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Please take action for child victim of rape & trafficking arrested & imprisoned

(30 Posts)
franch Tue 15-Feb-05 12:53:52

Please excuse me posting this in full. I received the information from the Black Women’s Rape Action Project today. Details of HOW YOU CAN HELP are below.


ACTION ALERT: CHILD VICTIM OF RAPE AND TRAFFICKING ARRESTED & IMPRISONED
Please take action in urgent support of Ms Doreen Kyomugisha, a 17-year old rape victim from Rwanda (see below). Ms Kyomugisha escaped from her trafficker last October and turned up on the doorstep of the Women’s Centre where we are based. After months of intensive counseling and support, she was beginning to recover from a nightmare of losing her parents through illness and war at the age of 11, being raped by many men for money in several African countries for over two years and finally trafficked to London. Instead of finding the safety and protection she urgently needs, last Wednesday she was charged with entering the UK as a refugee using “deception” and “failure to produce an immigration document or passport which is in force and satisfactorily establishes [your] identity, nationality or citizenship.” She was refused bail and imprisoned.



As the Home Office disputes her age, Ms Kyomugisha is on remand in Bronzefield Women’s Prison where she is deeply traumatised by the imprisonment. Conditions (in this privatised prison) are totally inappropriate for such a vulnerable child. Visitors report a drastic deterioration in her mental and physical health. She is so upset that she is unable to eat (as well as suffering from an eating disorder) and has been given no suitable food[. As a result her weight has dropped 2kg in just two days from an already low 48kg. She speaks of suicide, often retches during visits, is in constant pain and has panic attacks. She is heavily medicated and being held on her own in a hospital wing, deprived of the company of others who might look out for her; she has not been allowed her own clothes or homeopathic medicine; cards sent to her have not been delivered.



Last week, Solicitor General Harriet Harman, launched a European wide crackdown on trafficking claiming to improve protection and saying “. . . it is the trafficked people who are the victims.” Does Ms Kyomugisha’s brutal treatment indicate what “protection” victims can expect? Will the people who pressed for stronger anti-trafficking legislation speak out against how it is being used by the government to criminalise and deport immigrant people and asylum seekers?



Everyone who knows Ms Kyomugisha, from members of the All African Women’s Group of which she has become an active member, church representatives to health professionals, are appalled at the way she has been treated and are rallying support for a bail application on Wednesday 16 February. At the very least she must be released so that she can work closely with Legal Action for Women and her legal team to clear her name against these malicious charges, brought on the basis of “evidence” which has not been scrutinised or verified. We understand that HO policy indicates that charges of failing to produce valid documents when entering the country should not be used against a minor. On this basis alone a proper assessment of her age should have been done, taking into consideration the social services assessment and the prosecution should not have been brought.



As the authorities prioritise implementing repressive immigration controls over women and children’s safety and welfare, this shocking treatment of a vulnerable child makes a travesty of any pronouncements that the authorities are sensitive to rape survivors and that young people claiming asylum or victims of trafficking receive a caring response.

Please help Ms Kyomugisha by:

· Writing and calling Harriet Harman and the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, to demand Ms Kyomugisha is immediately released from prison and all charges against her are dropped. Please cite Ms Kyomugisha’s Home Office reference ASC/502B67 and send by email to: harmanh@parliament.uk & lslo@gtnet.gov.uk; fax 0207 271 2430 or post to Attorney General’s Office, Buckingham Gate, 9 Buckingham Gate, London SW1E 6JP. Tel: Harriet Harman 0207-219 2057.

· Supporting her application for bail. Please send letters to BWRAP (bwrap@dircon.co.uk) for forwarding to the court.

· Attending court for her bail hearing – 9.45 Wednesday 16 February, Bromley Magistrates Court, London Road, Bromley, Kent.

· Contacting Bronzefield Prison Governor Janine McDowell, Tel: 01784 425 690; Fax 01784 425 691 urging that Ms Kyomugisha be given healthy food, her own clothes and homeopathic medicine as an urgent priority.




Please contact us if you can help in other ways or need more information.



