Women’s Resistance

Behind Bars, US & UK

Vikki Law, former prisoner, campaigner and author

6.30pm. Thursday 30 May 2019

Crossroads Women’s Centre

25 Wolsey Mews, Kentish Town, London, NW5 2DX

Vikki Law is a former prisoner and prison abolition campaigner who highlights in particular the effective and creativeorganising of women prisoners which is so often overlooked. Over half ofwomen in prison in the UK have suffered domestic abuse and one in three sexualabuse. Two-thirds are mothers separated fromtheir children and women of colour are disproportionately represented inside.It is rarely acknowledged how women prisoners and detainees are spearheadingopposition to abuse in prison and detention.

Ms Law is author of Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles Of Incarcerated Women and Don’t Leave Your Friends Behind: Concrete Ways to Support Families in Social Justice Movements and Communities. She writes for NY Times, most recently on End Forced Labor in Immigrant Detention and is a regular commentator for Truth Out.

 

For more information:

Legal Action for Women & Women of Colour GWS

LAW@AllWomenCount.net / WomenOfColour@GlobalWomenStrike.net


020 7482 2496



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Filed under Miscarriages Of Justice, Prison, Uncategorized

END DISCRIMINATION: RESPECT HUMAN RIGHTS AND RESTORE SHAMIMA BEGUM’S UK NATIONALITY

From Charles Hector easytocall@gmail.com

Dear all,

In UK, a young woman, who had just given birth to a baby, currently at the Syrian refugee camp has had her citizenship revoked by the Home Secretary. It is a concern of all concerned with human rights and justice.

We invite your organisation/group to endorse this statement, which shall be issued as a Joint Statement of all endorsing groups. The statement was drafted in consultation with several individuals including from UK:

END DISCRIMINATION:

RESPECT HUMAN RIGHTS AND RESTORE SHAMIMA BEGUM’S UK  NATIONALITY

We, the undersigned organizations and groups are appalled that the United Kingdom has revoked the citizenship of Shamima Begum, a 20-year-old mother who asked to come back to the UK after giving birth to a baby boy in a Syrian Refugee camp. While the UK government refused to allow her and her child in, the baby died.

It was reported that the Home Office sent Begum’s family in UK a letter informing her that Home Secretary Sajid Javid had made an ‘…order “removing her British citizenship” on Tuesday [19/2/2019]. The document, addressed to Begum’s mother, said the decision was taken “in light of the circumstances of your daughter…” (Independent, 20/2/2019)

DENIAL OF RIGHT TO BE HEARD & A FAIR TRIAL

It is unconscionable and unjust that anyone is deprived of one’s citizenship and/or nationality. It is even more shocking when they have not been accorded the right to be heard and to a fair trial. In addition, any decision should be made by the courts – not merely an administrative order of some Minister, in this case the Home Secretary.

The fact that the UK government knows that Begum is in a Syrian Refugee camp, not in the United Kingdom, and that she had been asking the government to help her and her baby get home, made this act of citizenship cancellation even more outrageous. The tragic death of her child, who was born a British citizen and may have been saved had he been allowed into the UK with his mother, is unconscionable.

The Home Secretary allegedly made his decision “…in light of the circumstances…” but Begum has not been heard, therefore the ‘circumstances’ may not be true – they have certainly not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

Fifteen-year-old Begum, with a couple of friends, allegedly left the UK and travelled to Syria. She then allegedly got married to a man from Holland. They allegedly had children, and this is now her third child. Her other children apparently are also no longer alive. Her ‘husband’ was allegedly involved in ISIS and/or a terrorist group. There are allegations that Begum herself may have supported terrorist agendas, beliefs, ideology and may even have participated in their activities.

There can be many allegations, but allegations are irrelevant when it comes to the administration of justice, especially when the end result is the possible deprivation of liberty, or worse, the loss of nationality.  Allegations need to be proven beyond reasonable doubt especially when it comes to cancelling one’s birth right. Begum was a citizen at birth. She was not granted her nationality by any subsequent act of government.

What we have heard and seen in the media may have influenced the government of the day. There is always the possibility of bias, selective ‘quotes’ and/or selective reporting that may invite wrong conclusions.

