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.


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.