Monday, 14 June 2010

Yarl's Wood lesbian hunger striker still in detention

By Paul Canning

The Black Women's Rape Action Project has reported on the woman involved in a hunger strike in February at the Yarl's Wood detention centre in Bedfordshire, which included a Jamaican lesbian.

They say that 13 of the original 25 have now been released.
All had spent months in detention and one woman had been there for a year and a half.  Some had WON THEIR CASE but were being kept inside by a vindictive Home Office which was appealing the judgement.  Women described feeling like forgotten people.  One of the key demands of the hunger strike was for an end to indefinite detention.

The collective power generated by the hunger strike has had a huge impact helped greatly by the widespread publicity.  Judges who were previously hostile and discriminatory are suddenly more willing to consider granting bail. Women, previously disparaged as “bogus asylum seekers” who “prolong their own detention” are being seen for who they are: rape survivors who have suffered terrible violence and trauma and mothers who have lived and raised families in the UK for years and who are distraught at being separated from their children.
Two of the hunger strikers have been removed and the group say that "many believe they were both fast tracked out of the UK as punishment for the crucial legal and co-ordinating work they did."

Ms O, a lesbian woman from Jamaica, remains inside Yarl's Wood because the Home Office won their appeal against the court’s original decision to grant her leave to remain. Her legal team have submitted a further appeal based on evidence of the violence she would suffer if returned.

In March UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group (UKLGIG) reported in 'Failing the grade' that two thirds of the cases reviewed for the report were refused because UK Border Agency (UKBA) staff said that claimants could 'internally relocate'. The report noted that this is especially difficult for lesbians and gay men in a small island nation like Jamaica where there is a culture of virulent homophobia which exists everywhere, with violence committed frequently (and well documented) against lesbians and gay men.
Nine out of ten of the Jamaican cases reviewed were told to go home and relocate. Yet all the cases were claiming asylum precisely because they were 'caught' with a partner or were already perceived to be lesbian or gay. This, says the report "is an impossible no-win situation."

Jamaican cases also face misuse of the actual Home Office signed-off evidence of persecution in particular countries. There have been numerous reports on the problem of the country guidance made available to decision makers. Here's a line from one refusal letter:
“There is no evidence to corroborate that lesbians generally face serious ill-treatment in Jamaica.”
In January glbtqja reported on a 2009 case of 'corrective rape' of a lesbian couple who had relocated within Jamaica to restart their lives due to a previous homophobic attack.


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