The government, on the other hand, must be more thorough and just, especially if the end result is the expulsion of a person from the UK, the only country that Begum belongs to, the separation from her family there, and now the death of a new born.

At present, there is no crime in UK law that prescribes that the penalty is the revocation of citizenship. Even the worst of criminals, such as convicted mass murderers like the Yorkshire Ripper keep their nationality.

A mother, wife, child or relative of a person convicted of a crime should never be considered guilty simply because of family ties or association. If Shamima Begum did break UK law, then she should be brought back to the UK and accorded a fair trial. If convicted, then she should be sentenced as a citizen in accordance with the law.

DISCRIMINATION – Different treatment based on parentage…

Discrimination is also a major concern if different treatment is being accorded to a class of citizens who are assumed to be or maybe entitled to dual nationalities through parentage, or even marriage. Would other citizens of the UK, with no migrant heritage, be treated in the same way ending up with the revocation of their UK citizenship?

‘…Speaking after he revoked her British citizenship, [Home Secretary,] Sajid Javid said he would not take a decision that would leave an individual with nowhere to go…. Although he has not commented directly on the case, Mr Javid appeared to confirm earlier in the week the government felt able to take such action – which would prevent her from returning to the UK – because she is a dual national or has the right to citizenship elsewhere. Under international law, revoking someone’s citizenship is only permissible if it does not leave that person stateless….’ (Sky News, 21/2/2019).

It must be noted that Begum does not hold dual citizenship, which is permitted in the UK, but is a UK citizen from birth. The Home Secretary’s order would thus now make her stateless. Bangladesh has already stated that Begum does not have any right to Bangladeshi citizenship.

The position adopted by the UK is clearly discriminatory. It sets a frightening precedent for millions of people born in the UK to immigrant parents.  They can now lose their citizenship whilst those born to British-born parents cannot.

It is most disturbing to find out that there has been a significant escalation of removal of citizenship. This was highlighted by the Windrush scandal where Commonwealth citizens who had lived in the UK for decades were deported if they could not show documentation proving their citizenship. 

Removal of Citizenship has increased by 600% in a year. Over the past 10 years, 150 people have been deprived of UK nationality. Fourteen people were deprived of citizenship in 2016, and 104 in 2017. (Independent, 21/2/2019). 

This is another result of the ‘racist policy’ to create a ‘hostile environment’ against anyone assumed to be an immigrant from the ‘New Commonwealth’ (i.e. people from countries with mainly non-white populations) put in place by Prime Minister Theresa May when she was then Home Secretary.

Child Rights Convention – Removing A Mother’s Nationality Is Not In The Best Interest Of A UK Child Citizen

Begum’s son was born days before her citizenship was revoked and was therefore a UK citizen.  The government’s action was against the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), amongst others, as it deprived him of his mother and of his right to be breastfed by her.  It was certainly not in the best interest of the child. His subsequent death is a tragedy that may have been avoided had his rights been prioritized. Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott questioned whether stripping Begum of her nationality “made it impossible for her to fulfil her duties as a mother and bring her baby home to a safe place.”

Therefore we

Call on the UK government to forthwith revoke the Home Secretary’s order removing Begum’s UK citizenship/nationality, and immediately bring her back to the UK as per her request;

Call on the UK Government to respect human rights, including the rights of the child as contained in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC); and

Call on the UK to abolish laws and/or policies that can result in discriminatory treatment against citizens based on factors including parentage.

SIGNED

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Dear Friends,


Each year, as Christmas approaches, we ask our friends and supporters to kindly donate to an appeal for destitute women from the All African Women’s Group (AAWG), one of the organisations based with us at the Crossroads Women’s Centre. We write now again to ask for your help.  

This year our struggle to make visible the extent and devastating impact of poverty on women and children has been helped by a UN Rapporteur whose scathing condemnation of the government’s “‘punitive, mean-spirited, and often callous’ austerity policies” was headline news. He reported that women had been targeted by the cuts and that levels of child poverty were “not just a disgrace, but a social calamity and an economic disaster”. It was as if the welfare cuts had been designed by a “group of misogynists”, he said. 

AAWG members gave evidence including Trinity who was quoted in the press telling the Rapporteur that: “A lot of women are forced into poverty and into prostitution. I have been destitute and homeless from one place to another.” She added that she had survived an attempted rape from the husband of a friend she was staying with and “had boiling water poured on her when she resisted.” She and her child eat from food banks and “everything I’m wearing, apart from my hair, is from jumble sales“.

