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
APPEAL FOR DESTITUTE WOMEN
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 email@example.com to let us know.
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.
Some recent victories from the asylum team at the Crossroads Women’s Centre. This team is made up of women from four organisations: All African Women’s Group, Black Women’s Rape Action Project, Legal Action for Women, Women Against Rape.
These victories were won in the last few months through the self-help activities of women seeking asylum. This includes training workshops, weekly work sessions and self-help meetings. In total at least 50 women a week access this kind of vital help. As far as we know, this is the only place where women get help with understanding their own case and where it fits in to the asylum process and access to specialist support from two prestigious anti-rape organisations . . . all done with the principle of collective self help. This work can make the difference between a woman being able to get safety and protection in the UK and being deported back to her country of origin where she may have faced rape and other torture. But it also means that once women’s cases can get back on track they have the possibility of getting financial support and can escape destitution and all of the dangers that come from having no income at all. This self-help work often precipitates campaigning such as Women’s Against Rape’s (WAR) Refuge from Rape and Destitution campaign.
Lorna from DRC won full refugee status. She and her little girl suffered horrific gang rape by soldiers after the family were forced to leave their home in the middle of the night, despite the dangers, to get treatment for the child’s acute asthma attack. Lorna’s husband was killed before her eyes when he tried to stop the soldiers from raping their little girl (who died of her injuries later that night). Despite evidence from WAR the Home Office initially dismissed her claim. Lorna bravely spoke about what happened to her on the Victoria Derbyshire show as part of her campaign to win safety and protection here in the UK.
Gladys from Malawi won her appeal. She suffered rape and other violence because she is a lesbian. Her account was initially disbelieved by the Home Office. Women from the All African Women’s Group attended her appeal and the group wrote a support letter, explaining how dependent Gladys was on the care and encouragement of women who had suffered similar experiences.
Ruth from Jamaica was granted Leave to Remain after 13 years in the UK. Black Women’s Rape Action Project (BWRAP) helped her speak for first time about the domestic violence she suffered and the rape of her son by her husband. BWRAP found a lawyer and helped ensure she got psychiatric evidence. At her appeal hearing Judge Rodger acknowledged that Ruth was a “vulnerable witness” in accordance with the Joint Presidential Guidance Note 2 of 2010. (Women Against Rape has been pioneering efforts to monitor and press judges to adhere to the vulnerable witness guidance. Throughout much of her time in the UK Ruth has been destitute. When asked about this she commented:
“I never know if I am going to eat that day, I only get clothes if I find something in the jumble here [at the women’s centre], I have nothing for myself.”
Her victory is welcome though insufficient as she has been refused access to public funds so is still without an income. To expect a traumatised 62 year old woman to “get a job” is cruel and Ruth is trying to get this changed.
Brenda from Democratic Republic of Congo was granted family reunion at appeal. She had been forced to leave her home country without her five children. Winning family reunion was particularly difficult because only one child was under 18, and two are not her biological children. Once a child turns 18 the Home Office says they are no longer a “dependent” on their mother. WAR encouraged Ruth’s lawyer to press for legal aid under the Exceptional Case Funding scheme which meant she could get decisive psychiatric and other evidence. The judge made reference to WAR’s expert evidence and to a support letter from the All African Women’s Group which detailed the impact on Brenda of continuing separation from her children.
Bibi from Cameroon’s deportation was stopped. Over 200 people wrote in support after AAWG put out Action Alert. This visible support was crucial in encouraging her member of parliament to intervene and Bibi was able to put in a new asylum claim. AAWG members attended her bail hearing and the judge let her go saying she should be released so she could go back to helping the group!
Erioth from Uganda stopped herself from being detained. AAWG spearheaded a successful campaign to get Erioth out of detention in February this year. A fresh claim was submitted in August but when she went to sign on in September officials tried to detain her. She refused to go with them and loudly protested that they were frightening and upsetting her, telling them she had suffered torture. The guards were scared off and let her go!
