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.

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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.


·        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;  Gazelle Maria, Oxford; Zeenat Suleman, London

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Support not Separation aims

SnS aims 2017 Final

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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, but the regular Brighton picket will go ahead from 12.30 – 1.30.

Next picket outside the central family court will be Wednesday 4 April.

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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


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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Evidence to Family Rights Group Care Crisis Review Submitted by Legal Action for Women, January 2018 here:     FRGevidenceLegalActionforWomen (2)

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Protest outside family court first Wednesday of every month.


London court  First Avenue Hse, 42-49 High Holborn, WC1V 6NP

Brighton court  1 Edward St, BN2 0JD


Mothers and other carers protest outside Holborn and Brighton family court against the increasing numbers of children taken into care, court secrecy, cuts to legal aid for family cases, forced adoptions, mothers’ and children’s poverty and destitution, sexism, racism and other bias. Join us.


Contact: Legal Action for Women


Single Mothers’ Self-Defence



  • An end to sexist judgements which deny the bond between mother and child, and downgrade the crimes of violent fathers.
  • Fathers who are violent should not have unsupervised contact.
  • An end to the secrecy of the family courts; there must be public scrutiny.
  • Legal aid for all family court matters; no mother should have to represent herself.
  • An end to institutional discrimination on grounds of income, race, nationality, disability, religious affiliation and/or occupation.
  • An end to forced adoptions.
  • Courts and social services must prioritise keeping children with their mother or other primary carer wherever possible. The state must support mothers doing their best for their children.


  • 80% of UK women are mothers. Women are primary carers in 90% of households.
  • 28% of children live in poverty
  • There are more children “in care” now than at any time since 1985
  • Children from poor areas are 10 times more likely to be taken into care than those in rich areas
  • Domestic abuse features in 70-90% of cases in the family courts yet less than 1% of child contact applications are refused – violent fathers who request contact nearly always get it.
  • One in five children are now referred to children’s services yet the proportion of identified cases of abuse by parents has dropped from 24% to under 8%.
  • Adoptions are at their highest point since complete data collection started: 90% of adoptions are without parental consent.
 image005 Suffer the little Children & their Mothers: A dossier on the unjust separation of children from their mothers is available at http://legalactionforwomen.net

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Family carers must get the financial support they deserve

Sun 10 December 2017


 Finally, a call for financial support for kinship carers. We’ve campaigned for years to end the discrimination that pays strangers for foster care but not grandparents who often have to fight to stop children being adopted. But what about supporting mothers so children can stay with them? Women, 80% of whom are mothers, suffer 86% of austerity cuts, including benefit sanctions which drive thousands to food banks; 56% of single parents (overwhelmingly mothers) with jobs live in poverty; single-mother families are 47% of the statutory homeless and nearly three-quarters of families affected by the benefit cap.

Section 17 of the 1989 Children Act instructs local authorities to “promote the upbringing of children by their families” by “providing accommodation and giving assistance in kind or in cash”. The Care Act 2014 entitles disabled mothers to extra help. Why are these entitlements rarely implemented? The 40% cut in “early intervention” highlighted by the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, is not the only reason. An ideology of blaming mothers even for the domestic violence they suffer, devaluing the child-mother relationship regardless of its impact on children, promoting forced adoptions and privatisation of children services, has resulted in nearly 90,000 children in care (England and Scotland). In some working-class areas, 50% of children are being referred to social services.

In 2016, ruling against a forced adoption, the European court of human rights said that article 8 (respect for private and family life) placed the state under a “positive obligation” to keep families together. It blamed “public and private services provided by ‘saviours’” for “child maltreatment and discrimination”. Mothers and kinship carers picket London’s family court every month demanding to be reunited with their children. They ask: when will they get the support they are legally entitled to?
Nina Lopez Support not Separation
Micheleine Kane Scottish Kinship Care Alliance
Kim Sparrow Single Mothers’ Self-Defence

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Protest outside Central Family Court: Value the world’s mothers and children – part of International Women’s Strike events on International Women’s Day 8 March 2017


See video & article in The Independent here

 At the protest we handed in an Open Letter to Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division of the High Court of England & Wales asking to meet with him to convey our concerns about the discrimination mothers face in the family court.  See our letter below:

Dear Sir James Munby,

Valuing Mothers and Children

We write to respectfully request a meeting with you.

We are mothers and organisations struggling against the unjust separation of children from their mothers, and today, International Women’s Day, we are protesting outside the Family Court. We are deeply concerned about the rise in the number of children being taken into care, forced to have contact or live with neglectful, vindictive and violent fathers, or adopted against the wishes of their mothers and of the children themselves. Continue reading

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Xmas Appeal(best.jpg


Dear Friends,

The festive season is upon us. We write now asking for your support for the annual appeal for women from the All African Women’s Group (AAWG), a self-help group of women asylum seekers, based at the Crossroads Women’s Centre.

AAWG has grown massively in the last year and now more than a hundred women regularly attend the fortnightly self-help meetings and daily work sessions. Many are mothers with children under the age of five. Over a third of members are destitute with no income at all. Others are forced to survive on asylum support payments of £36.95 a week. You may know that people seeking asylum are denied the right to work.

Women speak of not being able to eat regularly, afford clothes, toiletries, travel and other essentials and being dependent on others, sometimes strangers, for a roof over their head. Upsettingly some are exposed to abuse and exploitation. For mothers with children that depend on them, life is particularly terrifying.

Despite often living in desperate situations, women exhibit a great collective spirit which has won many victories. For example, rape survivors have overcome stigma to speak for the first time about what they have suffered; mothers have been reunited with their children after many years, women have won housing, got themselves out of detention and stopped removals.

We understand that these are difficult times for everyone and many people are struggling to be able to afford their living costs. We appeal to you to help cover the holiday period when women and children can’t come as regularly to the Women’s Centre for food, warmth and support.

Legal Action for Women works directly 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.  There are no administration costs. Every penny raised will go to women and children and even a little bit can make an enormous difference.

We are grateful for any amount you are able to give.

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” when prompted.  All donations are 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 tolaw@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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