As we prepared this appeal, another member asked for her experience to be included:

I live on £32 [asylum support payments] which I get from the Post Office each week. My asylum claim was refused but I can’t go back because I will be killed. I now live with a woman who gave me some kind words when she saw me upset at a bus stop. Her children love me and I take care of them. My room in her house is so small it only fits a bed and my bag. I only eat the most basic cornmeal; I haven’t bought clothes for myself for nearly 10 years.”

At the last AAWG meeting women commended Trinity and other women for their bravery in speaking publicly about deeply humiliating experiences and commented that the strength of AAWG was one reason that despite all she recounted Trinity was able to describe herself and others like her as “survivors”.

Each AAWG meeting reveals victories – both large and small. Women also attend work sessions and learn, firstly from each other, how to summarise their case and the injustices they have suffered. They then use that summary to find a lawyer, ask their doctor for assistance or find backing from others to pursue their claim or get it back on track. This is anti-poverty, anti-destitution work.

The loudest cheer is always when women, finally, win their status and can go on to work and/or receive welfare benefits, and/or be reunited with their children. But getting there usually takes years, and during that time many women are denied all support. They are left destitute, dependent on the compassion and indignation of others to survive and pursue their rights.

We understand that the people we are asking for money, are also struggling financially and may also be living in poverty.  We ask you to give whatever you can manage to help women get through the holiday period when they can’t come as regularly to the Women’s Centre for food, warmth and support.

Legal Action for Women works closely with the All African Women’s Group to distribute the money. We aim to ensure that women get the equivalent of one week’s mainstream benefits, including the amounts for children where applicable.  There are no administration costs. Every penny raised will go to women and children and even a little bit can make an enormous difference.

How to donate:

1.    Click here to donate to the Asylum Appeal administered on our behalf by the charity Crossroads Women – please specify “Asylum Appeal” in the message box.  All donations can be gift-aided.

2.    Money transfer to our account: Legal Action for Women, Unity Trust Bank, account number 50728361, sort code 086001. If possible, please send an email to law@allwomencount.net to let us know.

3.    By cheque, payable to Legal Action for Women – please specify that you are donating in response to the “Asylum Appeal” and send to Crossroads Women’s Centre 25 Wolsey Mews, NW5 2DX.

If you would like to donate non-perishable food, toiletries or other essential items, these would also be very much appreciated.  They can be delivered any weekday before 16 December to the Women’s Centre in Kentish Town. 

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Filed under Asylum, Uncategorized

Seminar: DO NO HARM

6-8pm Tues 11 September House of Commons, Westminster, Committee Room 14   All welcome

DO NO HARM

A seminar to gather evidence of the significant harm caused to children by separating them from their mothers and families, and which families are targeted for child removal and forced adoption.

Hosted by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell MP

Organised by Legal Action for Women

Speakers so far:

Andy Bilson, Emeritus Professor of Social Work, University of Central Lancashire – new research into rising levels of investigation of families by social services and of children taken ‘into care’

Victoria Childs, Psychotherapy and Counsellors Union – the (lifelong) impact of separation from birth families

Emma Lewell-Buck MP, Shadow Minister for Children & Families

Lisa Longstaff, Women Against Rape – separation can be worse than witnessing domestic violence: a New York court ruling

Anne Neale, Legal Action for Women, Suffer the Little Children & their Mothers – updated findings from the past year’s self-help case work

SHODA RACKAL, Breastfeeding Peer Supporter – protecting the bond between mother and child

Jean Robinson, Association for Improvement in the Maternity Services – the threat of having children taken stops mothers accessing services

A mother who kept her child, a mother who got her child back, and a grandmother whose grandchild was forcibly adopted.

Contact: law@allwomencount.net   020 7482 2496

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Filed under Children, Support not Separation, Workshop

If you are contacting LAW about a family matter:

Thank you for contacting us.

Over the summer holiday we are not available as usual, so we hope the information here will be helpful.

We will get back to you at the beginning of September.

For our Self-help Guide to the family court please see here.

If your case is urgent, please contact your nearest Law Centre or Citizens Advice Bureau and see if they can help. There is general information about the family court process here.

