Help Begum stay!


by Sunny
16th June, 2006 at 7:20 pm    

Begum is an Indian rape survivor who does not wish her full identity to be revealed for fear that her abusive ex husband will find her and kill her if she is forcibly returned to India.

Begum was ‘captured’ on Wednesday when she reported to her local immigration centre in Kent and taken to Yarl’s Wood Removal Centre. Her supporters who accompany her to her monthly signing last glimpsed her banging on the windows of the van that was transporting her to detention

Begum faces deportation to India tomorrow morning on flight AI 102 at 9.45am from Heathrow Airport.

After being refused asylum a year ago Begum mounted a campaign in her hometown of Dover supported by Kent Campaign to Defend Asylum Seekers (KCDAS) and Kent Refugee Action Network (KRAN). Begum volunteers for KRAN as an administrator and is currently visiting six Immigration Detainees in Dover for Dover Detainee Visitor Group. Very recently she graduated on a Human Rights Advocacy Course for Asylum Seekers and Refugees. Liberty’s Director Shami Chakrabati was present at her graduation. Begum has been in the UK for more than three years after fleeing rape and forced marriage in India that arose due to a family dispute. Begum is very well loved in her community and women in Dover have been deeply moved by her story and identified with her struggle against sexual violence. Many women have said to us during campaign street stalls, ” Why send her back, she belongs to us in Dover?”

Begum has set up her own project “Yam ” (which means climbing tree) to raise awareness about Domestic Violence and how it affects women from South Asian countries. Women cannot access protection from the Police and Judicial system. When they claim asylum in the UK they are faced with a culture of disbelief and frequently refused asylum because the Home Office ignore its own guidance on gender. Begum was to speak about these issues at a special meeting for Refugee Week in Canterbury with Lucy Wake from Amnesty International’s Stop Violence Against Women Campaign. Her story was also featured in ” Women for Refugee Women” an event organised in May to campaign to ensure that the UK government takes seriously asylum claims by women who have been subject to gender persecution.

Begum’s campaign has the support of her MP Gwyn Prosser. Yesterday Gwyn Prosser sought an urgent meeting with the Immigration Minister Liam Byrne to ask for her case to be reviewed on compassionate grounds. He has written to Begum at Yarl’s Wood and this letter was read out at a vigil outside the Town Hall in Dover attended by more than 50 people, called with only few hours’ notice. Begum also has the support of the MP Diane Abbott.

Begum’s mental health has suffered due the trauma of sexual violation and the anxiety about forced removal. At Yarl’s Wood and if deported to India she cannot access psychiatric support and her rape crisis counselling. She is currently deeply distressed and friends are concerned that she may self-harm rather than be deported. Her psychiatrist Dr Malasi has always maintained that detention places Begum at risk of self-harm and suicide. The Immigration authorities are aware of this and Dr Malasi will be faxing Gwen Prosser to make this point again.

via David T.

———————-
To help

Friends of Begum have put together a model letter pasted below, that you can copy/amend/write your own version and fax to the Minister of State for Nationality, Citizenship and Immigration Liam Byrne MP. requesting that Begum should be released from detention and the removal stayed.

Fax: 020 7219 2417 from outside the UK + 44 20 7219 2417

Liam Byrne
Minister for Immigration
3rd Floor
Peel Building
2 Marsham Street
London

SW1P 4DF

Please notify the campaign of any faxes sent:

Begum Must Stay Campaign

C/0 Kent Campaign to Defend asylum Seekers

kadams314@hotmail.com

For more information contact Kate Adams:
01227 266 858, mobile 07940964551

Delia Hazrati 07795842238

Model letter:

Dear Mr Byrne

Re Begum, Home Office Ref H1096253

I am asking you to show compassion for Begum an Indian rape survivor who has been refused asylum and was taken to Yarl’s Wood Removal Centre after reporting to her local immigration centre. Begum faces deportation to India on Saturday June 17th at 9.45 am. Begum is terrified that her abusive ex husband who is the Editor of a strongly Islamic newspaper will find her and kill her if she is returned. Therefore she does not wish to reveal her identity.

