum seekers.

I don’t know if The Home Office are human anymore. They are bringing back inhumane policies, things that have been so hard won are being lost."

'C' says:

"If you have a reason to be protected once under temporary protection, then that should be enough proof and reason to protect you for life. It is such a relief to know that you are protected for life and that you can start to make plans for the future without having to prove yourself over and over again. How can you make plans if you can’t see a future? You end up staying in the same place mentally."

'S' says:

"They might as well be ending the asylum system completely."

'V' says:

"It is very concerning for mental issues that women go through. I’ve been in this country 7 years. After you have tried to survive in your country, but have had to escape to find protection and security, after you’ve fled from torture, then you come here to live another kind of torture. A torture which is much more sophisticated, as it is not physical, but mental torture. The laws and the Home Office make it impossible to escape. You will never heal but you will always be punished, and threatened, and asked to go back. The waiting process makes your depression worse, you are stuck in a dark place. They don’t treat men and women who seek asylum as human beings. It will exacerbate mental health issues for women but especially single mothers and their children."

'P' says:

"If the new bill goes through it will affect women more."

'D' says:

"I’ve been to detention twice; I’m a single mother with 3 kids. My children give me hope, but if I can’t put in a fresh asylum claim, what can I do? I had a bad lawyer to start with -  I wanted certain information included in my case, but my lawyer chose to omit it, and as a direct result of this, my claim was rejected."

'M' says:

"I am particularly worried about children if we can never get permanent settlement.

Children need to be able to feel safe, and part of society. They are our future. It is not fair to treat some children so differently because we had to seek asylum. I came here to find a safe place for me and my children. Also, it is actually bad for society if some children are always treated as outsiders. This is very destructive.

Also as a woman I needed time to make my case. They say you need evidence, but the problem is that even by trying to get evidence you make yourself unsafe. By reaching out to the people back home to ask for this, they know where you are, you feel vulnerable.  So this takes time, you need to feel safe first."

 


Update: You can read Women for Refugee Women's full response to the sham-consultation on this government's proposed new plan for immigration here.


Rainbow Sisters 'strongly oppose' the government's proposed immigration plan

Rainbow Sisters, a group of 70 lesbian, bisexual and trans women and non-binary people who have sought asylum in the UK, respond to the consultation on the government's proposed new plan for immigration.

The group strongly opposes the new plan, which is dangerous for LGBT+ people seeking asylum.

Please read and share the group's concerns about these harmful plans:


Equality Question:

We are concerned about the impact of these plans on women and LGBT people, with the protected characteristics of sex, sexual orientation and gender re-assignment.

We are a group of more than 70 women and non-binary people who have sought asylum in this country. Twenty-four of us now have refugee status here, but all of us have struggled in the asylum process and we are very concerned that key proposals in this plan would make things even harder for people like us.

First, we are very concerned about proposals to differentiate between vulnerable people who need safety, depending on how they came into this country.

It is neither realistic nor fair to expect women who are in danger due to their gender identity or sexual orientation to rely on resettlement as a route to safety. This is because not all of us can safely access a resettlement programme. Some of us would be targeted if our governments found out about our attempts to flee. Lots of us wouldn’t feel secure in disclosing our sexual identity before we’ve reached a stable place of safety.

All of us know what it is like to live our lives in hiding, unable to speak to anyone about who we truly are, knowing that we have to keep silent if we are to survive. All of us have faced the fear of violence if our secrets are known. Many of us have experienced extreme violence, including sexual violence, by members of our communities or by the authorities as punishment if they suspected out sexuality.

For instance, please read this article by a bisexual woman who had to flee very suddenly and secretly, as otherwise she would have faced the death penalty, in Saudi Arabia.

Also, many of us were actually brought to this country against our will. While we were not safe in our home countries, we were also not safe on our journeys, which many of us made in the hands of traffickers. Those of us who were brought by traffickers did not choose to be brought here and then we were often forced to work as domestic workers or sex workers. It is unjust to punish us for the crimes of our traffickers.

