Free Conference, Manchester, 15 March 2014
Access To Advice is organising another major one day conference on the theme - "Legal Justice Together" to cover the massive challenges to publicly funded legal advice services locally, regionally and nationally. Crises are mounting, with intolerable cuts already to advice provision and legal aid - with more, punitive, legal aid cuts planned, across criminal and civil law. Themes for the day include:
- Updates on all the brutal cuts in civil and criminal legal aid. These include further gross cuts in criminal legal aid fees, threatening local practices, and restrictions on Judicial Review, immigration safeguards and from social security reforms.
- Sharing strategies for survival now, campaigning with vigour, and how to rebuild together across criminal and civil law, when there will be a new government.
We would like your ideas for the event:
- What are the key issues for you?
- How do we influence debates and decisions on these issues?
- Ideas for actions in the campaigns for legal advice and representation services?
- Put this date in your diary now!
- Reply to email@example.com with ideas or suggestions - how can we all work together?
- Forward this information to others!
Wednesday 4 December 2013
The Guardian (see original article here
You might have thought the war on terror was finally being wound down, 12 years after the US launched it with such disastrous results. President Obama certainly gave that impression earlier this year when he declared that "this war, like all wars, must end".
In fact, the Nobel peace prize winner was merely redefining it. There would be no more "boundless global war on terror", he promised. By which he meant land wars and occupations are out for now, even if the US is still negotiating for troops to remain in Afghanistan after the end of next year.
But the war on terror is mutating, growing and spreading. Drone attacks, which have escalated under Obama from Pakistan to north Africa, are central to this new phase. And as Dirty Wars – the powerful new film by the American journalist Jeremy Scahill – makes clear, so are killings on the ground by covert US special forces, proxy warlords and mercenaries in multiple countries.
Scahill's film noir-style investigation starts with the massacre of a police commander's family by a US Joint Special Operations Command (Jsoc) secret unit in Gardez, Afghanistan (initially claimed by the US military to have been honour killings). It then moves
through a murderous cruise missile attack in Majala, Yemen, that killed 46 civilians, including 21 children; the drone assassination of the radical US cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and his 16-year-old son; and the outsourced kidnappings and murders carried out by local warlords on behalf of Jsoc and the CIA in Somalia.
What emerges is both the scale of covert killings by US special forces – running 20 raids a night at one point in Afghanistan – and he unmistakable fact that these units are operating as death squads, whose bloodletting is dressed up as "targeted killings" of terrorists and insurgents for the benefit of a grateful nation back home.
When a Yemeni journalist, Abdulelah Haider Shaye, demonstrated just how targeted these killings can actually be in practice – by exposing the US slaughter at Majala – he was framed and jailed in Yemen as an al-Qaida collaborator, and his release was initially blocked by the personal intervention of Obama.
Of course, the US and its friends have carried out covert assassinations and sponsored death squads for many years. But assassination and undercover killings, once criticised by the US as an unfortunate Israeli habit, are now a central part of American strategy – and the battlefield has gone global. The number of countries in which the US Special Operations Command is operating has risen from 40 to 120.
And Britain is with them every step of the way. British officials like to present their own drone operations in Afghanistan as a moral cut above those of the CIA and Jsoc. In real life, the collaboration could hardly be closer. This week Noor Khan, whose father was one of more than 40 killed in a US drone attack in Pakistan, has been at the appeal court in London demanding the British government reveal the extent of GCHQ support for such war crimes.
The government is hiding behind "national security" and the special relationship. But there can be no doubt that GCHQ intelligence is used for drone attacks – just as British undercover units have been operating hand in glove with US special forces in Somalia, Mali, Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan.
As Theresa May has been stripping British Muslims suspected of fighting for al-Shabaab in Somalia of their citizenship, just in time for them to be killed or kidnapped by US special forces, evidence has emerged that British special forces themselves killed a British recruit, Tufail Ahmed, there last year.
Britain has plenty of experience of its own dirty wars, of course. BBC's Panorama programme last month broadcast interviews with members of a former undercover army unit in Northern Ireland (several of whose officers had taken part in colonial campaigns) that carried out a string of drive-by shootings of unarmed civilians in Belfast in the 1970s. "We were there to act like a terror group," one veteran explained. Just like the US special forces in Gardez, they mounted regular cover-ups and struggled to accept the people they killed had not been "terrorists".