Begum came to the UK more than three years ago fleeing her male cousin whom she was forced to marry after he violated her as a result of a family feud. Begum’s cousin divorced her almost immediately disputing her dowry. He then waged a campaign of harassment against her and her family. Begum’s father died in suspicious circumstances and her mother died subsequently. After receiving death threats from her ex husband Begum withdrew from a civil action against him that her father had initiated.

Begum was refused asylum because the Home Office say the domestic violence she suffered does not amount to persecution and that she can safely relocate to another city. However as a lone woman it would be very hard for her to find security.

Begum is currently receiving psychiatric support and rape crisis counselling. Evidence from Amnesty International’s South India Team indicates that that this will be difficult to continue, “A rape victim if she is poor has no assured access of quality psychiatric and social support. Additionally, “Government-owned and NGO-run shelters are available but cannot provide permanent relief- the victim will have to support herself. Scores of victims are doing it but it puts them at further risk.”

Begum’s supporters are very worried about her detention at Yarl’s Wood. Her psychiatrist Dr Malasi says “ I feel incarceration in a Detention Centre can only aggravate her depression and
worsen her condition. If this happens she will be at risk of self harm and suicide.”

Begum recently graduated on a Human Rights Course Advocacy Course for Refugees and Asylum seekers campaigning for women like herself who have been violated. Everyone in her community is very proud of her.

I appeal to you to release Begum from detention and allow her to remain in the UK.

Yours sincerely

Name………………
Address……………
Postcode………….

—————–

I’ve also written an article for comment is free on forced marriage / forced rape.


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Filed in: Civil liberties,South Asia






40 Comments below   |  

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  1. raz — on 16th June, 2006 at 7:53 pm  

    Sickening.

  2. Katy Newton — on 16th June, 2006 at 9:20 pm  

    Has she exhausted all her avenues of appeal?

  3. NorahJones — on 16th June, 2006 at 10:05 pm  

    Unfortunately Katy, there’s not a helluva lot she can do apart from protest. There is no recourse and the only way you can get things done is to make a big enough noise. Stories like this really sadden me.

  4. Old Pickler — on 16th June, 2006 at 11:30 pm  

    It’s a bit sickening that they are kicking her out, but they let those hijackers stay.

  5. shariq — on 17th June, 2006 at 12:09 am  

    I agree that this is sickening and will be sending in my fax. If I can do a bit of analysis though this does bring up some interesting anomalies in the asylum system.

    Technically the decision to reject her asylum claim was correct. She doesn’t constitute part of a social group and isn’t facing persecution from the state. Of course the government has the ability to give her discretionary leave to remain which they should exercise given Begum’s experiences and her participation in the community.

    Now whats really interesting/stupid is that if she had been coming from Pakistan she would have been given Asylum. The House of Lords ruled in the earlier case of Shah and Islam that women in a country such as Pakistan did constitute a social group facing persecution.

    Any thoughts?

  6. Amir — on 17th June, 2006 at 12:10 am  

    Begum was refused asylum because the Home Office say the domestic violence she suffered does not amount to persecution

    I’ve come to expect this sort of policy from New Labour. They have no qualms about letting in Albanian pimps and pushers or Saudi hate-mongers and religious nationalists, but they refuse to grant asylum to a poor, helpless, defenceless victim of rape and violence and harassment?

    I have to agree with Raz on this… it makes my stomach churn and blood boil.

    I hope her so-called ‘husband’ gets his just deserts… a premature death.

  7. shariq — on 17th June, 2006 at 1:09 am  

    Amir, domestic violence not amounting to persecution doesn’t have anything to do with New Labour. Its a part of international refugee law which is still largely based on a post world war 2 framework.

    this is not to say that begum shouldn’t be allowed to say, the government can still do this – simply to point out that this doesn’t fit any wider trend of new labour exceptionalism. of course when it comes to asylum, for tony blair the rules are very much the same.

