All African Women’s Group
Action Alert . . . Action Alert . . . Action Alert . . . Action Alert . . . Action Alert . . .
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.
Please write to the Home Office to protest the persecution of Ms Kolaj.
- Please demand that the Family Returns process be stopped.
- Please also demand that the extortionate NHS fee be cancelled, and that Ms Kolaj be given help to find a lawyer so that she and her son can apply to stay in the UK in safety.
“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
Send your letter to:
Family Returns Unit
Waterside Court, 471 Kirkstall Road
Leeds, LS4 2QB
Rt Hon SajidJavid MP
Home Office, 2 Marsham Street, London, SW1P 4DF
Please copy All African Women’s Group (email@example.com) and
Andy Slaughter firstname.lastname@example.org, Ms Kolaj’smember of parliament.
Dear . .. .
I write to protest against a mother who is a victim of violence being threatened into agreeing to be returned to Albania.
Ms Kolaj suffered horrific domestic violence in Albania and was not able to get any protection from the police. Her asylum claim was rejected and before she could find a lawyer to make a fresh claim she got pregnant and was given a £6000 bill by the NHS for the birth. Because of this fine she has been blocked from making further applications to the Home Office to resolve her status. It seems completely unfair to charge a destitute new mother £6000 knowing that she has no means to pay and to then use this to block her from applying to stay in safety in the UK. Because of her lack of status she has been put into the harsh Family Returns Process and is being harassed to agree to be returned under the pretence that this is voluntary.
I object the Family Returns Process (“voluntary returns” for families) as it is part of the Home Office’s hostile immigration environment and enforcement strategy whichas the All African Women’s Group has pointed out “offers ‘voluntary return’ solely as an alternative to indefinite detention, persisting destitution and enforced deportation.”
I urge the Home Office not to deport Ms Kolaj. She should be treated as a vulnerable person. She must be given help to ensure that she can apply for protection and to stay in the UK, and get a fair hearing. Her safety and the safety of her son must be the absolute priority.
[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