Pre lock-down, WAR’s Refuge from Rape & Destitution Campaign co-ordinated fortnightly, sometimes weekly, collective self-help sessions, using our tools. Women from the All African Women’s Group (AAWG) used the sessions to do more in-depth work on their cases to: share information about the decision-making process; understand each other’s cases; work out how to get the most out of your lawyer; get help from MPs to challenge. Find out more about what happens in the sessions here. During the pandemic we have been meeting online but are looking forward to resume meeting in person as soon as that’s safe.
We found that 93% of a sample of 100 women participating in the Campaign between 2017-2020 hadn’t been able to report rape before taking part. Reporting their traumatic experiences as grounds for asylum, women can then access official housing and financial support (from the “National Asylum Support Service” – NASS), often after many years of living “underground”. Safer and supported by others who are suffering similar experiences, they are fortified to be able to speak out publicly. See the events section for some of the many occasions that AAWG have spoken out against destitution.
Women, grassroots organisations and other supporters, and some determined lawyers have won resources that should be helping victims win protection. But many times the Home Office and courts fail to apply these. Our campaign is publicising four key resources that victims can use to challenge injustice win precedents that help all victims of rape and other torture secure protection.
- Vulnerable Witnesses
Vulnerable Witness Guidance establishes some useful principles to help victims participate more fully in their appeal hearings. WAR’s pioneering legal work with one woman in Yarl’s Wood established a key precedent which others are now using.
- Right to Recover for Victims of Torture
Under Article 14 of the UN Convention Against Torture, victims have the right to resources and support to recover. WAR’s work with the UN Fund for Victims of Torture helped establish that domestic violence could constitute torture. Our testimony about the horrific treatment of victims in the UK contributed to the UN decision that the obligation to support them falls on governments irrespective of where the torture took place. We are spearheading legal challenges to enforce this decision. Read here how after a two year battle one woman who fled torture in Mexico won permanent housing to be able to recover in the UK.
- “Gender Issues in the Asylum Claim”
The Home Office has its own guidance on how officials should treat women’s claims but this is routinely flouted. We challenge refusals drawing attention to how victims and their accounts are disbelieved and dismissed, e.g. delay in reporting rape is still used as grounds for disbelief. We are now helping women challenge confusing Home Office decisions, insisting that they should be able to understand them.
- Exceptional Case Funding
Working with the Public Law Project, we helped women press the Legal Aid Agency to grant them free legal representation after the introduction of devastating legal aid cuts. Exceptional Case Funding (ECF) was meant to be in place for those too traumatised, and/or with legal cases that were too complex or significant, to go to court unrepresented. With lawyers at Duncan Lewis Solicitors and barrister Sonali Naik, one woman we worked with won ECF in recognition of her being a ‘vulnerable witness’. With a higher success rate for applicants, more lawyers now routinely apply for ECF. Without a lawyer to help her, Ms Mohammed used our self-help tool to apply for and win ECF for her family reunion appeal.