Flora from Cameroon got council housing. Getting housed as a traumatised victim of sexual violence shouldn’t be so worthy of note, but it is because local authorities around the country are systematically reneging on their responsibilities to house vulnerable people. In Flora’s case Women’s Aid Hull assisted, encouraged by WAR and WinVisible, a women with disabilities group, based at the Crossroads Women’s Centre.
WAR has asked Keir Starmer MP to intervene on behalf of three of his constituents to press Camden Council to house them.
Ifeoma from Nigeria won full refugee status at appeal. AAWG wrote in support and she had attended training sessions, which she said really helped her understand what was needed for the hearing.
Natalyia from Ukraine persuaded a judge to accept additional evidence from her personally after her lawyers had submitted the grounds for her appeal. This was an important development as negligent or careless lawyers may put in weak submissions which women then want to add to.
Tribunal challenges using VW guidance. Two unrepresented women used the vulnerable witness guidance self-help tool to challenge appeal rulings which failed to consider them as vulnerable witnesses. The Tribunal turned both of them down. BWRAP and WAR are helping them challenge this on the grounds that it is unreasonable for women who have no lawyer to be able to specify in detail how the guidance relates to their own case. Instead judges should consider whether on the face of it a woman is vulnerable and then look at what measures would be appropriate, for example ensuring that she has a lawyer.
AAWG women saves brother from detention and removal. Anna established (with the help of WAR) that the Home Office had lied and then done a cover up in correspondence with her brother’s MP. This meant that the MP intervened on an accurate and effective basis. WAR has since found all the family new lawyers.
And a sad loss . . .
Ade from Nigeria was detained using a new policy whereby women are given a “window” for removal rather than a specific date. One of the other AAWG women helped Ade understand her own case and propose action but by then it was too late to do anything and she was removed. Of the women who have been removed to their country of origin who have managed to keep in touch, nearly all have suffered further rape and or abuse. The government has shown no interest in finding out what happens to women it so callously deports.
 The Practice and Guidance Notes which give guidance on the approach to be adopted by First Tier Tribunal judges when considering all the personal circumstances of an “incapacitated or vulnerable person when assessing their evidence”.
Landmark Supreme Court ruling: children who were abused in foster care can sue the local authority! Great is the movement for justice and we shall prevail. Make sure everyone in your network knows about this.
A grandmother who came to us for help has won: her grandchildren will be living with her and spending weekends with dad with weekly contact with mum – what they all wanted. And she’ll be getting Special Guardianship Allowances for the children!
Women in Brighton have formed a group and are picketing the family court there to coincide with our London court picket onthe first Wednesday of every month.
Our workshop Another Handmaid’s Tale was packed and the speakers were great. It was held at The World Transformed (events organised concurrently with the Labour Party conference in Brighton). Emma Lewell-Buck MP (shadow minister for children and families) spoke strongly on the need to support children staying with their families, giving weight and credibility to our demands. You can watch it here.
Another three stunning workshops (with organisations based at the Crossroads Women’s Centre) also raised the impoverishment of mothers and the taking of children by the state. You can watch them here: Radical demands from the grassroots; Whose job is it anyway? Radical childcare; andLiving on the edge: claimants, asylum seekers, pensioners, zero-hour workers, sex workers . . . refusing Dickensian destitution and other social murder.
Friends, Families and Travellers invited us to speak at their meeting in Parliament raising concerns about discrimination by children services.
We wrote an picketed the conference and you can watch the lively exchanges we had.to CAFCASS and NSPCC protesting their speaking at a Families Need Fathers conference. Children charities which receive public money should not give credence to domestic violence deniers. We’ve had no response from them so far. We
We are objecting to a news programme The Adoption which is part of The World At One every day this week. It claims to be a thorough look at one adoption case but so far it is just promoting adoption as the ‘gold standard’. It uncritically reports on social workers who took two young children who, by their own admission, were ‘loved and wanted’ by their birth parents and extended family. Write in and object too!
