Misjudging rape


by Sunny
4th December, 2006 at 11:24 pm    

Tomorrow a ‘dossier’ will be launched, detailing how adjudicators (now known as immigration judges) flout international law and even their own guidelines when they consider the asylum claims of women and girls seeking safety and protection from rape.

Tuesday 5 Dec 2006 6.30pm; hosted by Ian Macdonald QC

In the UK, where at least 50% of women seeking asylum are victims of sexual violence[1], rape survivors face many obstacles in demonstrating how their claims for asylum relate to the Refugee Convention and why they should therefore be granted protection. The Asylum Gender Guidelines, published in 2000 by Immigration Appellate Authority (now the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal) are one of few official tools laying out how women’s claims should be treated at appeals. The Guidelines aim to: ”ensure that the procedures used do not prejudice women asylum seekers or make it more difficult for them to present their asylum claims.”

Yet when Black Women’s Rape Action Project (BWRAP) and Women Against Rape (WAR) analysed over 60 adjudicators’ rulings they found that:

Few Adjudicators even referred to the Guidelines:

- Women raped by soldiers were told the rape they suffered was “simple dreadful lust” and therefore not persecution.

- Rape survivors told that it would be safe for them to return to their country of origin and live thousands of miles away from their homes.

- Women who did not report immediately accused of reporting in order to “enhance a fabricated asylum claim.”

- The testimony of “a pretty young woman” dismissed as not credible because she did not report rape in her country of origin.

- A woman detained under the fast track system told that three days was “ample time” to find a lawyer and her case dismissed because it was “riddled with discrepancies.”

- In identikit rulings, two women were told by the same judge: “Rape is a horrific crime which should not be utilised lightly merely to bolster an asylum claim.”

- Where the Guidelines were adhered to women reported feeling that they had a fairer hearing.

all this from the Women Against Rape website.

Update: Guardian coverage of this launch.


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  1. Refresh — on 5th December, 2006 at 3:28 am  

    How timely! From a personal point of view. It was only at lunch yesterday we were discussing my wife’s proposal to a (nameless) group how this issue should be tackled head-on. I expect if all goes well this will be a high(er) profile issue.

    Is there any pattern to the origins of the claimants?
    And of the assailants?

  2. Kismet Hardy — on 5th December, 2006 at 11:03 am  

    My superior half works at a refuge and she’s been trying to stop a lady from being deported and failed. What awaits her back in the village for daring to seperate from her abusive husband, god only knows.

    But check this out. Apparently they’ve got a policy to be hardcore on all women asylum seekers in general at the moment because they have less to contribute to society. Regardless of the fact that they are far more vulnerable. Fucked up if that’s true

  3. Sahil — on 5th December, 2006 at 11:11 am  

    “But check this out. Apparently they’ve got a policy to be hardcore on all women asylum seekers in general at the moment because they have less to contribute to society. Regardless of the fact that they are far more vulnerable. Fucked up if that’s true”

    Any surprise though? The only useful women asylum seeker it seems are those that come here via vice. Its pretty sick stuff:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/2836929.stm

  4. Kismet Hardy — on 5th December, 2006 at 11:17 am  

    I thought the point of giving asylum was to help people who would otherwise be tortured, not to bring in more cheap labour for Primark

  5. miraxx — on 5th December, 2006 at 1:03 pm  

    ..Apparently they’ve got a policy to be hardcore on all women asylum seekers in general at the moment because they have less to contribute to society.

    That’s so heartless as well as stupid and short-sighted! How do they judge “contribution to society” anyway? What if the asylum seeker is disabled?

    This begins to explain the women – those PP ran appeals for – deported in the last few months as well as the Pakistani family (I think I read about them at HP)under threat of deportation; their daughter is disabled or ill.

  6. William — on 5th December, 2006 at 4:28 pm  

    “Women raped by soldiers were told the rape they suffered was “simple dreadful lust” and therefore not persecution.”

    This sort of thing makes me really angry. Playing with pure word definitiion rather than the effect on the human being. If someone could prove that torture was not malicious because it was simply to extract information could that be regarded as “not persecution.”

    If someone is genuinely fleeing because of rape then it should be taken seriously.

  7. Arif — on 5th December, 2006 at 5:25 pm  

    Lots of pressures seem to be pushing against each other to make this situation.

    The media scares, anti-immigration lobby groups and clash of civilisation commentators make political pressures on the Government which then promises to reduce numbers of asylum claims.

    Wars, poverty, and limited economic opportunities create the need to escape and desires to escape to countries which have stronger institutions and powerful roles in the global economy.

    Patriarchal values mean women can be more vulnerable to bullying, exploitation and suspicion, so that there are catch-22s of either being deemed to consent to their treatment if they are silent, or deemed to be conniving if they speak out – for example because they selfishly want to gain asylum by dishonouring their communities or by playing to the sympathies of woolly liberals.

    Humanistic principles are partly institutionalised through social workers and churches of various kinds, and promoted by liberal ideologists and human interest media stories. These create pressure for the claims of vulnerable people to be taken seriously and acted upon regardless of the wider consequences.

    So there is noise and pressure between people caught up in these different currents who probably think that people swept by different pressures are heartless, or irresponsible, or whatever else.

