All African Women’s Group
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Ms Kolaj is a 31 year old woman from Albania. She fled to the UK to escape vicious domestic violence from a man who tried to kill her. She was not able to get any protection from a police force known for corruption and for dismissing or even sanctioning violence in the family.
The Family Returns Process (FRP) is presented as voluntary departure but it is a four step process that ends in enforced return.
Ms Kolaj came to the UK in 2015 and made an asylum application which was rejected unfairly. She was trying to find a lawyer to make a fresh claim when she got pregnant. After she gave birth she was given a bill from the NHS for £6000 and when she couldn’t pay, this was used to block her making any immigration application.
Now she has been called into a Family Departure Meeting (one stage of the FRP) to force her to sign to be returned to Albania. If Ms Kolaj is returned her life and that of her young son will be in grave danger. The letter Ms Kolaj received says that women should inform their children of what is discussed at this meeting “so that they fully understand the situation and can begin preparing themselves for return.” Ms Kolaj’s son is three years old. Shockingly the FRP guidelines say that if mothers resist deportation this is labelled child abuse: “Children have been subjected to unacceptable pressure from parents not to co-operate with Home Office officials and where such cases occur it is a form of child abuse.”Also, children can be forcibly returned with “the use of physical intervention” which includes “deliberate pain induction”
Ms Kolaj is a member of the All African Women’s Group which has supported her over months, was instrumental in getting the hospital to consider cancelling the NHS fee (which hasn’t happened yet but is hopefully in process) and has introduced her to a lawyer who may be able to take on her legal case to put in a fresh claim. Women Against Rape is also now supporting Ms Kolaj to speak about some of the terrible things she has suffered.
“Voluntary returns” is part of the Home Office’s hostile environment policy. People who have been refused asylum unjustly, made destitute and threatened with detention are being forced to sign to be returned voluntarily. “Voluntary returns” and the Family Returns Process are being promoted by some NGOs and charities which are ignoring the abuse being inflicted on vulnerable women.[i]
Some are actively collaborating in hosting Home Office clinics in community settings to force more people to comply.[ii]
For more information about the All African Women’s Group campaign against voluntary returns (which includes the Family Returns Process) please see attached statement and testimonies here
[i] Women for Refugee Women for example commend the success of the Family Returns Process : http://www.refugeewomen.co.uk/2016/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/The-Way-Ahead-report-WEB.pdf