If you condemn us to temporary settlement we would never feel safe. The prospect of potentially being refused after 30 months and removed, despite the Home Office recognising that we are refugees, would hang over us and crush us.  Without getting permanent settlement, we would never have the chance to heal from the trauma that we have suffered. We would never be able to plan our lives. We would never be able to contribute to society, to build families and relationships and put down roots. It is inhumane to do this to us.

Second, this plan proposes a ‘one-stop’ process where we would have to bring all the evidence and go through all of our claim for protection immediately on arrival in the UK at the start of the process. This is utterly unrealistic. Many of us have never come out as gay or bisexual when we arrive in the country, we may need time to come to terms with the shame that has been forced on us, and to find the support we need to speak openly about our sexuality or gender identity.

Even when we start to speak and live more openly, we have all struggled to find good legal advice to enable us to understand what evidence we need to collect or what we need to explain about our situations. Many of us have been let down by incompetent lawyers who gave us damaging advice and did no work on our cases. Many of us did not know that, even if we have fled in fear of our lives, we are able to make a claim for asylum based on our sexuality. Many of us have struggled to find the mental health support we need to be able to relive the trauma of violence that we have passed through, and to recount it to the authorities here. Some of us have needed time to get away from our traffickers and to feel safe from reprisal before we can speak about how we were brought to this country.

In other words, it often takes a lot of time for LGBT people to be able to get a fair assessment One of us got refugee status after 8 years, she speaks on BBC Woman’s Hour here, when she had experienced a first refusal and was living destitute and in fear of deportation.

Another of us got her refugee status after 20 years. She too was initially refused and detained in Yarl’s Wood, but when she had good support and legal advice she was able to get a fair assessment and she now has refugee status. She describes what it was like to spend so long in the asylum system here.

We agree that the asylum process could be much more fairer and efficient. But the way to do that is to ensure that people are given the mental health support and legal advice they need to make their claims fully at the outset, not to punish them if they need more time to gather their evidence and find support. If the Home Office wants things to be more efficient, it is important that it puts its own house in order and make sure it responds to claims in a timely way and arranges first interviews promptly Many of us wait for months and years to hear from the Home Office, and now you want to punish us by trying to speed things up unfairly.

There are other aspects of this new plan for immigration which will also have a disproportionate impact on LGBT asylum-seekers. For instance, the use of reception centres could be very unsafe for those of us who often face violence and ostracism from our communities because of our sexuality.

There are also aspects of this plan which are very unclear to us and the Home Office needs to be much clearer about what it is planning and to look at the way that it will impact people who are LGBT and seeking asylum. We are already some of the most disadvantaged and marginalised people in this country. These plans will put us at even more risk of harm.

 

Last question: Is there any other feedback…

We agree that the asylum process does need to be reformed, but the Home Office needs to approach this in a different way, based on humanity and compassion.

We would particularly suggest four reforms that would benefit asylum seekers and society as a whole.

First of all, we would like to have the right to education and work so that we can improve our skills and be useful members of society. At the moment the trauma that those seeking asylum have fled through is made worse by being condemned to years of uncertainty in the asylum process, without the ability to be educated or to work.  This leaves us all anxious, depressed and unable to contribute to society.

Second, there needs to be more investment in legal aid. In order to be able to tell our stories clearly to the Home Office and to get a fair hearing, we need better legal advice. There are not enough good lawyers who understand what we have gone through and explain the evidence we need to collect. This means that many people get unfair refusals and this means that the system becomes slow and expensive.

Third, everyone needs the right to support and housing. Many of us are exploited in the UK because of our poverty and insecurity. The Home Office pushes refugee women into unsafe situations because we need a roof over our heads and food to eat. Many of our sisters who have been abused in their home country come to this country and find that the hostile environment and destitution leave them vulnerable to further abuse.

Fourth, people seeking asylum should not be held in detention. The experience of detention has left scars on many of us. It is inhumane and also unnecessary to lock up women who are seeking safety in this country. Many of us who were detained were later recognised as refugees, so it is clear that detention is unjust.