The assumption that they were taking out the bad guys, armed or unarmed, clearly trumped the laws of war. The same goes for the war on terror on a far bigger scale. Drone strikes are presented as clean, surgical attacks. In reality, not only does the complete absence of risk to the attacking forces lower the threshold for their use. But their targets depend on intelligence that is routinely demonstrated to be hopelessly wrong.
In many cases, far from targeting named individuals, they are "signature strikes" against, say, all military-age males in a particular area or based on a "disposition matrix" of metadata, signed off by Obama at his White House "kill list" meetings every Tuesday. Which is why up to 951 civilians are estimated to have been killed in drone attacks in Pakistan alone, and just 2% of casualties are "high value" targets.
At best, drone and special forces killings are extrajudicial summary executions. More clearly, they are a wanton and criminal killing spree. The advantage to the US government is that it can continue to demonstrate global authority and impunity without boots on the ground and loss of US life. But that is a reflection of US weakness in the wake of Afghanistan and Iraq: dirty wars cause human misery but give limited strategic leverage.
They also create precedents. If the US and its friends arrogate to themselves the right to launch armed attacks around the world at will, other states now acquiring drone capabilities may well follow suit. Most absurdly, what is justified in the name of fighting terrorism has spread terror across the Arab and Muslim world and provided a cause for the very attacks its sponsors are supposed to be defending us against at home.
The US-led dirty wars are a recipe for exactly the endless conflict Obama has promised to halt. They are laying the ground for a far more dangerous global order. The politicians and media who plead national security to protect these campaigns from exposure are themselves a threat to our security. Their secrecy and diminished footprint make them harder than conventional wars to oppose and hold to account – though the backlash in countries bearing the brunt is bound to grow. But their victims cannot be left to bring them to an end alone.
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See the original article at booktwo.orgOver the weekend, just before Amazon sucked all the air out of rational discourse with its absurd PR flim-flam about drone deliveries, a far more sinister aerial story was developing. On Friday, the British Home Office announced that it had deported Ifa Muaza aboard a private jet.
Ifa Muaza is a 45 year old Nigerian man who has been seeking asylum in the UK since July. He claims he is under sentence of death from the Nigerian jihadist group Boko Haram, which he refused to join. His case has been supported by British politicians, peers, celebrities and human rights groups. Muaza has been on hunger strike at Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre since the beginning of August, and this week was reported to be close to death. Open Democracy reported on his case and the associated legal wrangling a few weeks ago, when he had been refusing food and water for 85 days, while the Guardian reported that he was expected to die in custody, despite a court ordering his release on mental and physical health grounds. According to Julian Huppert MP and Lord Roberts of Llandudno, by the beginning of last week he was “no longer able to see or stand”.
Despite his condition, Muaza was “fast-tracked” through immigration procedures and placed aboard a plane on Friday morning, on a stretcher, in an attempt to get him out of the country. The plan did not quite work out however: Nigeria refused to allow the plane to enter its airspace, and it diverted to Malta, where, according to the Guardian, “an angry dispute broke out with the authorities over the plane’s right to use its airstrip”. After flying for a reported twenty hours, the plane, with Muaza still on board, landed back at Luton in the UK, and the detainee was returned to Harmondsworth, the other side of London, hard up against Heathrow Airport and British Airways’ global headquarters.
The apparently unusual move of deporting detainees on private jets is not a first for the Home Office, which has previously used private aircraft to spirit contentious cases out of the country. The Home Secretary, Theresa May, who is currently looking for ways to strip Britons of their citizenship in contravention of British and international law, has used the tactic at least twice, including in the deportation of Abu Qatada, the fundamentalist cleric rendered to Jordan despite the clear threat of torture which should have stopped the process, again under both British and international law.
I wanted to know more about this journey. I find the shadowy technological aspects of these abominations against the person to be revealing of the underlying moral bankruptcy of the perpetrators. Technology is politics reified in electromechanical systems. When the government is deleting from the internet its own speeches promising greater transparency, consider this another kind of seeing through the cloud: an exercise in OSINT, using the tools of the network against its darkest masters.
According to media reports, Muaza’s plane left Britain at 8am on Friday the 29th of November, and returned, some twenty hours later, to Luton airport. I initially assumed it must have left from Luton as well, and examined the departure and arrivals at FlightRadar24 and FlightAware. However, these services do not cover most private flights. Plane-spotters, however, do. (I am indebted for this strategy to the work of Trevor Paglen, who has worked with enthusiasts worldwide in his research, most significantly tracing the CIA’s rendition programme in Torture Taxi.)