IN THE NEWS
The mass taking of children by the state is in the news like never before. Some recent examples:
· Research by Lancaster University shows the very high number of mothers who have had more than one child taken away were themselves in care and got no support.
· An exhibition by young mums (‘Taken: because love wasn’t enough’) whom we are hoping to be in touch with.
· In the US, Disabled parents are suing New York City for discrimination in child removal.
· A US for-profit foster contractor has been exposed after 86 children died while in their care. How many more have died at the hands of other foster contractors?
JOIN OUR COURT PICKETS
We continue to picket the court in Holborn and now also in Brighton the first Wednesday of every month. Join us or picket the court in your town or area!
Another Handmaid’s Tale 2-3pm Saturday 28 October
Workshop at the Anarchist Bookfair All Welcome
Room LG6, Learning Centre, Park View School, West Green Road London N15 3QR
In poor working class communities 45% of children are reported to social services. Poverty is used to allege ‘neglect’, mothers are treated as surrogates for fostering and adoption without consent, inflicting lifelong trauma on thousands of children. Single mothers are most at risk, especially if they report rape or domestic violence, are of colour, have a disability… A growing movement is breaking the silence and picketing secretive family courts, demanding support not separation.
Cristel Amiss, Black Women’s Rape Action Project
Michael Coleman, Payday men’s network
Selma James, Global Women’s Strike,
Kim Sparrow, Single Mothers’ Self-Defence
Coverage of Protest against CAFCASS and NSPCC participation in Families Need Fathers (FNF) conference last Saturday.
Ten people took part in the protest called by Legal Action for Women and Women Against Rape. Watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vg9qABVVtOY
FNF replied saying that they are a “reputable charity” but did not address domestic violence or any of the other issues raised. A FNF man confronted the picket saying that ‘more children are killed by their mothers than by their fathers’.
OPEN LETTER to CAFCASS and NSPCC re your PARTICIPATION in a conference run by FAMILIES NEED FATHERS (FNF)
on Saturday 14 October
We understand that you are speaking at this FNF conference on parental alienation. You must be aware that FNF have consistently attacked women.
Must we refresh your memory? As long ago as 1994, during a debate on the Child Support Agency, MP Glenda Jackson reported in Parliament that FNF advised fathers who were not allowed access to their children to ‘kidnap them. If that failed and nothing else could succeed, it advocated the murder of the mother.’ Recently we helped a father re-introduce contact with his child. He had previously gone to FNF and was horrified when their facilitators described the whole system as stacked against men, and
They kept referring to ‘feminist Nazis’. He said they promote and perpetuate misogyny and refused to go back.
FNF deny domestic violence, dismissing it as false allegations. They claim that ‘False and unfounded allegations poison proceedings when a non-resident parent is seeking parenting time with his children. Judges need to make findings of fact as soon as possible and to take false allegations into account when determining the best interests of the child.’ FNF claim that ‘there is widespread abuse of men and boys in the context of the family courts’ and accuse women of ‘making allegations’ as ‘a motorway to obtaining legal aid’.
Such claims are totally outrageous. Surely you know that:
We hope you will reconsider your participation in this conference.
Legal Action for Women and Women Against Rape
Legal Action for Women at The World Transformed
Another Handmaid’s Tale
3-5pm on Tuesday 26 September 2017 at Komedia Studio 44-47 Gardner St, Brighton BN1 1UN
For tickets: https://theworldtransformed.org/
In poor communities, 45% of children are reported to social services. Poverty is used to allege ‘neglect,’ treat mothers as surrogates for fostering and adoption without consent, inflicting lifelong trauma on thousands of children. Single mothers are most at risk, especially if they report rape or domestic violence, are of colour, or have a disability. A growing movement is breaking the silence and picketing secretive family courts. It is reflected in Labour’s manifesto. Mothers, women’s organisations, professionals, MPs – and you – speak out.