Above all, we want to tell you that we are women who have fled danger, and all we are asking for is a chance to have a fair hearing and to rebuild our lives in safety. We would like to be able to meet with the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, and explain our situation to her. We hear that she said in Parliament, ‘Where are the vulnerable women that the system is meant to protect?’ We would like to say to her, that we are here and we are ready to meet with her.

 


Update: You can read Women for Refugee Women's full response to the sham-consultation on this government's proposed new plan for immigration here.

 


Over 70 leaders working with refugee women come together to highlight to the Home Secretary that her new plan for immigration will harm women

The government's New Plan for Immigration will harm women seeking asylum. Today, 30 April 2020, more than 70 leaders of organisations and groups supporting women who have sought asylum write to the Home Secretary to express shared concerns about the New Plan.

Read the full letter below:


Dear Home Secretary, 

Re: Impact of proposed New Plan for Immigration on women seeking asylum 

We are writing to express our serious concerns over the proposed New Plan for Immigration (New Plan) and its potentially devastating effects on women seeking safety. Most of our organisations and groups support women who have fled sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). Yet, despite these horrific experiences, many are failed by an asylum system which subjects them to disbelief, detention and destitution. On 24th March, you asked “where are the vulnerable women...that this system should exist to protect?” If introduced, the proposals would make things even worse for women in desperate need of refuge. 

The changes would have harmful effects on both men and women. In this letter we highlight the impact on women, as these experiences are too often unheard. 

  • Treatment of asylum-seeking women who arrive by irregular routes 

We are alarmed by proposals that unjustly differentiate between vulnerable people who have fled danger, based on how they have travelled to the UK. 

Temporary protection status 

Our organisations work with women who have fled rape, forced prostitution, trafficking, honour-based abuse and female genital mutilation. Many of these women are sexually or physically abused again when they travel to the UK, journeys that sometimes involve irregular routes so that they can quickly escape danger. There is a real risk that temporary protection status would result in some of the most vulnerable women being refused asylum – women who instead would be condemned to destitution, detention and possible removal to the countries where their lives remain in danger.

The absence of gender in the UN Refugee Convention makes the assessment of many women’s cases complex, and particularly when they involve persecution by private individuals as opposed to the state. Home Office guidance reminds us that “[v]iolence against women can occur more commonly within the family or community.” Yet, decision-makers have often shown a poor understanding of how private violence falls within the UN Refugee Convention, and the UK’s obligation to grant asylum. Under the proposed temporary status, cases would be reviewed every 30 months with a view to return to the country of origin or removal to a third country. Having to periodically demonstrate the need for safety is likely to be harmful for all women who have survived SGBV, and especially for those who have fled private violence. 

Reception centres 

We are concerned that the proposed reception centres could amount to a form of indefinite detention that would not only be retraumatising for women who have survived SGBV but also a barrier to disclosing their experiences. The New Plan cites the example of Denmark, even though the small amounts of financial support coupled with “the distance between asylum centres...and towns or cities, means people are effectively confined” there.

The same study also shows how asylum centres can be completely inappropriate for survivors of SGBV and trafficking to heal. Detaining women who have already survived trauma and violence inflicts immense harm and retraumatises them, particularly when there is no time limit. The New Plan states that the Home Office will first attempt to remove a person who has come to the UK irregularly and, where that is not possible within six months, will start to process their asylum claim. It is very likely therefore that many women will be deprived of their liberty for several months, if not longer. Research has found that the longer someone is held in immigration detention, the greater the effect on their mental health. In forcing women to relive traumatic memories of confinement and abuse, the reception centres could prevent disclosure and, therefore, a fair assessment of their claims. 

  • ‘One-stop’ process

We are very concerned that the ‘one-stop’ process could result in many women being wrongly refused asylum. The process would force traumatised women to raise all the reasons for why they need protection at the outset, with “minimal weight” given to evidence raised later in the process “unless there is good reason”. Yet there are many reasons for why women who have survived SGBV cannot disclose all relevant experiences at the initial stage; the Home Office’s own guidance acknowledges these barriers, that include “guilt, shame, concerns about family ‘honour’ or fear of family members.” The same guidance also acknowledges that women who have been trafficked to the UK may be facing threats from their traffickers at the time of their asylum interview, such that they are unable to speak openly with officials. Some LGBT women, who have fled persecution because of their sexual orientation, are not able to speak about their sexuality during the time of their initial asylum claim; they may still be coming to terms with it themselves, a process that can take many years. All of these challenges are exacerbated by a lack of specialist mental health and quality legal support. Most women that Women for Refugee Women support have not received adequate legal representation for their initial claim; some women have not had any legal advice at all.