The spotter community is active online, and maintains sites such as Luton Movements, listing arrivals and departures from the airport. Comparing the logs for the relevant dates, I identified a couple of flights which roughly fit within the reported timings – but none of them matched exactly, and their flight paths, where visible, were indistinct, or unlikely.
Then I searched for similar communities in the aircraft’s other known location: Malta, the tiny island nation fifty miles south of Sicily, and two hundred north of Africa, in the middle of the Mediterranean. Malta has its own fascinating and hybrid history: both a Christian and a Muslim stronghold for centuries; part of the British Empire from 1814 until 1964, when it was a critical naval base; site of the first meeting between Gorbachev and Bush Sr in 1989, signalling the end of the Cold War. Of course, Malta has spotters too.
There’s something obvious there: 29th November, an aircraft with the registration G-WIRG, an Embraer Legacy private jet, arriving and leaving on the same day.
Back to FlightRadar24, and we can track G-WIRG’s journey. The Luton confusion is cleared up: on the friday morning it takes off at 08:26 (possibly 07:26 UK time), but from Stansted, another large, international airport north of London. (The logs show it was at Luton the day before though, on the 28th, departing at 18:00). It circles west around the city and heads south across France, passing over Barcelona at 11:23. Half an hour later, we lose the track – although this isn’t too unusual. FlightRadar24 uses tracking provided by ADS-B transponders aboard aircraft, with the data collected and passed on by a network of receivers on the ground. These receivers have a relatively short range, and are concentrated on the European mainland, which means coverage over the Mediterranean and Africa is poor.
We don’t know how far G-WIRG got before it was turned back by Nigerian air control, in the radar darkness – to European eyes – over Africa; what strange manoeuvres along designated air corridors between and across nations, climbing and banking to avoid thunderheads and moral accountability.
At some point later in the day, G-WIRG is spotted at Malta airport. And that night, the ADS-B beacon is picked up, approaching Nice on the southern France coast at 22:24 – an expected flight path northwards along the Italian coast from Malta. The jet passes over Paris at 36,000 feet a little after midnight (French time – an hour ahead of the UK), and the Luton spotters logs show it landing again at 00:05 UK time on Saturday the 30th, some sixteen hours after it left the country. With driving time from Heathrow to Luton/Stansted of around an hour, plus waiting time, Muaza, a man close to death from starvation and dehydration, clearly spent nearly a full day in transit, only to return to the same cage he started from.
The Embraer Legacy 650 is a twin-engined regional jet capable of carrying 13 passengers, “split in 3 areas: front club 4, middle club 4 and a separate area at the rear with a club 2 plus a 3 seat divan”. It is unknown how many officials accompanied Muaza on the trip. The media is reporting costs of £95,000 to £110,000 for the exercise. You can see photos of G-WIRG at airliners.net, photographed at Luton in October and November of 2013. It was only delivered to Air Charter Scotland, the operator, on October 7th – in these pictures, the registration is taped on – and it’s not listed on their website yet, but on October 24th, they posted the following video to YouTube:
“You always wished to fly high. You always looked for freedom. You always dreamed of controlling time. Now you have it all.
“A legacy of freedom. This is your freedom to fly.”
- Embraer Legacy 650 G-WIRG operated by Air Charter Scotland Ltd promotional video
Air Charter Scotland is active on Twitter as well: they announced the arrival of G-WIRG in a series of tweets and photos from manufacture, to delivery, and into service. (Open Democracy, I later discovered, made the link to ACS some days ago.) ACS’ website is likewise full of exhortations to “Enjoy the peace and comfort of your own space… In today’s fast moving business world, time efficient travel is a key factor in staying ahead of the competition” – an invitation Theresa May clearly took up in her efforts to override the British justice system. ACS also operate Alan Sugar’s personal jet, with the predictable registration G-SUGA. Meanwhile, Embraer, the Brazilian manufacturer of G-WIRG, also produces the R-99, a military variant of the Legacy, used for remote sensing and AWACS missions. Brazil uses such jets to patrol the controversial Amazon Surveillance System, while the Greek Air Force deployed an R-99 to monitor the no-fly zone over Libya in 2011.
From London to the Mediterranean, to Malta and back again, over multiple countries and jurisdictions, through airspace and legal space. The contortions of G-WIRG’s flight path mirror the ethical labyrinth the British Government finds itself in when, against all better judgements, it insists on punishing individuals as an example to others, using every weasel justification in its well-funded legal war chest. Using a combination of dirty laws and private technologies to transform and transmit people from one jurisidiction, one legal condition and category, to another: this is the meaning of the verb “to render”.