Yours sincerely,

Cristel Amiss

Black Women’s Rape Action Project, Tel: 020 7482 2496, Fax 020 7209 4761

email: bwrap@dircon.co.uk



Background
In October 2004, Ms Kyomugisha was brought to the Crossroads Women’s Centre where we are based, by a woman who found her distressed and traumatised at a bus station. Over a period of several days, Ms Kyomugisha was able to tell us a little of what happened to her. She was born in 1987 in Rwanda. Both her parents died when she was 11. When she was 15, her relatives sent her to Congo Brazzaville with a man who forced her to have sex with men for money which he kept. She was brought to England by an African man who told the immigration authorities that she was his niece. He kept her locked up somewhere in London and forced her to have sex with several men. She managed to escape from him when he drove her to a house to see one of his clients and left her alone in his car.



We have been counselling and supporting Ms Kyomugisha, including by securing legal representation for her asylum claim and for housing and support. It is clear that she is still a child. She remains traumatised by everything that has happened to her and feels very vulnerable and at risk of possible reprisals from the man who brought her into the country.



The Home Office in Croydon was hostile and unsympathetic from the beginning. On her first visit to claim asylum Ms Kyomugisha was interrogated by security guards who were abusive and began questioning her in detail about her claim before allowing her into the building. She was interviewed in a public place about rape and other sexual violence using a male translator and witnessed vicious questioning of other young girls.



Camden Asylum Seekers Team assessed Ms Ms Kyomugisha and provide housing and support on the basis that she is an unaccompanied minor. Health professionals have also assessed her as being no more than 17 years old. Ms Kyomugisha attends our self-help sessions, and was improving her English as well as learning computer and typing skills.

donnie Tue 15-Feb-05 13:23:36

this is appalling. And very ' topical', as refugees and asylum seekers are very much the battle ground of political parties currently.

franch Tue 15-Feb-05 18:25:22

Thanks for responding donnie, hope you can find a moment to help.

serenequeen Tue 15-Feb-05 18:56:52

this is really awful. i will try and do something to help.

Frizbe Tue 15-Feb-05 19:14:14

have e mail'd

BadHair Tue 15-Feb-05 19:23:37

And me, tho' harriet harman's mail kept getting rejected.

franch Wed 16-Feb-05 12:06:18

Thanks for your response guys. Have checked H Harman's email, it is correct - please keep trying.

franch Wed 16-Feb-05 13:15:27

bumping

franch Wed 16-Feb-05 16:20:57

Will bump a few more times

franch Wed 16-Feb-05 17:40:02

Have just done a test email to the Harriet Harman address and it hasn't been bounced (yet), so please persevere. Thanks to everyone who's helped so far.

serenequeen Thu 17-Feb-05 20:09:32

it's totally pathetic i know, but could anyone who has emailed please post a copy here so that i can use it too?

i really want to do this but am at a bit of a loss to compose the messages succinctly - bit knackered sorry.

thank you very much in advance.

serenequeen Thu 17-Feb-05 22:39:13

anyone? please?

batters Thu 17-Feb-05 22:54:23

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

serenequeen Thu 17-Feb-05 22:56:09

maybe i will just cut & paste the original message and hack it about a bit...

but it won't be tonight now.

hatsoff Thu 17-Feb-05 23:03:22

I've sent it to a colleague of mine. I work for a prominent international organization that deals with such issues.

Chandra Fri 18-Feb-05 16:06:08

HAve e-mailed, bumping it for you

franch Sat 19-Feb-05 17:34:13

Many thanks for your support everyone. Sorry about the delay getting back to you. Apologies in advance for the VERY LONG post that follows.


UPDATE RECEIVED FROM BWRAP ON THURSDAY:
"We are delighted to report that Doreen Kyomugihsa was freed on bail yesterday (details of full case below). She was very unwell when she was released at 5pm and improved as the evening went on. Charges of “deception” and “failing to produce an immigration document or passport” are still outstanding against her and she is due back in court on 9 March 2005 for a committal hearing.



Ms Kyomugisha send her thanks to everyone who visited and sustained her in other ways while she was in Bronzefield and who sent kind letters of support and/or wrote or called Harriet Harman about her situation. When we spoke to her Office they knew about the case and said they had received many faxes. We would be glad to know what the HO said to you when you contacted them. And, as we are also gathering copies of the letters which were sent on behalf of Ms Kyomugisha so that she can see the wonderful support she received from around the country, we would be glad if you can fax us a copy on 020 7209 4761.