It is vital that our asylum system allows all women to be heard. To that end, Home Office guidance states that late disclosure should not automatically prejudice a woman’s credibility. It is unclear then why the department is now considering changes that go against these standards. 

  • ‘Well-founded fear of persecution’ test

Proposals to introduce a ‘balance of probabilities’ standard are said to be necessary to “[make] it harder for unmeritorious claims to succeed.” Yet the UN Refugee Convention is based on the principle of ‘benefit of the doubt’, in favour of the person seeking safety. A more severe test would only increase the barriers that already exist for vulnerable women to obtain a fair assessment. 

  • Fast-track appeals process and accelerated claims and appeals process from detention 

We are extremely concerned that any form of accelerated processing could have a harmful effect on women with complex gender-based or trafficking claims. We would like to remind the Home Secretary of the Detained Fast Track and the devastating effects it had on women’s chances of successfully claiming asylum. The process was deemed unlawful by the Court of Appeal for being “systematically unfair”, with the Home Office refusing a staggering 99% of claims, compared to around 59% of non-fast track applications. It was also inherently unsuitable for complex cases, heavily criticised for its handling of gender-related and trafficking claims. Indeed, women from some of the most oppressive countries who faced persecution were wrongly refused asylum and deported as a result of the Detained Fast Track. 

  • Modern Slavery

We are disturbed by proposals to limit the protection of actual or potential victims of modern slavery. 

Legal standard for a reasonable grounds decision 

Proposals to strengthen the evidence threshold for deciding whether someone is a potential victim are said to be necessary to stop people claiming to be trafficking victims in order to prevent removal from the UK.  Yet it can take many months for a woman who has been forced into sexual exploitation to speak about the abuse she has suffered. It is therefore vital that potential victims are given a window to access support such as safe housing. We would like to remind the Home Secretary that a positive reasonable grounds decision is not the end of the matter; to be officially confirmed as a victim of trafficking then requires a positive conclusive grounds decision. We are concerned that a higher standard of proof at the first stage would harm some of the most vulnerable women, keeping them in the hands of their traffickers. It would also ignore the government’s own statistics which show that the majority of people in immigration detention who are referred into the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) are subsequently recognised by the Home Office as potential victims of trafficking. 

The ‘public order exemption’

We object to amendments to the ‘public order exemption’ that would deny access to the NRM and associated protections to certain women who may be victims of trafficking, including those with a criminal sentence of 12 months or more. Some of our organisations are aware of women who have been subject to sexual and other forms of labour exploitation, who have been prosecuted and imprisoned for criminal offences related to their exploitation, and who need protection. 

Last year, you spoke of your commitment to a “more compassionate approach”, a Home Office that saw “people not cases”. However, a genuine commitment to compassion would not result in these proposals. We strongly urge you to reconsider your approach, and to listen to the women who have sought safety in this country. 

Yours sincerely,

Alphonsine Kabagabo, Director, Women for Refugee Women  

Loraine Masiya Mponela, Chair, Coventry Asylum and Refugee Action Group 

Ibtissam Al-Farah, Director, Development and Empowerment for Women’s Advancement (DEWA) Project 

Management Committee, WAST (Women Asylum Seekers Together) Manchester   

Rosemary Crawley, on behalf of Women with Hope  

Reynette Roberts MBE, CEO, Oasis Cardiff 

Alison Moore, CEO, Refugee Women Connect  

Jeni Williams, Chair, Swansea Women’s Asylum and Refugee Support Group 

Marchu Girma, CEO, Hibiscus Initiatives  

Zrinka Bralo, CEO, Migrants Organise  

Protection Gap Advocates, Helen Bamber Foundation Group

Andrea Simon, Director, End Violence Against Women Coalition  

Gisela Valle, Director, Latin American Women’s Rights Service 

Rosario Guimba-Stewart, CEO, Lewisham Refugee and Migrant Network (LRMN) 