Cristel Amiss, Black Women’s Rape Action Project
Selma James, Global Women’s Strike
Emma Lewell-Buck MP, Shadow Minister for Children & Families
Nina Lopez, Support Not Separation Coalition/Global Women’s Strike
Anne Neale, Legal Action for Women
Crossroads Women’s Centre 25 Wolsey Mews, Kentish Town, London, NW5 2DX
Tel: 0207 482 2496 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
PLEASE HELP US SAVE OUR BIBI
Bernadette Mappa Kouame Agyei:
Detained & facing removal, Thursday 14 September
Bernadette Mappa Kouame Agyei (Bibi) was detained at Yarl’s Wood IRC last Friday. Just the day before she performed to great acclaim the role of a judge in our play ‘WE ARE HERE BECAUSE YOU WERE THERE” at the DSEI – Stop the Arms Fair. The day’s theme was Free Movement for People not Weapons! Now Judge Bibi, who has an appeal on 1 December, finds herself denied the right to a hearing in front of a judge because the Home Office plans to deport her back to Cameroon!
Bibi Agyei is a kind and respected member of our group, the All African Women’s Group (AAWG), a self-help group of women seeking asylum which is based at the Crossroads Women Centre in London. Once a fortnight, 90-100 women from different countries come together to discuss our legal cases, share experience and support each other. Bibi has helped other women to understand and fight their legal cases, especially those who do not speak English.
Bibi has been in the UK since 1996. Her children and partner all live here and are British citizens. She has no-one in Cameroon and fears for her life if sent back there because of her political activities. Her 22 year old son died in 2014 in tragic and still unclear circumstances on the M11 motorway, while returning to the Norwich School of Art, where he was studying Architecture. Bibi and her family weren’t even informed about the inquest into his death so could not attend — one example of the racism we face as people of colour. Bibi is devastated at the thought that she would not be able to visit his grave if she were deported. These regular visits are the single biggest comfort she draws on to help her through this terrible loss.
Bibi is disadvantaged in fighting her deportation case because she was unjustly convicted of being in possession of someone else’s passport. The Home Office is using this to deny Bibi her right to appeal. She wants to challenge this conviction and it is only fair that she gets the chance to do this. Many of us are labelled criminal because we are forced into illegality to survive and support our children because the government makes us destitute.
Please write to demand that Bibi’s (Bernadette Mappa Kouame Agyei) flight tomorrow (Thursday 14th September) is stopped. Please see below a sample letter to the Home Secretary Amber Rudd. Please send a copy to her member of parliament, Karen Buck MP and to us at email@example.com.
Rt Hon Amber Rudd, Home Secretary
2 Marsham Street
London, SW1P 4DF
EXTREMELY URGENT: Re Bernadette Mappa Kouame Agyei
Detained and facing removal on Thursday 14 Sept
DOB 20 May 1959, country of origin: Cameroon
H.O. Ref: K1740545
Dear Amber Rudd MP,
I write to call on you to please stop Ms Bernadette Mappa Kouame Agyei’s removal tomorrow evening (14 September). Ms Agyei has compelling compassionate grounds to remain in the UK. She has an appeal hearing on 1st December 2017 which will provide Ms Agyei and her family with their first chance to put detailed expert evidence about their situation to a judge. This includes how much Ms Agyei depends on specialist support which would be denied to her if sent back. Ms Agyei also fears her life is in danger if sent back because of her political activity.
The Supreme Court recently ruled that it was unlawful for those with Article 8 family life grounds, like Ms Agyei, to be told they can pursue their appeals from the countries that they have been returned to R (Kiarie; Byndloss) v SSHD  UKSC 42. This is because it has been found to be impossible for people to pursue their right of appeal once they have been removed from the UK. Please do not deprive Ms Agyei of her fundamental right to an appeal hearing. Please ensure that Ms Agyei is released from detention and given a fair hearing.
[Your name and address if possible]
Karen Buck MP
House of Commons
London, SW1A 0AA