Many thanks also to the lawyers who did a good job and to the churchman who stood bail. Sixteen women, many of whom had travelled up to two hours across rush-hour London to be at the court in time. The majority were from the All African Women’s Group (AAWG), an organisation of women asylum seekers based at the Crossroads Women’s Centre and some had themselves been detained in similarly devastating circumstances. The public gallery was full and this clearly had a big impact on the District Judge who was not initially inclined to grant bail. The case took all day.



Many of the women from the AAWG are living on National Asylum Support System (NASS) benefits (70% of poverty rate benefits) or are destitute and have absolutely no income at all. Money for fares and food for sandwiches came from the emergency legal fund administered by Legal Action for Women (LAW). With the additional expenses of phone calls (particularly mobiles) and copying etc, the total cost was approximately £230 which is a big drain on our resources for just one day in court. For those of you who have asked what further help is needed, we would very much appreciate a donation, as generous as you can, to cover these costs and to help towards the expenses not only of fighting the rest of Doreen's case, but also for those of other women seeking asylum who come every day for help to the Centre where we are based.



Please send cheques to Women in Dialogue (Asylum Appeal), who will pay over the donations to LAW. Women in Dialogue (WinD) is the registered charity running the Crossroads Women's Centre where BWRAP and LAW are based. If you sign the Gift Aid Declaration below** and return it with your donation, WinD can claim back the tax paid on it, increasing the value of the donation. Alternatively and much appreciated, you can arrange to make a regular donation to support our work by standing order (see form attached).



The committal hearing on 9 March is at 9.45am in Bromley Magistrates Court. Please come along to support if you are able.



Best wishes,

Cristel Amiss,

Black Women's Rape Action Project

For information about our work with Black and immigrant women and other women of colour, including asylum seekers,visit:

www.womenagainstrape.net/ and www.bwrap.dircon.co.uk/


**I can forward this email with Gift Aid form to anyone who CATs me.

------------------------------------------

Here is a sample email to Harriet Harman that was forwarded to me:

Dear Harriet Harman and Lord Goldsmith



I would like to add my voice to the plea for Ms Kyomugisha to be released from prison and charges against her dropped. As a GP and domestic violence researcher, I am particularly aware of the long term sequelae of the abuse that she has experienced and dismayed that she should be treated so callously. I think this girl needs asylum and protection from us, not further degradation.



Thank you for your consideration of this argument.



Yours sincerely

--------------------------------------------

And another:

Re Ms Kyomugisha, Home Office reference ASC/502B67


Dear Harriet Harman,



I understand that Ms Kyomugisha has yesterday been released on bail. I do however still wish to express my outrage that she was ever arrested in the first place and that her age should not be believed by the Home Office without even checking with a paediatritian or indeed the social services assessment which stateed that she could be not more than 17. Has she not been tortured enough already as a victim of multiple rapes. How can you possibly justify the further trauma the Home Office has now placed on her over the past week? No girl or woman should have to face what she has faced. She has been suicidal as a result of Home Office actions.



Furthermore she is clearly not the only one to have faced such treatment at the hands of vicious Home Office policy. I have heard of many others who have been denied access to competent legal services and deported to face death or at best destitution. Women who may or may not have been trafficked may in any case ended up working in the sex industry because they are destitute, denied basic benefits or any other means to survive. The torture by the Home Office of girls like Ms Kyomugisha is is what happens when rape survivors are disbelieved, consenting sex (prostitution) is criminalised, rapists (including traffickers) are given free rein, and the sexism and racism of the police and state institutions is left rampant.



This situation is intolerable and puts all women in danger. We all want to be belived, treated with care and respect and able to get justice when we are raped; not criminalised for 'entering the country on forged documents' (how else what she supposed to have been trafficked? Legally?!), criminalised for consenting to sex (prostitution cannot be used as an excuse to deport immigrants or those seeking asylum, whether they were trafficked or not), or simply criminalised for being black or immigrant. Isn't that what you want for yourself and your love ones? When I hear of cases like Ms Kyomugisha's, I know how vulnerable are all made by such viscious state sexism and racism. As a Member of Parliament of this state, and as a woman, what are you doing to protect us as women?