Lora Evans, Committee Member, Sisters United  

Lisa Matthews, Coordinator, Right to Remain 

Denise McDowell, CEO, Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit 

Pragna Patel, Director, Southall Black Sisters 

Beth Wilson, Director, Bristol Refugee Rights 

Donna Covey CBE, Chief Executive, AVA (Against Violence and Abuse)  

Ros Bragg, Director, Maternity Action 

Kerry Smith, CEO, Helen Bamber Foundation & Asylum Aid  

Mel Steel, Director, Voices in Exile 

Sally Daghlian OBE, CEO, Praxis  

Karen Pearse, Director, Positive Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers (PAFRAS) 

Sara Kirkpatrick, CEO, Welsh Women's Aid 

Mahlea Babjak, Project Manager, Migrants’ Rights Network 

Jasbindar Bhatoa, Solicitor & Senior Legal Officer, Rights of Women  

Ali McGinley, Director, Association of Visitors to Immigration Detainees (AVID) 

Ellen Waters, Director of Development, Doctors of the World UK 

Nicola Sharp-Jeffs, CEO, Surviving Economic Abuse 

Kat Lorenz, Director, Asylum Support Appeals Project (ASAP) 

Elizabeth Jiménez-Yáñez, Coordinator, Step Up Migrant Women 

Bee Rowlatt, Wollstonecraft Society 

Helen Pankhurst, Convener, Centenary Action Group 

Sam Grant, Head of Policy and Campaigns, Liberty 

Halaleh Taheri, Founder & Executive Director, Middle Eastern Women & Society Organisation (MEWSo) 

Abi Brunswick, Director, Project 17 

Dawn Thomas, Co-Chair, Rape Crisis England & Wales  

Wafa Shaheen, Head of Asylum, Integration & Resettlement, Scottish Refugee Council 

Jo Cobley, Chief Executive, Young Roots 

Sarah Taal, Director, Baobab Women’s Project CIC 

Tim Naor Hilton, Interim CEO, Refugee Action 

Sheila Mosley, on behalf of Quaker Asylum and Refugee Network  

Emma Colyer, Director, Body & Soul 

Elli Free, Director, Room to Heal 

Matthew Powell, CEO, Breaking Barriers 

Jo Todd, CEO, Respect 

Gabby Edlin, CEO, Bloody Good Period 

Sarah Teather, Director, Jesuit Refugee Service UK 

Fidelis Chebe, Director, Migrant Action 

Josie Naughton, CEO, Choose Love 

Chai Patel, Legal Policy Director, Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants 

Fiona Dwyer, CEO, Solace Women’s Aid 

Lorna Gledhill, Deputy Director, Asylum Matters 

Steve Crawshaw, Director of Policy & Advocacy, Freedom from Torture 

Leila Zadeh, Executive Director, UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group (UKLGIG) 

Sarbjit Ganger, Director, Asian Women’s Resource Centre 

Maya Esslemont, Director, After Exploitation 

Bella Sankey, Director, Detention Action 

Annie Campbell Viswanathan, Director, Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID) 

Enver Solomon, CEO, Refugee Council 

Cas Heron, Chair, Bradford Rape Crisis & Sexual Abuse Survivors Service 

Jennifer Nadel, Co-Director, Compassion in Politics 

Andrea Cleaver, CEO, Welsh Refugee Council 

Jaqui Cotton, Coordinator, Growing Together Levenshulme 

Mark Goldring, Director, Asylum-Welcome 

Siân Summers-Rees, Chief Officer, City of Sanctuary 

Harriet Wistrich, Director, Centre for Women’s Justice 

Suzanne Fletcher, Chair, No To Hassockfield Campaign 

Samsoudini Abdou Moussa, Co-chair, Tees Valley of Sanctuary 

Gudrun Burnet, CEO, Standing Together 

Alice FookesVice-ChairNational Alliance of Women's Organisations (NAWO) UK 

Grace Burgess, Community and Partners Manager, TimePeace

Anuradha Chugh, Managing Director, Ben & Jerry’s Europe

Lucy Smith, Policy and Campaigns Coordinator, NACCOM Network

Sawsan Salim, Director, Kurdish Middle Eastern Women’s Organisation (KMEWO)


Supporters respond to the public consultation on the government's harmful new plan for immigration

The government's new plan for immigration threatens women's safety. A public consultation is currently open and we urge all of our supporters to respond, in order to amplify the concerns of women seeking asylum.

