Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Female Asylum Seekers Failed by the UKBA

Over the past few days, we've seen a huge amount of media coverage of Women for Refugee Women's brilliant report detailing the UKBA and Home Office's failure to support and protect women seeking asylum in the UK.

The reported revealed that 74% of women seeking asylum in the UK are refused at first decision, despite the fact that 50% of all female applicants were victims of rape, and another 50% have experienced arrest or imprisonment.

Of those who were refused asylum, two thirds were consequently made destitute. A further 56% of these individuals had to sleep rough, 16% experienced sexual violence and 18% were forced into unpaid labour for food or shelter.

The psychological impact of both detention and destitution is hard to ignore. Half of the women questioned for the report had thought about killing themselves whilst battling with our fickle asylum system.

This is not a UK specific phenomena; female asylum seekers all across the EU are faced with asylum systems that continually fail to acknowledge and protect their rights as weomne. In an article written today by Asylum Aid's Communications and Public Affairs Office, Russell Hargrave, the multiple discrepancies in asylum legislation across European countries were blamed for the EU's inability to provide sufficient support and sanctuary for women fleeing persecution:
Among the nine states researched - the UK, Belgium, France, Hungary, Italy, Malta, Romania, Spain, and Sweden - there are glaring discrepancies in national asylum practice. The protection available to women in one state may be wholly absent across the border. Spain, for example, fails to recognise trafficking as a form of persecution.Neither is Forced Genital Mutilation (FGM) always recognised as persecution in France, Malta, and Romania. 
On a strategic level, fewer than half the states have adopted gender guidelines so are missing a crucial tool for guiding asylum decision-makers on gender-related claims. One country, Romania, fails entirely to publish asylum statistics broken down by gender, despite legal obligations to do so.
For more information about the report, see the following articles:
Women for Refugee Women - 'Refused' (full report).
The Scotsman - 'Asylum 'needs to address rape issue' - 28/5/2012
Left Foot Forward - 'Poor standards persist across Europe for women seeking asylum' - 30/5/2012
Women's Hour, 28/5/2012 (interview withe a woman who was refused asylum in UK)

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Refugee Week Exhibition

In celebration of Refugee Week this year, Invisible Curators will be
holding an exhibition entitled “Home” from the 19th to the 24th of
June in Kirkgate Market.

We will be bringing together artworks from professional artists as
well as from refugees themselves to explore how this notion of “Home”
can help us relate to the experiences of refugees in the UK.

We will present these artworks alongside accurate information about
refugee issues as a means of engaging the general public in thinking
about whether refugees are treated fairly in the UK by the government,
the media and society as a whole.

We will also use the exhibition space to host live music acts and fun
activities to celebrate the passion and creativity that are universal
to all of us, no matter what our background or legal status may be.

If you are interested in contributing your art work, your talent or
your time as a volunteer please email James and Georgina on

Bernard Mboueyeu Update

Last minute legal representation and intervention from many supporters across the country managed to stop Bernard Mboueyeu from being deported last night. 

However, Bernard remains in detention, and is still at risk of another deportation order from the Home Office. We'll keep you updated with any changes to Bernard's circumstances. 

Monday, 21 May 2012

Stop the Deportation of Bernard Mboueyeu

Information and text c/o the National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns: 

Bernard Mboueyeu is a national of Cameroon and a resident of Sheffield where he lives with his family. He is currently in immigration detention and due to be forcibly removed from the UK on Kenya Airways flight KQ101 from Heathrow at 20:00 hrs today Monday 21st May. Please help us fight to stop his deportation.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Fear and Loathing: Australia's fear of the 'immigrant other.'

Yesterday's Guardian featured an excellent comment piece from Saman Shad on the experiences of migrants in Australia. If you follow coverage of asylum and immigration related news stories, it is painfully clear to see that certain sectors of the Australian media are obsessed with the supposed 'threat' posed by migrants to the country, especially the asylum seeking 'boat people.' My google alerts, emails highlighting any news stories that feature asylum or immigration key words, mainly come from Australian media sources and are often the source of much of my anger.

Featuring much of the inflammatory language and vitriol that we at Press Gang try to confront, the Australian media and government have created what Shad defines as a 'hazy line' between refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants. Rather than trying to shed light on the reality of the situation in Australia, this murky approach only works to heighten an unsubstantiated fear of a generalised immigrant 'other':
Most migrants arrive in Australia through approved channels and not all asylum seekers are boat people. Of the 11,491 people seeking asylum in Australia in the period of 2010-11, 6,316 arrived by air. This means less than half arrived by boat. In fact, asylum seekers arriving by boat make up just 2.7% of the total migrant intake into Australia yet their perceived threat to the community is greatly exaggerated, with 72% of Australians concerned about asylum seekers coming to Australia by boat.
It is exactly this sort of confusion that enables prejudice and bigotry to flourish amongst communities. And it is exactly this sort of confusion that both the government and media should be trying to clarify.

Before the Leveson Enquiry, I'm sure much of the populist British media and government would be quick to saddle the high horse of superiority and laugh at their Australian counterparts. With submissions of evidence from the Migrant Rights Network, Refugee Council and other refugee rights-related organisations highlighting the pertinent issue of poor and inflammatory reportage of asylum and immigration news stories, the British press is hardly free from blame. It only takes a quick search on the Press Complaints Commission website to see the number of cases taken up against the Telegraph and Mail for the misrepresentation of asylum and immigration related stories.

Even comments on stories regarding the rights of asylum seekers in the UK or even more generally, the rights of migrants in Europe, are frequently full of hate-fuelled vitriol that goes unchecked and unchallenged. The 'discussion' that ensued after this Sky News article (about the shocking deportation of 100 Tamils to Sri Lanka despite serious warnings from human rights organisations) found itself eloquently expressed in the loaded language that the PCC claims to challenge.

When media outlets become bastions of both the government and corporations, citizens become the victims of a certain level of cultural conditioning; we read off the crib sheets of some of the most privileged members of society who have entrenched ulterior motives. We then find ourselves in a situation where 72% of Australians are concerned about asylum seekers coming to Australia by boat whilst only 2.7% of the total migrant intake into Australia actually arrive by boat; the media has fabricated a terrifying hologram of the 'asylum seeker'.

If governments and media continue to purport a fear of the abstract immigrant 'other', then we must humanise the abstract. Censorship is never the answer. In fact, the only solution can be exposure. Through the real stories of individuals seeking sanctuary, we can hope to dissolve the shadowy spectre of the fabricated immigrant 'other.'