At 10:08 on Saturday morning, G-WIRG departed Luton again, on some other mission, one of a network of obscure, advanced machines, looking for freedom, dreaming of controlling time. Ifa Musawa was back in Harmondsworth, still hungry, still looking for the same thing.
Saturday 30 November 2013
See the original article here
Home Office officials were refusing to comment on Saturday evening on an apparently botched effort to deport a seriously ill man from Britain by private plane. A jet chartered by the government was forced to return to the UK with Nigerian Ifa Muaza and immigration officials still on board, after a 20-hour flight that saw the plane prevented from entering Nigerian airspace. It diverted to Malta, where an angry dispute broke out with the authorities over the plane's right to use its airstrip.
The aircraft then had to return to Britain, landing at Luton, where Muaza, a failed asylum seeker who was said last week to have been near death after a 100-day hunger strike, was taken off by stretcher and returned to Harmondsworth detention centre near Heathrow. The flight is estimated to have cost the Home Office £95,000- £110,000. Muaza was the only detainee on board, according to sources.
On Saturday night lawyers and supporters of 47-year-old Muaza, who has won support from numerous politicians, human rights groups and celebrities, were trying to stop a second deportation. "It's an unbelievable fiasco and we are very worried about his health. He is very weak," said one.
Lord Roberts, a Liberal Democrat peer, told the Observer
he was delighted Muaza was back in the UK but horrified that he had been forced to endure the attempted removal. "I saw him on Tuesday when a doctor had judged him too sick to fly," he said. "Goodness knows what state he must be in now the poor man. He needs hospital treatment. We should know the cost of this private jet. We've already heard this case has cost some £180,000.
"[The home secretary] Theresa May must consider her role immediately. She has caused immense harm to one individual and spent an extraordinary amount of taxpayers' money. I hope there will be no question of sending this poor man away again."
The Home Office has used private jets for at least two previous deportations. One was the return of hate cleric Abu Qatada to Jordan in July
Sources at the detention centre said that staff "were horrified" at Muaza's medical condition. Doctors at the centre have six times ruled that he is too ill to be held there, while staff were put on notice of "an imminent death", believed to be that of Muaza, last week.
A letter from Roberts to the home secretary appealing for clemency for Muaza was co-signed by a group of cross-party MPs and peers. After it was revealed on Wednesday that a ticket had been booked on a flight to Abuja, the Nigerian capital, Lib Dem MP Sarah Teather called on Virgin Atlantic to refuse to accept Muaza on the plane due to the concerns about his health.
On Saturday night Teather said she was "truly, truly, appalled" at the treatment of Muaza. "To put a well man through this kind of stress and journey would be bad enough, but to do it to a man in such a desperate condition? Well done, Theresa May, you proved your toughness at the expense of your humanity. This should give everyone pause for thought. I cannot see why this was in anyone's interest.
"That the government is rushing to deport a man prepared to starve himself to death rather than be returned says everything about the culture of disbelief towards individuals fleeing persecution that is a defining characteristic of the UK's asylum process," she told Politics.co.uk
"I find it hard to believe that a man who has refused to eat for over 90 days is playing the system and being wilfully manipulative. These are the actions of a desperate man who clearly fears for his safety should he be returned to Nigeria."
John Packer, the bishop of Ripon and Leeds, had also spoken against the deportation, saying Muaza was in clear danger in his native country after defying the terror group Boko Haram by refusing to join their ranks.
Award-winning actors, theatre directors, playwrights, lawyers, leading NGOs and community organisations have also written to May to appeal on behalf of the hunger striker.
Actors Juliet Stevenson, Dame Harriet Walter, Cush Jumbo, Khalid Abdalla, playwright Howard Brenton, author Stella Duffy and comedians Mark Thomas and Daniel Kitson, joined campaign groups including Liberty, Reprieve and Amnesty International in signing the letter.
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Call out for women to take action in Manchester! SHUT DOWN Yarl's Wood Detention Centre! COME AND SHOW YOUR SUPPORT AND SIGN THE PETITION FOR THE WOMEN IN YARL’S WOODMonday 2nd December 10 am in Piccadilly GardensJoin WAST women and MOVEMENT FOR JUSTICE CAMPAIGNERSEnd systematic abuse, including sexual abuse & the denial of human rights. Demand full public inquiry into Yarl's Wood NOW!