Below we share example responses from people who have used our simple guide to raise their concerns. We hope that you will do the same!

The deadline for responding is 11.45pm on 6 May. If you need any help with your response, you can email Natasha: natasha@refugeewomen.co.uk


Georgia Spooner, Refugee and Asylum Seeker Wellbeing Co-ordinator for a mental health charity, writing in a personal capacity:
Answer to question 40

I am really worried about the impact of the proposals on women. Many of the women who seek asylum have experienced sexual and gender-based violence, including rape. The Government knows, from how they ideally try to treat UK nationals who experience sexual trauma in this country, that people can block out parts of the trauma as a coping mechanism, and/or find it extremely difficult to talk about. It takes time, trust and patience to be able to discuss the trauma. I think that the one-stop system will discriminate people who fall under this category as they might not remember or be able to talk about what has happened fully at the time of their one-stop claim. 

I am concerned that the UK Government is not fulfilling its obligations of the Geneva Convention 1951. I have written to my MP, SiobhanBaille, several times on this matter and she has latterly agreed to discuss my concerns with her colleagues. I would like to hear from her how those conversations are going.

I work with refugees and asylum seekers and sometimes they choose to share their trauma with me - ranging from seeing family members killed in front of them to torture to suffering domestic violence to modern slavery and trafficking to displacement due to civil unrest; these are all very real traumas. The majority have had years worth of dangerous travel and unsafe living, including travel through EU states, being at the mercy of criminals who steal from them and police brutality. The people I have met would like to have some stability to start afresh, to work, to earn money and to pay for food and clothes themselves and to be an active member of our society - we should be encouraging this as history tells us that immigrants have offered so much to this country.

I would strongly advise anyone to do with creating these proposals to attend a one day Refugee Council training to gain an insight into the realities of life as an asylum seeker or refugee.


Anonymous foster carer for unaccompanied young people seeking asylum:

I am concerned about the proposal to create a two-tier system that will penalise people who take so-called irregular routes into this country. Traveling over borders with so-called criminal gangs is sometimes the only option for desperate people. One of my young people was sent by his father to get him away from fighting in their country and to try to give him a secure future. His mother was dead and he was the only son. I think a lot of parents in that situation would do the same. In the same way, young men who break into lorries do not deserve to be fined. Most of them have no resources apart from the clothes they stand up in and a phone. People would not take such dangerous risks if there was a humane and collaborative international approach to refugees.


Anonymous member of the public from Leicester:
Answer to question 42

I am very concerned about the impact of the proposals on all vulnerable people, but especially on women and people from LGBT+ communities.

These people are far more likely to be recipients of or at risk from sexual or gender-based violence, such as enforced prostitution, honour-based violence, FGM and rape – which is often seen as an acceptable side effect of living in a warzone.

Living through these situations will have been extremely traumatic and it is unreasonable to expect survivors to be able to tell their stories immediately, or even at all to people they don’t know and are unsure they can trust.  Emergency services such as the police have especially trained personnel to deal with victims in a sensitive manner, but even so, women need time, acceptance, maybe medical help and patience before they feel able to disclose their experiences.  Proof of these types of violence is also not easy to find and will put more pressure on women who have undergone severe traumas.

I have read from many asylum seekers’ (including: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/refugees-immigration-plans-priti-patel-b1825756.html) that they were unable to choose their means of escape, because there was not time – they were in immediate danger - and there was no “official” way to claim asylum from where they were.  To penalise them for escaping with their lives and surviving, by granting only temporary safety is the equivalent of mental torture.  Women will be forced to live in “limbo”, unable to think and plan beyond a few months, powerless to rebuild their lives and families, and deprived of any dignity and security. It is not surprising that many asylum seekers experience mental ill health – they (as we all do) need respect, understanding and support.  This is NOT the protection for the world’s most vulnerable women that Priti Patel says she is hoping to achieve.