If you are involved with Social Services in a public law case please contact theFamily Rights Group – they have a phone help-line and information online.

If you are in London, the Personal Support Unit at the Central Family Court can help you with understanding the court process and filling in forms, but NOT legal advice.   You can call 0207421 8534/3 to make an appointment to see an advisor.   There is also an advice service at the Royal Courts of Justice.   You can apply to the Bar Pro Bono Unit for a barrister to represent you (they need at least 3 weeks notice of a hearing).

Our next self-help meeting for mothers/primary carers will be in September – please send an email and we’ll get back to you.   If you haven’t been before, in preparation for the meeting, please answer the questions on our website and send them back to us so we will have a better idea of what help you need.

Our next picket of the Central Family Court is on Wednesday 5 September from 12.30 – 1.30pm.  Everyone is welcome.

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If you are contacting LAW about a family matter:

Thank you for contacting us.

Our next picket of the Central Family Court is on Wednesday 5 September 2018, 12.30 – 1.30pm.

If you want to attend our next self help meeting for mothers/primary carers please send an email and we’ll get back to you.  If you haven’t been before please answer the questions here Link, and email them back to us.

Please see our Self-Help guide here.

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Filed under Mothers: know your rights

END DETENTION, END DEPORTATION,

WE ALL HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE HERE

Statement against the Family Returns Process. 

We are the All African Women’s Group. Many of us have been in detention. We know the terrible impact it has. Women are on hunger strike right now against the torture of detention. We want an end to detention, but we do not want a worse alternative. We object particularly to the Family Returns Process.

 image001 (1)

#HUNGERFORFREEDOM

#CLOSE DOWN YARL’S WOOD

Women for Refugee Women (WfRW) are saying that the Family Returns Process (FRP) should be extended to all asylum seekers. Their report The Way Ahead(2017) describes FRP as an “Area of Success to Build on in the UK”. Interviewed on Woman’s Hour last week their spokeswoman said: “We now have this process called the Family Return Process which supports families with children under 18 to stay in the community up to the point they actually leave the UK, so yes there needs to be a system but that system doesn’t need to include detention.”

WfRW are having a lobby of parliament on 8 March and we are worried that the Family Returns Process will be put forward to members of parliament as what women asylum seekers want.

We are against the Family Returns Process because its main focus is to deport us. It coins the words “support” and “engagement” as a cover for enforced removals. We do not accept that people should have to go back.

A report of the FRP says: “While some organisations believe families who want to stay here should never be returned home, they are few in number.” We are not few in number and our voices should be heard because we know best what horrors we face on return. We all have the right to be here in the UK. African and other Third World people have contributed over centuries to the wealth in the UK. We have suffered enough through imperial conquest, slave trades, proxy wars, Western backed dictatorships, rape and other torture…and through long treacherous journeys getting to the UK.

What we need are committed reliable lawyers to help us with our cases to overcome the terrible injustice we face. Most of the time when we make an application to the Home Office we are disbelieved, no matter what we say and what evidence we have. We want help enforcing our rights to be treated fairly as victims of rape and other torture and as vulnerable people. The Home Office has absolutely no interest in justice.

The FRP has four stages:

1.    ‘Family return conference’ to discuss any barriers to return.

2.    ‘Family departure meeting’ to discuss the family’s views about their options.

3.    ‘Required return’ where the family make their own way to the airport.

4.    ‘Ensured return’ reviewed by an “Independent Family Returns Panel”.

THIS PANEL IS NOT INDEPENDENT – it is funded by the Home Office. As a last resort detention for up to a week and enforced return is used.

The FRP says children can be forcibly returned with “the use of physical intervention”. Guidelines for restraining children are based on those used in secure units which include “the deliberate infliction of pain”.

The FRP report slanders mothers and accuses them of child abuse for not agreeing to enforced return: “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.” How many children have been and will be taken from their parents with this excuse?

The FRP also slanders lawyers saying that “legal representatives lodge legal objections to removal at the last minute in order, it seems, to frustrate the process.” How dare they say that. We are women who have suffered rape and other torture and the Home Office makes it as difficult as possible for our case to be heard. Legal aid cuts have made it almost impossible to find reliable lawyers to help us. When we have the good fortune to find a lawyer to intervene they accuse us of abusing the system – not that the system abuses us.