    Although I am tempted to just take my place in pressing a humanistic line, I would prefer to also think about how to create a different dynamic, where the fears and hostility become redundant rather than just a part of a continual struggle to draw lines of exclusion – where every asylum claim becomes a battleground.

    The BBC global survey of 15-17 year olds (Generation Next(!)) is hopeful for me, as perhaps migration will eventually be accepted as a normal part of a global society: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/6205378.stm

    But just as this would mean some people having to let go of their fears, it would mean humanistic people would have to rethink what institutions and entitlements are realistic to make this possible. I would like to think we can change this dynamic without creating more victims, but don’t know if this is possible.

  8. sonia — on 5th December, 2006 at 6:48 pm  

    course it’s terrible. but frankly, countries don’t want or really care about asylum seekers at the end of the day ( its just one of those things countries sign up lip service style). international human rights? ha ha – well in that case countries would have to allow freedom of movement and there’s fat chance of that happening. the only interest a nation has is to look after itself – end of story. so all this stuff is hardly suprising – given the structures we live in. so the point is whether we’re able to admit there’s a big problem with the underlying structures.

  9. Psychohobbit233 — on 5th December, 2006 at 8:51 pm  

    Yes, but if you’re raped in England, where do you seek asylum – Wales?

  10. Clairwil — on 5th December, 2006 at 8:58 pm  

    “Women raped by soldiers were told the rape they suffered was “simple dreadful lust” and therefore not persecution.”

    Doesn’t surprise me in the least. I recently read the papers of one of my clients who had given a very credible account of being raped and tortured and was appalled at the language used by the adjudicator. My client was all but accused of fantasizing because she hadn’t given her male relatives a full account of what had happened to her.

    Sonia,
    Excellent point.

  11. Don — on 5th December, 2006 at 9:31 pm  

    The immigration judges seem not only ignorant of their own guidelines, but ignorant also of the widespread political and stragic use of rape as a determined policy.

  12. Psychohobbit233 — on 5th December, 2006 at 9:57 pm  

    “The immigration judges seem not only ignorant of their own guidelines, but ignorant also of the widespread political and stragic [sic] use of rape as a determined policy”

    Maybe it is so in certain unspecified countries. But why do rape victims automatically have the right to move to England? I don’t get it. Are we (the English/British people) the planet’s trauma counsellors?

    Obviously it’s horrendous to have been raped, but why should moving to the U.K. be the answer? Is this the land of psychotherapy and healing?

    Ah, but maybe it is.

  13. Don — on 5th December, 2006 at 10:12 pm  

    Psychohobbit233,

    ‘[sic] ‘

    I never do that. I hate people who do that. I just correct the typo. It was a fuckin’ typo.

    Sic you.

  14. Galloise Blonde — on 5th December, 2006 at 11:05 pm  

    Rape is just part of it. Immigration judges just do not pay the full respect to issues of violence against women when they make their decsions. We also have cases of women in flight from ‘honour’-related violence who have ended up deported, and we don’t know what has happened to them thereafter, and what the judges wrote in their decisions just makes you roll your eyes so hard you risk dislodged retinas.

    And thanks to the jolly old ‘no recourse’ laws it is practically impossible to find housing for many women who come looking to escape abuse. It’s not great fun giving people the options of: abuse/destitution/prostitution/deportation. SBS and Imkhaan have a campaign about this.

  15. Gurpreet — on 6th December, 2006 at 10:27 am  

    Many Immigration judges seem to not understand the full impact of rape and torture and i htthink ink there should be a real drive to educate them about the after effects of torture…it can take years for someone to become comfortable with talking about their rape and to dismiss a claim because they “did not report immediately” is a ridiculous stance to take in my opinion.

    i think male rape also needs to be talked about more openly, because there are a considerable amount of men who seek asylum from persecution who have suffered rape also.

  16. junglecitizen — on 7th December, 2006 at 5:04 pm  

    “Obviously it’s horrendous to have been raped, but why should moving to the U.K. be the answer? Is this the land of psychotherapy and healing?”

    Obviously it shouldn’t be the answer, in an ideal world, but the issue in reality is whether we send the individual back to a country which does not recognise that rape is a crime, often where there will people out looking for them to punish them for the crime of having been raped.

    Like it or not, this is what the government is doing, encouraging the dismissal of cases on technicalities to keep the numbers down and appease the Daily Express. We don’t record what happens to people whose claims are dismissed on technicalities, because we don’t want to know. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to find that a very large proportion of those asylum seekers dismissed on such technicalities (not reporting early enough, not filling in the forms properly, alleged lack of co-operation with police in home country etc.) had been murdered or ‘disappeared’ within hours of arriving home.

  17. GM — on 7th December, 2006 at 5:27 pm  

    In the UK, it was long held that rape victims were not eligible for refugee status because their grievance did not amount to political persecution, but a very serious crime that was the responsibility of the officials in the country of origin. ICAR’s refugee women Navigation Guide (http://www.icar.org.uk/?lid=6325) details a landmark case in which this verdict was overturned after Ministerial involvement – it was successfully argued that the claimant had suffered degrading treatment and therefore persecutory conduct by agents of the state…

    See more on this blog: http://www.icar.org.uk/policyblog

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