  8. Amir — on 17th June, 2006 at 1:28 am  

    What, then, are your views on this law and asylum in general?

    Should it be scrapped, amended, or maintained?

  9. Shariq — on 17th June, 2006 at 1:57 am  

    Changing international asylum law in any significant way is going to be difficult. The 1951 Refugee Convention is one of the few documents which is almost universally accepted as law (which made Michael Howard’s pledge to withdraw from it especially absurd).

    It doesn’t however stop individual countries from having more liberal policies. Britian for instance doesn’t define this category as asylum but rather ‘indefinite leave to remain’. Usually this is for those people who can’t be deported on human rights grounds such as those people facing torture abroad. Interestingly the landmark case on this was to do with a Sikh separatist man who the UK wanted to deport back to India.

    While the government has made asylum laws stricter, the House of Lords has gradually tried to expand its scope. The Shah and Islam case I mentioned dealt with two Pakistani women who were either escaping abusive or forced marriages. The Court found that as women in Pakistan were ‘persecuted’, and couldn’t seek protection from the police for instance they could be granted asylum.

    In sum, I think that the core of asylum law should be maintained. Its an important framework and many of the problems in the Uk are more down to administrative incompetency rather than the sheer weight of numbers. On the one hand the government tries to deny support and accomodation to save on costs, but this also means it has no clue where these asylum seekers are going, thereby making deportation of those with no claim harder.

    With regards to women, I think that maintaining discretion and making decisions on a case by case basis is sensible. On the one hand denying persecuted women the right to remain, simply because their abuse is mainly at the family level and reinforced by the state doesn’t make sense. I think it falls within the wider feminist critique of how political debate places greater emphasis on the state rather than the family and things like domestic violence.

    Having said that if it means that 80 million pakistani’s, 500 million indian women etc become eligible for asylum simply because they are women in a third world country with somewhat dodgy human rights records than thats not feasible either.

    I think this case clearly falls on the side of great threat to indivdiual safety from violence rather than simply not liking some cultural norms. Since most of government policy seems to be about not being seen as a soft touch compared to other countries, maybe it could have used some of its leadership in the EU to try and ensure that the EU directives have a broader scope to include cases such as these.

    Btw this is the current international definition of someone eligible for asylum.

    As a result of events occurring before I January 1951 and owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.

  10. Linda Grant — on 17th June, 2006 at 7:48 am  

    I was the person who first alerted both Harry’s Place and Normblog to this case, having met Begum at an event on women asylum seekers last month. I thought she was a wonderful woman.

    I’ve received the following email (if any of you can phone the airline direct that would be brilliant)

    Many thanks for your responses to the earlier email about the situation of Begum, whom many of you met on 16th May.

    As the Home Office has not responded to your faxes, she is still likely to be deported tomorrow and campaigners are now asking supporters to fax the airline. Pressure on the airlines has worked in many cases before, as commercial airlines have no interest in carrying reluctant passengers.

    As before, we have pasted the email from her campaign group below; you may want to copy it to friends.

    Do let us know if you would prefer not to receive any more emails.

    Women for Refugee Women

    Dear Friends

    We have not yet had conformation that Liam Byrne has agreed to delay Begum’s removal and it is now necessary to seek to persuade the airline not to transport her against her will. Please print off and send the attached fax letter to ALL THREE FAX NUMBERS . Please note that this fax is partially anonymised to increase Hussaini’s security.

    Thank you again from Begum and CAYR for all your efforts.