Women detainees and ex-detainees have been coming forward to speak out about the abuse they suffered and witnessed, and to demand redress. The racist and sexist regime, of legal, psychological and physical abuse which women frequently describe as mental torture at Yarl's Wood, has been covered up for far too long. The women imprisoned in Yarl's Wood are
systematically set up for abuse by the fact that they are treated as liars, who must prove themselves truthful whilst being detained indefinitely.
By law the 'burden of proof' in the asylum & immigration system means they are guilty until proven innocent. The women in Yarl's Wood have between them successfully escaped every kind of abuse and violence that women commonly face around the world - rape, sexual abuse, forced marriage, Female Genital Mutilation, trafficking, domestic violence, child abuse, anti-gay persecution. It is known that violence against women and girls is common worldwide. Yet their claims are routinely disbelieved, and their credibility attacked. Is it any surprise that they be targeted for sexual abuse by guards in detention? The sexual abuse and its cover-up that was publicly exposed by The Observer (read article here
) are the inevitable products of this regime.
The public exposure of sexual abuse has come about because of the strength of a detainee who refused to be silent. There are many more ready to follow.
WE DEMAND: A full Public Inquiry into the sexual and other abuses at Yarls Wood Detention Centre
WE DEMAND: Present & Former detainees must have the choice to give evidence in public, and their supporters.
WE DEMAND: Every aspect of the system that makes the sexual abuse possible must be exposed to public scrutiny. Nothing less is acceptable!
Original article from the Guardian here
Ifa Muaza, said to be near death after refusing food in protest at 'unfair treatment', deported by private jet.
The Home Office has confirmed that a failed asylum seeker who was said to be near death after a hunger strike that has lasted nearly 100 days has been deported from Britain.
Lawyers for Ifa Muaza, aged 45, from Nigeria say the Home Office has confirmed he was deported at 8am on Friday on a private jet.
Muaza had been refusing food for more than three months in protest at his detention in Harmondsworth immigration removal centre, near Heathrow, and at the "unfair treatment" of his asylum claim.
His removal went ahead despite attempts to obtain a last-minute injunction and a 120-strong vigil outside the Home Office.
His solicitor, Toufique Hossain of the law firm Duncan Lewis, said the home secretary, Theresa May, had gone to great lengths to remove "this seriously ill man from the UK".
Hossain said: "She didn't allow him an in-country right of appeal against his asylum refusal. At massive expense to taxpayers she hired a private charter plane to remove Mr Muaza to Nigeria today – no other returnee was on the plane. For the out-of-hours injunction she instructed Queen's counsel to make submissions. The court was not willing to intervene at such a late stage.
"We do not know how Mr Muaza is, as we lost contact with him late last night. We fear for his safety now on return but we will be looking at pursuing further appeals if we do make contact with him in Nigeria. He should not have been removed from the UK."
Home Office lawyers said at his latest detention review that Muaza had been declared fit to travel and plans were under way for his return.
Lord Roberts, who intends to raise the case in parliament next week, said Muaza's potential death on a flight or upon arrival in Nigeria was a tragedy and accused May of "allowing people to die to score a political point".
"We urgently need to review the systems of immigration detention, fast track and enforced removal," he said.
Muaza's plight attracted widespread support including from the Liberal Democrat peer Lady Williams and Green MP Caroline Lucas.
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Friday 22nd November 6pm @ Friends Meeting House Manchester
Yarl's Wood women's detention centre is the central battle ground in Britain for the rights of asylum seekers, immigrants and the rights of women.
Women detainees & ex-detainees in Yarl's Wood Immigration Removal Centre are fighting by every means necessary to win freedom and stop deportations. They have exposed the abuse - verbal, sexual, physical and psychological that they routinely have to endure from guards and staff in this prison for people with no charge, no trial and no conviction; these are women who have committed no crime, who have simply sought safety, security and freedom for themselves and their families.
