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Welcome to Women Against Rape’s blog dedicated to sharing information about our Refuge from Rape & Destitution campaign. A key objective is to make visible the injustices that rape victims suffer in the asylum system and how they are made destitute and vulnerable to further sexual and other violence in the UK. Preliminary findings from our research this Christmas got national press coverage.

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Campaign launch, Brighton 2017

Why destitution?

Destitution is a deliberate government policy to try to drive asylum seekers and other immigrants out of the UK.  It’s a cornerstone of the “hostile environment”. 

People seeking asylum are cut off from all support when their legal case is refused.  But in the many hundreds of cases we have worked on with women, notoriously bad Home Office decisions, unjust judgements, poor or no legal representation and misunderstandings because of language problems invariably play a part. Rape and domestic violence victims face additional disadvantage because rather than get help to overcome trauma and stigma, their difficulties are used to disbelieve and dismiss their accounts.  Rather than get a fair hearing, they face destitution, detention and deportation. 

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The infamous “Go Home” bus, forced off the road by public protests

We started our campaign because destitution is the most hidden of these experiences  and has particularly devastating consequences for women who are forced into dangerous and exploitative situations.  Women are less likely to sleep rough and instead have to exchange housework, childcare, and even sexual favours to survive. Thirty-five percent of destitute homeless women asylum seekers report being raped in the UK.  Children are increasingly taken away from destitute mothers and families.

Even with an ongoing case, those living on asylum support benefits get 50% less than the poverty line benefits that others in the UK receive.  Destitution is defined as not being able to afford to buy the essentials to eat, stay warm and dry, and keep clean. Since its introduction against asylum seekers, destitution has been rolled out against many others.  The latest research finds that one in fifty households across the country used a food bank over the last year.  Our short film draws together the  experiences of destitution on four people and their families.  You might find our women’s testimonies and mythbuster useful too.   

What the Campaign does

  1.  Provide women with resources and support so that they can understand and fight their legal cases, challenge refusals, find lawyers.
  2. Co-ordinate weekly collective self-help sessions so that women can share experiences, support each other to pursue their legal cases and entitlement to housing and financial support.
  3. Use the courts to help women challenge injustices that they face and win precedents that help all victims of rape and other torture secure protection.
  4. Share on the blog and in workshops round the country what we learn about how to fight cases and also how we work together as women with and without papers.
  5. Provide women with a platform to speak out against destitution and the other injustices they face.
  6. Help ensure women’s experiences of destitution and their demands for change are integral to asylum and other immigration campaigning, and in the movement more widely.

Watch out for our upcoming report on women’s experiences of destitution to be published for International Women’s Day!

Who we are working with

We work closely with the All African Women’s Group, Black Women’s Rape Action Project and Legal Action for Women.  Our wider network includes groups around the country.