MOTHERS' CAMPAIGN PRESENTATION
WHO WE ARE
Our campaign is a campaign of mothers who are claiming asylum in this country and who were forced to leave our children behind when we fled here. The problem we face is that mothers are not recognised as mothers when we donít have our children with us.
WHY WE LEFT
The reasons we left our countries is that our lives where at risk. In my situation is typical of what many other women are going through. I had to leave because I saw my husband being tortured and later taken away from me. I went through a lot of abuse, of rapes and torture with my daughter by government soldiers. I left three children behind. The biggest was 12 and the youngest was six when I left. Now the biggest is 18 and the youngest is 12.
We all thought that our children would be safer without us. We didnít know where we were going, how or if we would survive.
PROBLEMS WHEN WE CLAIM
When we claim asylum we are treated like single women even when we tell the Home Office we have children.
Our cases take many years to be settled so by the time you win your children are so old they no longer qualify to join us Ė this is what has happened to me as my oldest daughter is now 18 and considered an adult. In most cases we are the only people in their lives to take care of them.
We have no money to keep in touch with children back home and no money to send them. We end up doing illegal jobs to get money to support them. We often lose contact with our children or struggle to know where they are.
We believe that all this is because of the way we look and where we come from. There is a lot of racism in the asylum system. All detention centres are full of Black people. When I was in detention one of the guards pointed to a map on the wall and asked why did we leave all these countries to come to the UK? I answered him by saying who was the first people to come down in Africa, it was white people from the UK. These people were not chased away. They were welcomed and they are still there.
WHO HAS HELPED US
In our campaign, some womenís groups have been very helpful to us for example, Legal Action for Women and other groups based at the Crossroads Womenís Centre.
WHO HAS NOT
However others have dismissed us or tried to use us for their own ends. In one case a member of our group was invited to speak at a public event to promote a charter that didnít include the interests of mothers or of all asylum seekers. The people who invited her wanted to use her as a stepping stone to achieve what they wanted. They had no interest in her, they didnít know her before and never helped her before or since.
We have done the following activities in our campaign.
a) we did a leaflet with our demands. This took many months as we had to ensure that our demands made sense and that everyone felt that the things they wanted were reflected.
b) We sent it round to many groups and distributed it at events.
c) We are interviewing mothers and our children in our home country to document our experiences and we want to publish that.
d) We have written to prominent people like the Childrenís Commissioner and MPs and Lords and Ladies asking to meet to discuss with them our demands and ask for their help.
e) We contacted the childrenís charities to ask for their support. Surprisingly they were not interested. They said they already have the children they are helping. We asked them why asylum seekersí children were not considered children to be helped. They kept telling us that this isnít an issue of children it is an issue of asylum. We arenít gong to let them get away with this. We want to gather support from others and then come back and shame them.
f) Before Christmas we called a number of women journalists and got an excellent article in the Ham & High which is a local paper for a rich area where many politicians, artists, and other professionals live.
PROBLEMS IN OUR CAMPAIGN
One major problem we face is that our campaign is not seen as important. Mothers are not a priority, the caring work we do is not a priority, our childrenís suffering because they have no-one to love and protect them is not a priority, our pain at being separated from our children is not a priority. We are dismissed because we are mothers, because we are women, because we are Black women . . . and as if that is not enough because we are asylum seekers.
Our other problem is that we have no time. Some of us are destitute. Some have to work to get money to survive and help our kids. We are often sick. Many of us are overcome by grief and trauma and canít contribute much.
WHAT WE HAVE WON
We have won some things. Some women have been reunited with their children. Others have found children that were lost. Most of us are still fighting.
Some of us have gained confidence. We can express ourselves, talk about our situation to journalists and at events like this, highlighting what we are going through and our demands.
We have come a long way as traumatised mothers. It is the strength of working together that will see us through this struggle to freedom.