Putting Yarl's Wood on Public Trial: you will hear former detainees testify to their experience of fighting back, confronting a racist & sexist regime of legal, psychological and physical abuse. We will bring to light the racism & sexism of the immigration system, in the court of public opinion. Charges will be laid and you will take part in delivering a verdict. By organising relentlessly, collectively, by every means necessary and speaking the plain truth about racism and sexism, our community can experience the strength of a mass movement and wield that power to defend against any attacks we face. The example set down by the women of Yarl's Wood demonstrates that by employing a range of tactics - from public hearings, petitions, filing legal claims to win the right to remain, to demonstrating, and physically resisting border agent thugs; the hearings that victory is possible; the women of Yarl's Wood have been winning and we can learn apply those lessons & tactics to all of our struggles. Our first hearing in Manchester - home to Sirah Jeng - will put on trial the attempted cover-up of sexual abuse within detention. Sirah is a leader in Yarl's Wood and has been detained five times since2011 in the last few years. She has stood up both for herself and all the detainee's in the face of extensive harassment by the UKBA over the years. But when Sirah came forward as an eye-witness to a guard's sexual abuse of a detainee that the UKBA rushed to re-detain her and made a serious attempt to deport her back to the Gambia which was thwarted by the actions of hundreds of people inside and outside of detention. In October 2012 a Movement for Justice Group was formed in Yarls Wood, this was their founding words...
"We are women held against our will in Yarl's Wood detention centre, with no charge and no sentence. We have formed a Movement for Justice group to stand up together and fight for our freedom and the freedom of all women not to be detained. Between us we have faced persecution in many forms - as lesbian, bisexual, and as straight women. Most of us are on 'Fast Track', a procedure designed to deport as many people as possible before they know what is really happening. We come from, every region of Africa, the Middle East, Pakistan and the Caribbean, and we welcome many more to join us. We are leaders because we speak the truth about oppression wherever it is, we are committed to fighting for our collective rights and dignity, and to end the racist, sexist and abusive detention system. There is no 'crime' in seeking freedom, safety and the chance to live free."
The exposure of sexual abuse in The Observer (15/09/13) only happened because a victim bravely went public about her legal action against the Home Office. There are many stories to be told, many voices to be heard and a movement Is growing inside detention and outside to SHUT DOWN YARL'S WOOD once and for all.
- Movement For Justice
Original hereYarl's Wood sex inquiry witness to be deported without speaking to policeCrucial figure in immigration centre probe held hours before appointment with investigatorsMark Townsend
, home affairs editorThe Observer
, Saturday 2 November 2013 16.49 GMT
The only witness to an alleged case of sexual misconduct at Yarl's Wood immigration removal centre is to be deported, without being given the opportunity to testify to police
Sirah Jeng was detained on Thursday inside the centre, hours before a scheduled interview with police. Jeng alleges she witnessed a male Serco
employee having sexual contact with a detainee.
She has been given five days' notice of deportation, the minimum period required, and is to be sent back to the Gambia on Tuesday. Campaigners accuse the Home Office of attempting to "silence" Jeng by removing her from the UK before she can be questioned by officers.
The 59-year-old told lawyers that she saw a Serco employee kissing a 23-year-old detainee called Tanja last year in Yarl's Wood
. CCTV footage corroborates her testimony. Jeng is thought to be the only eyewitness to the alleged sexual contact and is therefore crucial to an ongoing investigation by Bedfordshire police into abuse allegations at Britain's largest immigration removal centre for women. Three Serco staff have been dismissed over Tanja's allegations, which her lawyer, Harriet Wistrich, believes amount to misconduct in public office.
Jeng, who has lived in the UK for 12 years and is married to a British citizen, said: "I saw them kissing. Now they are trying to get rid of me before I can speak to the police."
In August, Bedfordshire police launched an investigation into Tanja's claims that she was subjected to inappropriate sexual behaviour by several guards. Tanja, not her real name, claimed attempts were made to deport her within days of her informing Yarl's Wood's management of the incidents.
Jeng said her police interview was scheduled for 5pm last Thursday. At 11am that day she went to Dallas Court, Manchester's immigration reporting centre for asylum seekers, where she was detained and taken to Yarl's Wood.
Anthony Gard of civil rights group Movement for Justice said: "We are determined that this crude attempt to silence her doesn't succeed. Sirah is so committed to exposing the sexual abuse she witnessed – she knows that this case speaks for many others. A system that abuses women's human rights and dignity as Yarl's Wood does inevitably leads to sexual abuse. When the UKBA interferes with a police inquiry to get a witness out of the country it's a sign of their desperation and the impact the Yarl's Wood women and their allies is having; it means we can defeat the cover-up."
A Home Office spokesman said they could not comment on individual cases.
Last week the chief inspector of prisons said that Yarl's Wood needed to recruit more female staff "as a matter of urgency" following the Tanja incident.
