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.
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
Minister for Immigration
2 Marsham Street
Please notify the campaign of any faxes sent:
Begum Must Stay Campaign
C/0 Kent Campaign to Defend asylum Seekers
For more information contact Kate Adams:
01227 266 858, mobile 07940964551
Delia Hazrati 07795842238
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 Yarlâ€™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. Begumâ€™s cousin divorced her almost immediately disputing her dowry. He then waged a campaign of harassment against her and her family. Begumâ€™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 Internationalâ€™s South India Team indicates that that this will be difficult to continue, â€œA rape victim if she is poor has no assured access of quality psychiatric and social support. Additionally, â€œGovernment-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.â€
Begumâ€™s supporters are very worried about her detention at Yarlâ€™s Wood. Her psychiatrist Dr Malasi says â€œ 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.â€
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.
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