WE DEMAND:

·        An end to detention and the immediate release of mothers and children, pregnant women, survivors of rape and other torture, people who are mentally or physically sick and other vulnerable people. Meet the hunger strikers demands.

·        Reinstate legal aid for all asylum and immigration cases to ensure people get a chance of a fair hearing against the Home Office racism, sexism and determination to deport no matter how unjustly.

·        No NGO collaboration with, and promotion of, so-called “voluntary” and “family returns”, and any other government processes that depend on injustice, destitution, detention and forced deportations to drive asylum seekers out.

Signed: All African Women’s Group (80 members)

Supported byBlack Women’s Rape Action Project; Brighton Anti-Raids Network; Brighton Migrant Solidarity; Brighton Plan C; Demilitarise King’s, Detained Voices; End Deportations; Jollof Café (Brighton); KCL Action Palestine, Legal Action for Women; RAPAR (Refugee and Asylum Seeker Participatory Action Research); Sussex Refugee and Migrant Self Support Group; Women Against Rape;Women of Colour in the Global Women’s Strike;  North East London Migrant Action (NELMA); SOAS Detainee Support (SDS); Lesbian and Gays Support the Migrants (LGSM);London Catholic Worker; Leeds No Borders; Boabab Women’s Project  Gazelle Maria, Oxford; Zeenat Suleman, London

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Support not Separation aims

SnS aims 2017 Final

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Filed under Support not Separation

Dear All,

We hope you will join us outside Parliament on 8 March to put the Family Courts on Trial – all are welcome.

Please note this means that on Wednesday 7 March we will NOT be outside the central family court in Holborn for our monthly picket.

(Next picket outside the central family court will be Wednesday 5 September 2018.)

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Evidence by Legal Action for Women to the Care Crisis Review being conducted by the Family Rights Group.  For full evidence see here

Excerpt:

Our evidence is based on collective self-help and campaigning.  We run monthly self-help meetings where mothers share their experiences and a number of organisations contribute their expertise. They are: All African Women’s Group, Black Women’s Rape Action Project, English Collective of Prostitutes, Global Women’s Strike and Women of Colour GWS, Single Mothers Self Defence, WinVisible (women with visible and invisible disabilities), Women Against Rape and Payday men’s network.

Legal Action for Women co-ordinates the Support not Separation Coalition whose members so far are: Association for Improvements in the Maternity Services; Black Women’s Rape Action Project; Centre for Social Work Practice; Global Women’s Strike; Lactation Consultants of Great Britain; Milk of Human Kindness; Movement for an Adoption Apology; Psychotherapy and Counselling Union; Scottish Kinship Care Alliance; Single Mothers’ Self-Defence; WinVisible (women with visible and invisible disabilities); Women Against Rape; former social workers, teachers and other professionals.

 In our experience, the main reasons for the increase of children being taken into care are:

– Devaluing of the bond between mother and child.

 – Increased poverty as a result of “austerity” cuts particularly affecting single mothers, leading to wrongful accusations of “neglect”.

 – Victims of rape and domestic violence being held responsible for causing their children “emotional harm.

– Men’s “right” to their children being prioritised over women and children’s right to protection from violence.

– Bias against mothers/families who are poor, working class, of colour, have disabilities and/or mental health problems . . . resulting in sexist, racist and anti-working class assumptions/judgements/prejudices by social workers, children’s guardians and psychologists as well as family court judges.

– Refusal by local authorities and professionals to prioritise support for vulnerable families (e.g. not using powers under S17 of the 1989 Children Act and the Care Act to provide financial or other support to enable families to stay together).

– Promotion of adoption as the “gold standard”.

– Privatisation of children’s services so that taking children into care has become a highly profitable business.

– Secrecy of the family courts so that local authorities, professionals and judges are not held publicly accountable for decisions they make and mothers/families are prevented from going public with what has happened to them and seeking support.

– Denial of legal aid as well as poor legal advice.

******************************************************************************************

The FRG is now circulating two surveys, one for parents whose children have been taken awayand one for those working in this field, whether as professionals or voluntary groups like ours.  The surveys have to be done online, and the deadline for responding is midnight on Sunday 11 February.

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