    Regards

    Councillor Wes McLachlan
    Chair, Community Action for Young Refugees

    To the staff of Air India and the crew of flight AI102
    17th June 9:45AM
    c/o Flight Check In Terminal 3, Heathrow

    0208 745 1119
    0208 745 1109
    CC Liam Byrne 0207 035 3262

    Dear Air India staff and crew

    Re Begum, Home Office Ref H1096253 age 30 to 40 years
    Please do not take this vulnerable victim of rape and abuse on your aircraft

    This distressed woman is being forced on to your aircraft by security staff hired by the British Immigration Department. She is highly likely to express her fear and anxiety to the level which will cause concern and distress to Air India employees and passengers. I would therefore urge you to advise the security staff forcing her on to your aircraft that you are not prepared to accept her on board.

    Begum is terrified that her abusive ex husband who is the editor of an Islamic newspaper will find her and kill her if she is returned. Therefore she does not wish to reveal her identity. To assist you in understanding her situation may I provide you with some facts.

    Begum came to the UK more than three years ago fleeing her male cousin whom she was forced to marry after he violated her as a result of a family feud. Begum’s cousin divorced her almost immediately disputing her dowry. He then waged a campaign of harassment against her and her family. Begum’s father died in suspicious circumstances and her mother died subsequently. After receiving death threats from her ex husband she withdrew from a civil action against him that her father had initiated. Local authorities in her area were either unwilling or unable to protect her so she fled to the UK.

    Begum was refused asylum because the Home Office say the domestic violence she suffered does not amount to persecution and that she can safely relocate to another city. However as a lone woman it would be very hard for her to find security. Begum is currently receiving psychiatric support and rape crisis counselling. The immigration authorities, with whom Begum has always co-operated fully, have taken advantage of her vulnerable circumstances to seize her and force her out of the UK and away from the friends and loving community in which she has found a home.

    Please refuse to assist in the deportation of this terrified woman.

    Yours sincerely

    Name………………………………………
    Address………………………………….
    Postcode…………………………..

  11. Vikrant — on 17th June, 2006 at 8:23 am  

    Begum is terrified that her abusive ex husband who is the Editor of a strongly Islamic newspaper will find her and kill her if she is returned. Therefore she does not wish to reveal her identity.

    Whats more worrying is that Indian govt. doesnt care… The onus is on Indian govt. to ensure protection to her and prosecute her rapists. Surely if Indian govt. can ensure that men who raped german tourists in Rajasthan get fast-track convictions then why cant the same be done for this Indian citizen in question? The post-1947 isolation of Muslims in India is beginning to show. In a sense there are many India’s isolated by layers of insulation from each other. I’ve been just 3 days here in Mumbai and i’m beginning to notice it. The city confines most of its Muslims to suqalid suburbs of Mumbra, Nagpada and Haji Ali. Islamic India is by far the most isolated from mainstream.

  12. Vikrant — on 17th June, 2006 at 8:37 am  

    @Linda:

    Dont even bother writing to AI staff… there are nothing more than a bunch of rude witless morons.

  13. El Cid — on 17th June, 2006 at 8:52 am  

    Shariq,
    That was very informative. Can you shed some light on the amount of discretion that a UK government minister can show on individual cases?
    Vikrant,
    Glad to hear you’re cool. Is soiunds like a voyage of self-discovery. You make some very good points.

  14. Vikrant — on 17th June, 2006 at 9:03 am  

    Self-discovery haha haha! Sounds too philosophical for me! Well the only thing i’m doing here is chick-discovery ;) and getting first-hand experience of Maharashtrian nationalists.

  15. Vikrant — on 17th June, 2006 at 9:09 am  

    Anyways this story isnt in Slimes of India nor Spindian Express nor in any media. Sunny, could yopu be more specific on the ethnicity of this woman? Looks like a South Indian to me…

  16. Linda Grant — on 17th June, 2006 at 9:15 am  

    For more information contact http://www.refugeewomen.com/

  17. Vikrant — on 17th June, 2006 at 12:09 pm  

    hmm… isnt AI02 the one on London-Mumbai route? So that means Begum is already headed here. The problem is that once she is in India, i will be practically impossible to help her legally.

