Asli, our guest blogger, and other women seeking asylum, are taking to the streets of Liverpool to demand that the asylum system respects their human rights.
I joined Women Asylum Seekers Together (WAST) in June 2006. I needed a group who could support me, but most importantly, I needed a place where I could talk about what I was going through. I could not talk about the subject with my friends. It was a difficult subject to talk about with anyone. I wanted to meet other women in the asylum process to empower me and help me start my own anti-deportation campaign.
WAST is a self-help group based in Manchester. The members meet every week to share experiences, empower and support each other, raise awareness about the issues that force women to seek protection in the UK. After several group discussions at the weekly self-help meetings, WAST members put together 12 demands, challenging UKBA and the Home Office to recognize the suffering of women in WAST and all women seeking asylum in the UK and calling on them to improve the system. Tomorrow we are going to march to the new UKBA office in Liverpool to submit these demands.
But today, I would like to talk about some of the demands. We demand that UKBA stop treating women asylum seekers like criminals: A member at WAST, once said “I came to the UK to seek protection”, that’s what all of us at WAST believed when we first arrived in this country, for some of us four, five, eight, or even ten years ago. Instead of protection, we face additional threats to our wellbeing and our human rights, facing the stress of an unknown future while waiting for years for the Home Office to make a decision on our cases. We are survivors of torture, trauma, violence and rape, but we are called liars, economic migrant, and “bogus” asylum seekers. Claiming asylum is not a crime, it is a human right.
Many women claiming asylum are refused because the Home Office believes that they are not at risk of persecution if returned to their home country and relocated to another area of the country – that is what they call internal relocation. What it means for these women is that they are made destitute leaving many of them vulnerable. Women end up on the street, forced to seek refuge with strangers. Some are forced into prostitution in exchange for a roof over their head or a meal. They are not allowed to work to support themselves. When my asylum claim was refused in 2004 I was made destitute the following years, I was lost and lost my confidence. I felt like a waste, it was like I was deprived of my dignity, it was the only thing I had at that time. That is degrading and inhuman for us while we wait for our asylum outcome, which often takes years. That is why we demand an end to destitution.
We invite everyone to come and support us on the march on Friday 29th July 2011 at the Saint George Square, Liverpool (L1 1JJ) where the march is going to start at midday. To view all our demands, follow us on facebook: http://www.facebook.com/#!/event.php?eid=208851965833066