 

Answer to Question 45

I am saddened by the lack of compassion that runs through this entire document. The government seems more concerned about the public response to asylum seekers than treating them as real people, who have undergone severe trauma and need support, dignity and respect to rebuild their lives.  I have heard how claimants assisted by Leicester City of Sanctuary and other charities, have been able to put forward successful appeals.  This shows that the current system is unfair.

I believe the government would do much better to put an end to the Hostile Environment policies and practices. A caring and humane approach would allow asylum seekers to work, and remove charging from the NHS.  Both these policies would be good for the economy as well as individuals. It has been shown that preventative medical input is much cheaper than expensive, delayed treatment – and keeping the population healthy is good for our struggling NHS. Allowing asylum seekers to work is good for them, their families, and our communities, as well as reducing the financial burden on the state.

Forcing people to live in fear of imminent detention is cruel, as is the policy of destitution and poor housing. Asylum seekers should be able to live without the fear of being moved on when they had started to make contact with support services.

Asylum seekers need support and good, appropriate, language-supported, sympathetic legal advice. They need access to English lessons and education.

Most of all the government needs to change its language – instead of victim-blaming, and encouraging xenophobia and intolerance, they should be supporting and welcoming all who live in this land and those who need our support. Indeed, I believe that Immigration status should be added as a protected category under the Equalities Act 2010.


We hope that reading these responses will inspire you to submit your own response to #TellPritiPatel that these plans will harm women. Please download our simple guide to get started:

 


Update: You can read Women for Refugee Women's full response to the sham-consultation on this government's proposed new plan for immigration here.


Women’s safety threatened by new asylum proposals

Women’s safety threatened by new asylum proposals 

Women for Refugee Women, the charity working with women who have sought asylum in the UK, responds to the plans put forward today by Priti Patel, Home Secretary, for widespread changes in the asylum process. 

Alphonsine Kabagabo, director of Women for Refugee Women, says: The proposals that are being put forward make me so sad, because I remember my own journey to safety from the Rwandan genocide against the Tutsi in 1994.  I was so lucky to be rescued with my family by Belgian soldiers who had to hide us in a tank. Here at Women for Refugee Women we work with many women who are still forced to flee their countries and their persecutors in dangerous ways. We need to be able to ensure that they are able to rebuild their lives with dignity and in safety if they get to the UK. I am concerned that the possibility of finding safety from persecution is being threatened by these proposals.’ 

Among the new plans published today 24 March are proposals to: 

  • Limit permanent settlement in the UK to refugees who have entered under formal resettlement routes. Those seeking asylum who have entered the UK in other ways will only be given temporary leave to remain even when they are recognised as refugees. 
  • Limit rights to make fresh claims and appeals, so that all aspects of the claim for protection (whether an asylum claim, human rights protection or protection from trafficking), must be brought right at the beginning of the process. 

Women for Refugee Women works with many women who have entered the UK through irregular routes, including being brought across borders by smugglers or traffickers or travelling on false papers. These women are often fleeing extreme violence and persecution. They need the stability of permanent leave to remain so that they can begin to rebuild their lives. 

Women for Refugee Women also works with many women who have been unable to disclose the full extent of their persecution at the beginning of the asylum process. Women who have experienced gender-based violence, including rape, persecution on grounds of their sexuality, and trafficking into forced prostitution, often require mental health support and quality legal advice before they can build the confidence to disclose their experiences. The ability to lodge fresh claims and bring new evidence to appeals is therefore a vital safeguard for vulnerable women. 

Women for Refugee Women welcomes commitments made in these proposals to expand humanitarian routes to safety, ensure more support for those who are resettled in the UK, and improve access to legal advice for those in the asylum process. However, it is absolutely vital that safeguards for vulnerable women are not stripped away.  

