Scottish Socialist Voice 7 October
New Self-help guide helps to save lives
by Jo Harvie
A new self-help guide for asylum
seekers and their supporters, published by Legal Action for Women, aims to
give people the tools they need to stand strong in the torrent of
bureaucracy and often shameless racism meted out by Britain's immigration
The guide has been put together predominantly from the experiences of the All African Women's Group, a support group involving asylum seeking women, many of whom have experienced detention themselves.
guide is the result of many years of intensive work with women asylum
seekers," says Niki Adams, of Legal Action for Women.
a self-help guide aimed at giving people the information they need to
fight their own case to prevent their deportation and get themselves out
Step by step, the guide takes you through fighting an asylum case, what to do if you or someone you are supporting is detained, right up to the point of deportation. It tells how some have managed to have their deportation stopped while on the plane.
emphasis is firmly on self help and collective action, after experience
proved that the existing system is not only woefully inadequate, but
our experience," Niki continues, "there is little or no good
legal representation available to people. What good lawyers there are
aren't taking on new cases, and there's a mass of careless, negligent,
sometimes corrupt lawyers out there who are taking asylum seekers' money
and doing nothing."
sure that an asylum seeker's legal case is presented to authorities
accurately and comprehensively is the first problem the guide aims to
''Most asylum seekers' cases get refused - some because they've come up against the most horrendous racism, sexism and hostility, but most because the full case was never put to the authorities.'
often either because the person themselves didn't feel able to speak about
all that has happened to them, they were never encouraged or asked the
right questions, medical reports were never acquired, or the lawyer was
just completely crap and never put it forward properly.
want you to be able to ensure that your case is put forward in full and
according to your experience, and ensure your lawyer is doing the job that
they're paid to do."
whole ethos of the guide is about collective action, putting refugees at
the centre of fighting their own cases.
Kajumba, from the All African Women's Group, speaking at the Glasgow
launch of the guide last week, describes the confidence that working
collectively has given asylum seeking women.
their heads together has meant that, so far, none of the core group of
women involved in the organisation have been deported.
In a society where they're arguing
against so many negative portrayals of asylum seekers, says Sarah, acting
together, "gives us a voice to talk... we are able to go out and make
our voices heard."
distributed widely in detention centres, the guide is an effective way
to build that network of support across the country.
of the nature of the work of the groups involved in producing the guide, a
lot of the information is from women's experience, with reference to the
specific experience of rape survivors, who are often particularly
ignored and marginalized.
the guide is simple and comprehensive, and will be of tremendous use to
anyone coming. up against the asylum system.
And more than that, says Sara Walker, from the group Women of Colour in the Global Women's Strike, also involved in supporting the launch of the guide, "it's a tool that helps people take a stand against racism."
This guide is put together by
people who do not shy away from the enormity of the racism' and sexism
which permeates every cranny of the immigration system in this country.
But it takes the proactive view that there's always something we can do.
like you have someone's life in your hands, knowing that they face death
if they're deported, that's terrifying," says Niki, "but working
collectively helps you deal with that.
working first of all with the person themselves and they're making the key
decisions, armed with all the information that they need.
put the expertise that we've gathered over the years and the power of an
organisation and collective action at their disposal to the extent that
we can, and that means you don't feel overwhelmed so often.
"But not acting would be
overwhelming too, it's better to try to do something about it."
• For asylum seekers
and their supporters: A self-help guide against detention and
deportation is available from Crossroads Books at
www.allwomencount.net or phone 020 7482 2496.
The guide is free to asylum seekers, £2.50 other individuals, £5
to organisations, and £ 10 to professionals/institutions.