Thanks to everyone who wrote in her support. See here for international press coverage
Marian Okeibunor is a rape survivor and mother of two young children. Until last week she was housed by social services in Lewisham. She and her family were cruelly evicted and are now homeless and destitute.
Please write to demand that Marian Okeibunor is given immediate housing and support.
Name: Marian Okeibunor
Home Office reference number: ABS/5925291
Home Office contact details
►Email: Home Secretary, Priti Patel: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please copy in Ms Okeibunor’s MP Janet Darby, email@example.com
►Twitter: @pritipatel and @ukhomeoffice.
Sample Tweet to the Home Office:
Marian Okeibunor & her 2 young children were evicted last week & are homeless & destitute. She is a rape survivor who is claiming asylum for safety in UK. I demand @pritipatel & @ukhomeoffice give her housing & support in Lewisham where her son is at school.
Ms Okeibunor was served with an eviction notice and told to apply for asylum instead. She was then prevented from doing so by the Home Office which insisted she attend their offices in Croydon in person. She left her housing because she was threatened with the police and by a senior resettlement officer writing to say he would raise “safeguarding concerns” — that is a threat to take her children away.
This vicious treatment is more shocking considering the pandemic when evictions are supposed to be on hold and when public health is supposed to be paramount. Over 1,800 people are dying daily from COVID and the NHS is completely overwhelmed. Do the government regulations to Stay Home, Protect the NHS and Save Lives not apply to a woman seeking asylum from persecution in her home country? Considering that Ms Okeibunor is a woman of colour, is this a racist double standard?
To apply for asylum in person Ms Okeibunor would have to travel two hours each way by bus with her children. This would put her health and the health of the community at risk. Ms Okeibunor is a member of All African Women’s Group and another woman in the same group contracted COVID after being forced to travel to Croydon on public transport for the same reason during the first lockdown.
As a rape victim suffering trauma, Ms Okeibunor needs time and specialist help from Women Against Rape to speak about all that she has suffered. She shouldn’t be pushed into speaking at an asylum screening interview in order to be entitled to asylum support, especially as these interviews can be a trap where hostile immigration officials look for reasons to refuse and deport people.
The Home Office has the power to give emergency housing and support and must do so immediately. Please write to protest using the contact details above.
cc Janet Daby MP firstname.lastname@example.org
Please feel free to add your own personal comments – individualised letters have more impact and you could also forward them to your own MP to convey your outrage.
URGENT: Re Ms Marian Okeibunor, Home Office ref: ABS/5925291
Dear Priti Patel
I am writing to express my horror about how Ms Okeibunor and her two small children have been treated and to ask for your immediate intervention to ensure they are urgently given somewhere to live and support.
Ms Okeibunor is a survivor of rape and domestic violence and is being supported by Women Against Rape. She was evicted with her children last week by Lewisham Council. Since then she has been asking for support and accommodation from the National Asylum Support Service, only to be told yesterday that she must travel to the Croydon offices with her children for a screening interview first. This means a two-hour bus journey each way.
I am horrified that she is being asked to do this in contravention of government regulations which at this time demand that we Stay Home, Protect the NHS and Save Lives. Ms Okeibunor is a woman of colour and according to government statistics is more at risk of dying from COVID. Ms Okeibunor has already spoken to immigration officials who have confirmed that she is an asylum seeker. There is therefore no barrier to her being provided with accommodation.
Please confirm that you will act immediately and ensure that Ms Okeibunor and her children are housed within reasonable travelling time of her son’s school (in St. Bonfield Road, Lewisham). He has been at the school for three years and could return to classes as he is particularly vulnerable. This would be in line with government COVID regulations and priorities which aim to ensure that children’s education is disrupted as little as possible.
Cc Janet Daby MP
Cc Women Against Rape