Overwhelming public support in the UK for Ukrainian refugees fleeing war is in stark contrast to the government’s response. It is limiting the right of people to enter the UK to join family so that elderly parents and siblings are excluded.
For those that do come to the UK, how will they be treated? The Nationality and Borders Bill currently in Parliament gives the government draconian powers to remove citizenship, turn back people at sea and at the border, process asylum claims overseas, criminalise people for not arriving by the (largely non-existent) legal routes and destroy any prospect of family reunion. A Ukrainian woman who neglects to save her passport from the rubble of her bombed home could be imprisoned on arrival as she travelled without documents.
The All African Women’s Group (AAWG), together with Women Against Rape (WAR) and others in Global Women Against Deportations – a coalition based at the Crossroads Women’s Centre in London – has been determinedly opposing the Bill and briefing peers and parliamentarians about its impact of the Bill on rape survivors and mothers in particular.
Gloria Peters, AAWG comments:
“This Bill will make it almost impossible for women who are fleeing for their lives to win asylum in the UK. Even if we manage to overcome all the obstacles that are put in our way and get the right to stay, we will only be given temporary status with no right to family reunion or benefits. Our recent survey Up from Destitution found that two-thirds of women asylum seekers are destitute and this Bill will make that worse. Without the right to family reunion, mums and children will suffer the unbearable pain of indefinite separation.
“The government lies when it says that immigrant people are scroungers and a drain on the UK. We’ve escaped for our lives from war, starvation and environmental collapse. We have a right to be here. Our work has created the UK’s wealth through centuries of slavery and colonialism.
“We are horrified at how Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, tries to say that this Bill is needed to protect women and children from men who are jumping the asylum queue. This Bill will make women less safe. She, like many women in high places, doesn’t speak for us.”
Women Against Rape’s briefing, which is based on decades of work with hundreds of women asylum seekers, reports that whilst over 70% of women claiming asylum have fled rape, those who delay reporting what they have suffered, even when this is due to trauma, will be fast tracked for deportation and their claims dismissed as “unsubstantiated”.
Emily Burnham, WAR comments:
“Most women who come to us don’t know that rape and domestic abuse are grounds to claim asylum in the UK. Ninety-three per cent of women we’ve worked with over the three years before the pandemic hadn’t reported rape as grounds for asylum until they got our help.
“We see first-hand that the Home Office sets out to disbelieve women and undermine their cases, ignoring the long-term trauma caused by rape and domestic violence. Under this Bill there will be more barriers to obtaining the evidence victims need, more detention and few appeal rights. It is a terrifying prospect.
“Of the few women in our network who have been deported, all have been re-traumatised and suffered rape or other abuse in their home country. The government must know that it is deliberately putting women’s lives at risk.”
Faith, a mother in the All African Women’s Group, speaks here explaining that under the Bill she would not have won the right to stay. She asks why it is that women like her, who were not told about claiming asylum, are the ones being blamed and penalised.
The Bill is due back to the Lords on 28 February, 2 and 8 March and will then go back to the House of Commons.
Global Women Against Deportations (GWAD)