For more information, quotations, interviews and case studies, please contact Natasha Walter or Samantha Hudson on 07518 397761, natasha@refugeewomen.co.uk or samantha@refugeewomen.co.uk 

 


Women for Refugee Women is recruiting a Digital Inclusion Coordinator (now closed)

Women for Refugee Women is seeking a Digital Inclusion Co-ordinator to work closely with our team to facilitate digital access and improve IT skills among our network of refugee and asylum-seeking women.

Women for Refugee Women is a charity that supports women seeking asylum in the UK and challenges the injustices they experience. We work at the grassroots by empowering refugee women to speak out and advocate for themselves, and through communications and campaigning work which engages the mainstream media and politicians.

The role will include assessing women’s basic needs and skills and providing the essential equipment and support to enable them to move forwards. It will involve supporting women to participate in learning, solidarity and advocacy opportunities at WRW, as well as enabling them to access other services and participate more effectively in their communities.

Women for Refugee Women particularly welcomes applications from individuals with experience of migration and/or a refugee background.

 

Salary: £28,000 per annum for 35 hours a week

Hours: Full time

Location: working from home or in the WRW office near Old Street (depending on the situation caused by the pandemic, the wishes of the post holder and the needs of the organisation)

Women for Refugee Women is a small organisation where every team member is valued, and everyone is supported to carry out their role effectively. We encourage staff members to take up training opportunities to develop their skills, all staff members are able to access individual counselling support if desired, and we enable staff members to work flexibly according to individual preferences. We try to ensure that WRW provides a supportive environment where individuals can grow and develop their roles in line with our values and vision.

 

How to apply:

Please download and read the Digital Inclusion Co-ordinator application pack.

To apply, please email joinus@refugeewomen.co.uk by Thursday 8 April with:

  • Your CV;
  • A covering letter stating how you meet the person specification and why you would like to join WRW;
  • A completed diversity monitoring form (this will not affect or be linked to your application form) – download here.

Women for Refugee Women is committed to diversity and inclusion in its workforce. We seek to attract applications from the widest possible talent pool and to appoint on ability irrespective of race, religion, age, disability (including hidden disabilities), marital/civil partnership status, sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation. We particularly welcome applications from women with a refugee background with lived experience of the issues we are tackling who can lead and influence change for the women we serve.


Women for Refugee Women is recruiting a Grassroots Support Officer (now closed)

Women for Refugee Women is looking for an empathetic and organised Grassroots Support Officer to help us support and empower asylum-seeking and refugee women in London.

Women for Refugee Women is a charity that supports women seeking asylum in the UK and challenges the injustices they experience. We work at the grassroots by empowering refugee women to speak out and advocate for themselves, and through communications and campaigning work that engages the mainstream media and politicians.

This is a new role at WRW, to support the charity in responding to the needs of refugee and asylum-seeking women and in organising WRW’s activities. The purpose of this role is to be the main point of contact by telephone for women in the network, responding to their enquiries and supporting their participation in classes and activities. You will need great communication skills and an empathetic manner, and be organised and efficient with the ability to work calmly in a busy working environment with competing demands on your time.

We are looking for someone who is a calm and clear communicator, and who has a strong commitment to our values of social justice, intersectional feminism and anti-racism.

Women for Refugee Women particularly welcomes applications from individuals with experience of migration and/or a refugee background.

How to apply

You can download the Grassroots Support Officer candidate information pack here.

To apply, please write to joinus@refugeewomen.co.uk by 11pm on Tuesday 23 March 2021 with:

  • Your CV;
  • A covering letter explaining why you want to work with WRW and how you meet the person specification;
  • A completed diversity monitoring form (this will not affect or be linked to your application form) – download here.

Interviews will be held between 7-9 April 2021 on Zoom, and only shortlisted candidates will be contacted.

Women for Refugee Women is committed to diversity and inclusion in its workforce. We seek to attract applications from the widest possible talent pool and to appoint on ability irrespective of race, religion, age, disability (including hidden disabilities), marital/civil partnership status, sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation. We particularly welcome applications from women with a refugee background with lived experience of the issues we are tackling who can lead and influence change for the women we serve.