    Just as i mentioned earlier Muslims are used as convinient vote-banks by (pseudo)-secular parties here.
    Secularism in India is just an euphemism for managing caste and religious identities in hopes of an electoral windfall. In return for their support, Congress ensures that theres no “interference” of majority in internal affairs of Muslims just like the “proles” of Orwell’s 1984. They have their own personal laws and they’ve even established parallel courts in some areas. While Mullahs controling the power in the community i daresay this woman will find it hard to get support from within the community while majority for its part will completely ignore her.

  18. mirax — on 17th June, 2006 at 12:38 pm  

    Vik, since you are likely to be living in Malaysia next year, this is very relevant.Get your butt over to Sepia Mutiny and read up on the rash of hindu temple demolitions in Malaysia, but don’t get too excited (church of orang asli people also destroyed in Johor, buddhist temple and statue destroyed, so it is not just hindus but ALL minorities)and get educated on a problem that seems to growing more menacing by the day. All the destructions were within the last 6 months and that is not counting the teapot cult saga in August 2005. Plus many more incidents affecting civil and constitutional liberties of non-muslims. This is getting too close to home.

  19. Vikrant — on 17th June, 2006 at 12:47 pm  

    Umm… i kinda know about the demolitions. My father is based in JB. Been to M’Asia coupla times but the only Malay words i know are “Jalan” and “Tandas” ;)

  20. Vikrant — on 17th June, 2006 at 1:02 pm  

    Anyways mira x, i dont stray as far as SM these days. Too pinko for my liking…

  21. mirax — on 17th June, 2006 at 1:05 pm  

    weell, tandas is important but m’sian public toilets are ugghhhh.

    Not even “apa khabar?”(what’s happening?/Hi) or terima kasih (thanks)? If you are going to live in JB(I know of one blogger who’s going to commute from JB to SMU in S’pore but you are better off living in Singapore, really), you totally need Malay, kiddo. But it is a really easy language to pick up.Senang ya!

  22. mirax — on 17th June, 2006 at 1:10 pm  

    you are too close minded for such a young fella, sigh. You’ll lose out on a lot of learning if you stick to such narrow prejudices, Vik, and there’s a lot of life (and learning) ahead of you.

  23. Vikrant — on 17th June, 2006 at 1:15 pm  

    most of the Guys at SM are typical pseudos particularly Amardeep. I lost al the respect for him after his outburst against Tavleen Singh!! Hmm maybe you arent Indian anough to realise the subtle biases of the people at SM.

  24. Vikrant — on 17th June, 2006 at 1:23 pm  

    but you are better off living in Singapore, really

    Compared to my lil’ English town that everybody loves to hate S’pore is heaven!

  25. mirax — on 17th June, 2006 at 1:26 pm  

    Not indian enough? How dare you!

    Er I am not a SM regular, not by a long shot, way too much brown-consciousness there which I think kind of pathetic and over self-conscious. But the mainstream media has a complete blank on this (bloody BBC too)and SM is the only outlet for discussion on the subject. Apart from dhimmiwatch (or is that jihad watch?) But I can only sink so low, y’kno ;-)

  26. Rakhee — on 17th June, 2006 at 1:29 pm  

    Found this fact sheet from the Women’s Resource Centre – have a look under Nationality. An estimated 50% women seeking asylum in the Uk are rape survivors. Need a bit more info/breakdown but that statistic is pretty horrifying if you ask me.

    http://www.wrc.org.uk/downloads/Policy%20stuff/Statistics.pdf

  27. Vikrant — on 17th June, 2006 at 1:30 pm  

    lol i’m no longer associated with JihadWatch those imbelic BNP supporting rednecks.

  28. Rakhee — on 17th June, 2006 at 1:31 pm  

    …and on the topic of forced marriages, check this out…

    http://www.hindustantimes.com/news/5967_1719950,001600060001.htm

  29. mirax — on 17th June, 2006 at 1:41 pm  

    What’s the update on the begum?

