Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Estelle and Freddy must stay

My name is Estelle and I am an Asylum Seeker whose claim has been rejected. It’s a complicated story, but I have lost all my appeals because – I can’t prove I am a Lesbian.

My parents died when I was in my teens and my uncle took in me and my brothers.

I was seeing someone who I didn’t know was married to a man in the police. We were found by her husband one day, and I was arrested. In the prison cell, ‘to prove I was a woman’ I was raped, and tortured.  My uncle paid a bribe to get me released, and because we heard the police man knew where I lived, he took to my grandmother’s village to keep me safe. I became pregnant because of the rape.

One day my uncle came to the village and said the police man had found where I was and had made death threats. He paid an agent to get me out of Cameroon to somewhere safe where I could claim Asylum. He got me a passport in a false name and we travelled by plane and ferry and bus. I was seven months pregnant when we left, and very travel sick and exhausted all the time we were travelling. I did not know where we were or what countries we were in. I relied totally on the agent to get me somewhere safe and to tell me what to do. I could only speak French and a little English when I left Cameroon.

When we got to the UK, I was so sick and exhausted the agent took me to a hotel so I could sleep and rest. Next day he gave me a paper with an address, took me to the streets and told me to find my way to the address and then he left me. He said I should show the paper to people to tell me where to go. The address was the screening centre for Asylum seekers in Croydon.

I was interviewed for a long time, and then I was sent to Barnsley to the Belmont Centre. It has been very hard as I knew no-one and I knew very little English.
I was given somewhere to live after a short time, and I had my baby, Freddy, after 2 months. I did not know what was happening when my waters broke – my neighbour told me I was going to have my baby – she has been very good to me and helped me, and a lady from Barnsley that I met has been very kind also, getting me baby clothes and things for Freddy.

For the last 14 months since Freddy was born I have had to learn to be a mother, look after me and Freddy, deal with my claim for Asylum, and I have learned English and computers. People in Barnsley have been so kind. Because of the rape, I have had help from a Sexual Violence Counsellor, and she believes me and has given me a letter of support. She says:

“The Judge in making the finding not to allow Estelle to remain has said they do not believe her about her sexual orientation. Whilst at the same time agreeing she was raped and also agreeing that it would be extremely difficult for a lesbian to be accepted in her country of origin Cameroon. I have found Estelle to be consistent and honest in all her communications as well as consistent in relaying information about her life both here in the UK and in her country of origin Cameroon. It is difficult to understand how “the truth” involving a decision about something as unique as an individual’s sexuality can be taken. I understand recent research has found 98% of cases where sexuality as a factor are refused asylum.

Having worked with a number of victims of rape and sexual violence I have no doubt that Estelle’s account is true and I base this on her presentation and her recounting of her day to day experience coping with the impact of this serious trauma.”

My final appeal has been turned down as the judge does not believe I am a Lesbian. I chose to have Freddy even though I was scared – he is a good, beautiful child and makes me happy, even though the event that brought him to me was so horrible.  I do not know how I can prove that I will love women and not men, especially as I have Freddy.  I wish I could have spoken English myself when I was first interviewed – it was so hard to speak through an interpreter. Perhaps that is why they don’t believe me.

I have turned down the offer of a voluntary return to Cameroon. I cannot go back there – I will not be safe. I have been told that Freddy and I will be forcibly removed. I am sick with worry all the time that someone will come for us at any time, or when I go to sign at the office in Sheffield they will keep me there.

Petition to grant Sanctuary for Estelle and Freddy

Friends of Estelle & Freddy are petitioning the Home Secretary Theresa May, to reconsider Estelle’s case and grant Estelle humanitarian protection.

Please print petition and return to:

Friends of Estelle & Freddy
C/o Northern Refugee Centre
Scotia works
1 Leadmill Road
Sheffield, S1 4SE


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