Yours furiously,


----------------------------------------

And another:

Re: Ms Doreen Kyomugisha, Home Office reference ASC/502B67

Dear Ms Harman,

We are deeply concerned about the treatment of Ms Doreen Kyomugisha from
Rwanda who has sought asylum in the United Kingdom.

We understand from colleagues at Black Women's Rape Action Project that:
* Ms Kyomugisha was brought to their office in October 2004 by
a woman who had found her distressed and traumatised at a bus station;
* she was born in 1987 in Rwanda; both her parents died when
she was 11;
* when she was 15, her relatives sent her to Congo Brazzaville
with a man who forced her to have sex with men for money which he kept;
* she was brought to England by an African man who told the
immigration authorities that she was his niece;
* he kept her locked up somewhere in London and forced her to
have sex with several men; she managed to escape from him when he drove her
to a house to see one of his clients and left her alone in his car;
* after months of intensive counselling and support, she was
beginning to recover from these multiple traumas;
* last Wednesday she was charged with entering the UK as a
refugee using 'deception' and 'failure to produce an immigration document or
passport which is in force and satisfactorily establishes [your] identity,
nationality or citizenship'; she was refused bail and imprisoned;
* on her first visit to Lunar House to claim asylum, Ms
Kyomugisha was interrogated by security guards who were abusive and began
questioning her in detail about her claim before allowing her into the
building; she was interviewed in a public place about rape and other sexual
violence using a male translator, and witnessed vicious questioning of other
young girls;
* Camden Asylum Seekers Team assessed Ms Ms Kyomugisha and
provided housing and support on the basis that she is an unaccompanied
minor; health professionals have also assessed her as being no more than 17
years old; despite this, the Home Office is disputing her age;
* she is therefore on remand in Bronzefield Women's Prison,
where she is deeply traumatized by the imprisonment; conditions are totally
inappropriate for such a vulnerable child; visitors report a drastic
deterioration in her mental and physical health; she is so upset that she is
unable to eat and has been given no suitable food; as a result her weight
has dropped 2kg in just two days from an already low 48kg; she speaks of
suicide, often retches during visits, is in constant pain and has panic
attacks; she is heavily medicated and being held on her own in a hospital
wing, deprived of the company of others who might look out for her; she has
not been allowed her own clothes or homeopathic medicine; cards sent to her
have not been delivered.

Last week, in launching a European wide crackdown on trafficking, you
rightly said that 'it is the trafficked people who are the victims.' It is
difficult to imagine a clearer case of victimization through trafficking
than the case of Ms Kyomugisha. We are distressed at the way such a
vulnerable young woman has been treated by the asylum system. We understand
that our friend Canon Nicholas Sagovsky of Westminster Abbey is standing
bail for Ms Kyomugisha today at Bromley Magistrates Court. We urge you to
ensure that Ms Kyomugisha is freed immediately and that the criminal charges
against her are dropped.

Yours sincerely,

serenequeen Sat 19-Feb-05 20:19:59

thank you v. much for the update, including sample mails.

do i take it that no further action is needed now from us other than sending a donation?

franch Sun 20-Feb-05 10:20:37

SQ, if you haven't emailed already, please do so - DK is out on bail but the charges against her still stand (see e.g. the 'yours furiously' letter below). If you have already emailed HH and Lord G, I think the only further action needed is donation.

Many thanks.

serenequeen Thu 24-Feb-05 21:49:04

i have finally emailed - sorry it has taken so long.

thanks for bringing this situation to our attention. the fact that women are trafficked into this country to be repeated raped as sex slaves makes me feel sick.

i hope the charges are dropped and this poor woman manages to find some peace and security after such a terrible ordeal.

WideWebWitch Fri 25-Feb-05 09:09:35

Am I being thick? Is an email address here? Can someone post a link and I'll send one. This is awful.

serenequeen Fri 25-Feb-05 20:51:45

hi www

these are they

harmanh@parliament.uk & lslo@gtnet.gov.uk

they are below but take some finding.

thanks

franch Fri 25-Feb-05 20:58:17

Thanks SQ

Doreen still needs support to have these charges dropped so all help gratefully received.

serenequeen Fri 25-Feb-05 23:15:58

another bump for this

Caligula Fri 25-Feb-05 23:36:53

Is lslo@gtnet.gov.uk lslo@gtnet.gov.uk Lord Goldsmith (just so I address my e-mails right)?

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