His comments follow an unannounced inspection by HMIP, triggered by allegations in the Observer
, which found that female detainees told inspectors they felt uncomfortable when male officers came into their rooms, often without waiting for a reply after knocking. In one instance in September, it is alleged, three UK Border Agency officials entered a room where a 34-year-old woman from Malawi said she was naked in bed.
The woman said: "They came inside and shut the door. One stood at the foot of my bed, another pulled up a chair and sat next to my bed and another stood at the door inside, they were threatening me with removal directions. I was very scared."
Almost nine in 10 of those held at Yarl's Wood are women, yet around half of the staff are male.
A Home Office spokesman said: "We take the welfare of our detainees very seriously and any allegations of misconduct are thoroughly investigated. Detention and removal are essential parts of effective immigration controls, but it is vital that these are carried out with dignity and respect. We also operate a comprehensive complaints system for detainees who feel that they have not been treated in accordance with our published operating standards."
Bedforshire police said they could not talk about witnesses or case details, but that the case was ongoing.
Original hereYarl's Wood urgently needs more female staff, says prisons chiefNick Hardwick also says male staff should be banned from entering female detainees' rooms without invitationAlan Travis
, home affairs editorThe Guardian
, Tuesday 29 October 2013
The chief inspector of prisons has called for a ban on male staff entering the rooms of female detainees uninvited and for the urgent recruitment of female staff at Yarl's Wood immigration removal centre after allegations of sexual abuse by staff.
Nick Hardwick has condemned the sexual abuse of women at the privately-run centre in Bedfordshire, saying that two members of staff who were found to have engaged in sexual activity with a female detainee were rightly dismissed.
But he says in an inspection report published on Tuesday that a subsequent investigation based on 50 confidential interviews with randomly selected detainees carried out four weeks ago failed to find evidence of more widespread abuse.
"Most women again told us that Yarl's Wood was a largely respectful and safe place. We found no evidence of a wider culture of victimisation or [that] systematic abuse had developed," said Hardwick. "However, this exercise reinforced our view that women's histories of victimisation were not sufficiently acknowledged by the authorities."
Hardwick added: "There were insufficient female staff for a predominantly women's establishment, and women detainees complained that male staff entered their rooms without waiting for a reply after knocking. They were also embarrassed by male officers carrying out searches of their rooms and personal property."
The report called for more female staff to be recruited as a matter of urgency and said men should not enter women's rooms without an explicit invitation except in emergencies at the Serco
The original unannounced inspection carried out in June found that improvements had been made at Yarl's Wood with staff working hard to run a safe and decent establishment although some significant concerns remained.
In the six months before the June inspection, 867 detainees had been deported, a further 1,188 had been released and 198 transferred to other detention facilities.
Inspectors went back on September 30 to conduct fresh interviews after the new allegations of sexual abuse.
The chief inspector says that the lack of progress in their immigration cases caused the women the most distress and the inspectors identified a number of women who had been detained for very long periods – including one who had been there for almost four years.
Hardwick says that for the most vulnerable of the women the decision to detain them in the first place appears much too casual.
His report says that none of the women were there because they had been charged with a criminal offence or had been detained through normal judicial circumstances. Many had been victimised by traffickers or were in abusive relationships before they were detained.
He says that several mentally ill women had been detained before being sectioned and released to a more appropriate medical facility.
He also says they came across examples of pregnant women who had been detained without the evidence of exceptional circumstances needed to justify this.
Hardwick said: "Yarl's Wood has had a troubled past, punctuated by serious disturbances and controversy surrounding the detention of children. This inspection found that the improvements we have noted since the detention of children ended have continued. Nevertheless, despite the good progress made, improvement continues to be necessary."
///Asylum denied to teenager at risk of FGMWhy is Britain threatening to send a Nigerian girl back home to face female genital mutilation? asks Mischa Wilmers
Olayinka was 14 when she came to live in Britain with her mother and two brothers. She fled Nigeria in 2009 after attempts were made to kidnap her and subject her to female genital mutilation (FGM).
According to UNICEF, more than 30 million girls are at risk of being subjected to FGM over the next decade and around 125 million women have undergone the procedure. Olayinka was one of the lucky ones to escape, or so she thought. Three years on, the family find themselves embroiled in a legal battle against deportation after their asylum claim was rejected by the UK Border Agency (UKBA).