    If she does end up in Mumbai, aren’t there indian women’s groups that can help her out? Give her a safe place to stay?

  30. raz — on 17th June, 2006 at 3:09 pm  

    Is Sepia Mutiny a satirical site about pathetic ‘brown’ losers? I hope so.

  31. Old Pickler — on 17th June, 2006 at 3:37 pm  

    those imbelic BNP supporting rednecks.

    Not all of us. Robert Spencer did say something in one of his posts about white supremacists being just as bad as Islamic supremacists, but it was too little too late.

  32. Vikrant — on 18th June, 2006 at 8:16 am  

    @OP: Dont care what Robert says. Most posters there are down right racists. JW these days sounds more like LGF and FR…

  33. Vikrant — on 18th June, 2006 at 8:33 am  

    @OP: A sampling of your JW nutjobs. See this

  34. Linda Grant — on 18th June, 2006 at 9:26 am  

    Although it has not yet been offically confirmed I understand that Begum was indeed deported yesterday.

    If any of you would like to get involved in future campaigns, the address once again is http://www.refugeewomen.com/

  35. Johnny — on 18th June, 2006 at 9:30 am  

    Well seems she has been deported:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/kent/5090268.stm

  36. sonia — on 18th June, 2006 at 10:59 am  

    How sad. And there i was about to suggest starting a pledge about this. but there you go – Nation-States being what they are what can you expect!! No doubt given the onslaught the Home Office has been receiving they’re keen to be seen to be busy ‘catching up’ with the deportations..

  37. sonia — on 18th June, 2006 at 11:01 am  

    “If she does end up in Mumbai, aren’t there indian women’s groups that can help her out? Give her a safe place to stay?”

    well one hopes she’ll be okay. there are women’s groups and NGO’s and shelters sure – and probably a huge need for the services too.

  38. sonia — on 18th June, 2006 at 11:05 am  

    Shariq’s got some good points up there. there is a difference between which groups are considered to be facing persecution and can claim asylum.

    Of course i think fundamentally , there ought to be no reason why you shouldn’t be able to consider an individual on the merit and context of an individual’s case. this is where the ‘tyranny’ of ‘categorizing’ people in ‘groups’ really reveals itself!

    And that’s an issue that faces everyone across the world.

  39. linda grant — on 18th June, 2006 at 1:14 pm  

    We wish to update all Begum’s supporters about her situation. Begum was deported today ( Saturday June 17th) at 9.45am, three escorts were used so we imagine it would have been difficult for her to resist. Begum’s friends in Kent Refugee Action Network are trying to arrange legal support for her through Amnesty International incase she is detained at Mumbai Airport.

    On Friday June 23rd Begum was scheduled as a key note speaker at a public meeting
    “I will Survive- Refugee Women speak out against Rape and Torture. ” at the Friends Meeting House, the Friars, Canterbury,CT1 2AS 7.30-9.30pm.

    The meeting will still take place and we will be holding a short vigil at 7pm prior to the meeting ( Venue to be confirmed) to pay tribute to Begum and celebrate her time with us in the UK. We are hoping that some of Begum’s colleagues from the Human Rights Advocay course she recently graduated from will join us.

    Begum was very well loved in our community. Although we are very angry and sad about her deportation we know that her campaign really struck a blow for women’s rights and highlighted the apalling failure of the UK government to deliver justice and safety to women seeking asylum.

    We want to thank everyone for the fantastic support you gave over the last few days. Hundreds of people faxed the Liam Byrne Minister for Immigration and Air India. Others went to the airport.We had intensive media coverage. We didn’t stop the deportation but the political arguments came across loud and clear.Thank you so much.

    Please send messages of support and tributes for our vigil to

    Delia Hazrati deliah.h@antlworld.com

    cc Kate Adams kadams314@hotmail.com

  40. raz — on 18th June, 2006 at 1:15 pm  

    Despicable

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