Olayinka’s mother, Abiola, is sure that if they are deported her daughter will be genitally mutilated. She has reason to be concerned. Twenty years ago she watched as her first daughter bled to death following a botched procedure in a remote Nigerian village.
‘They did FGM on her and she started bleeding,’ she tells me. ‘I knew something was wrong because I’ve experienced it before… so I was nervous and crying. Three days after, she passed away. I was helpless; there was nothing I could do.’
Neither Abiola nor her husband reported the eight-year-old girl’s death to the authorities. Although FGM is illegal in Nigeria, its practice is widespread – in some regions the proportion of adult women who have undergone it exceeds 50 per cent – and deaths are not uncommon. ‘I know a lot of cousins and family members that have passed away through FGM,’ Abiola says. ‘Everybody goes through it so it looks stupid if I go and report it.’
Naturally, when Olayinka was born four years later, Abiola was determined to protect her. Her husband, however, continued to insist that she be subjected to FGM, so Abiola divorced him and went to live alone with her three children. But his conservative relatives refused to give in and when Olayinka was 13, her uncle – the family chief – launched a violent kidnap attempt.
‘One day in June, I wasn’t home and the family chief came home with three family members; two men and a woman. They became violent, so my eldest son went to the nearest phone booth and called me to say that they’d beaten Olayinka,’ Abiola recalls.Not just a family matter
Olayinka’s injuries were so severe that she remained in hospital for three weeks. Yet when Abiola approached the police for protection she claims her ordeal was dismissed as ‘a family matter’. Soon afterwards the family travelled 150 miles east from Lagos to Ondo State to stay with Abiola’s mother, but it didn’t take long for the family chief to track them down.
‘We were there for about three weeks and I sent Olayinka and her brother to the corner shop. About 40 minutes later they came back running and crying. They said they saw the family chief and he asked them to get inside the car. How they managed to know where we are I don’t know.’
In desperation they escaped to Britain, arriving on six-month visas in November 2009. After settling in Rochdale they claimed asylum based on their fears that Olayinka would be subjected to FGM if they returned to Nigeria. To their distress, their claims were denied.
The threat of FGM does constitute grounds for claiming asylum in Britain. Nevertheless, according to a recent BBC report, hundreds of vulnerable women have had their applications rejected by UKBA in recent years.
A document detailing the reasons behind Olayinka’s failed asylum claim reads: ‘You fear you will be forcibly circumcised by your father’s relatives if you return to Nigeria…The reason you have given for claiming a well-founded fear of persecution under the terms of the 1951 United Nations Convention relating to the Status or Refugees is not one that engages the UK’s obligations under the convention.’ Although her story is not contested, UKBA insists that the Nigerian police can be relied upon to protect Olayinka and it has advised her to relocate internally, away from her husband’s family. A judicial review upheld the initial decision and the family have been told they may now be deported at any time.
Cases like Olayinka’s appear to contrast with the government’s official stance on FGM. The Home Office has supported a campaign by the NSPCC to help protect children in Britain from mutilation, as well as launching its own initiative, the Violence Against Women and Girls Action Plan. The document boasts of significant government investment in ‘scaling up international work to tackle violence against women and girls’. A message on the Foreign Office website reads: ‘If you think that a girl or young woman is in danger of FGM…contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office if she has already been taken abroad.’
Dr Rhetta Moran of human rights organization RAPAR says Olayinka’s case exposes the government’s rhetoric as disingenuous: ‘At a fundamental level it’s in complete contradiction to their commitment to safeguarding the child. It also runs utterly counter to what is becoming quite a high-profile, if limited, government campaign about female genital mutilation, and it continues to further demonize the refugee as somebody who is intrinsically threatening to this country.’Psychological stress
The psychological stress Olayinka has been forced to endure led her to attempt suicide earlier this year. A clinical psychologist who assessed her concluded that she suffers from ‘significant, chronic and complex mental-health needs’, adding that ‘it is highly likely that this psychological distress will remain high unless the physical threat to her safety is addressed’.
The 16-year-old is now beginning her first term at a local sixth form college and dreams of one day reading medicine at university. Meanwhile, the family’s legal team are submitting further evidence – including a report from a Nigerian human rights expert – in the hope that UKBA will reverse its decision.
‘If any of those making the decision are women, if they have children… the worst thing that can happen to any mother is to lose a child,’ Abiola pleads. ‘For that reason alone, I’m appealing to them, and for the fact that Olayinka did not commit any crime, it’s not a crime for her to be a girl. She shouldn’t be crucified for that.’