URGENT CALL TO PROTEST AND END SECTION 55,
THE INHUMAN LAW MAKING WOMEN, CHILDREN & MEN HOMELESS AND DESTITUTE
The High Court, The Strand, 9am, Wed 27 August
Press Conference at 11am
Everyone concerned justice is called to join this protest against Section 55 called by the 35 asylum seekers camped outside Refugee Council since 8 August. The demonstration is being supported by church groups, women’s groups, anti-racist campaigners and others. Voluntary organisation are asked to close their offices and join this urgent action led by refugees.
We have been involved in this growing movement – initially with Eritrean women refusing being made destitute by Section 55 and forcibly dispersed away from caring and support networks. Now another group of asylum seekers have taken the lead in refusing a racist two-tier system that denies women, children and men asylum seekers basic benefits, health care and other crucial resources. The National Asylum Support Service, and those voluntary sector organisations helping implement it, has forced many into destitution, malnutrition, homelessness and slum housing.
No one should be excluded from essential services yet even children of asylum seekers are to be excluded from mainstream schools if government accommodation centres go ahead, and are being left destitute with their mothers. We cannot accept this segregation. Government measures that carve us up and divide us against each other invite and promote racist violence, ghettoes and apartheid. Excluding asylum seekers who are among the most vulnerable people in our communities, makes all of us more in more danger of government brutality.
The government is denying vulnerable women, children and men the basic necessities of life while lavishing billions on death and destruction in Afghanistan and Iraq. People from Africa and the Third World have a right to benefits and NHS as so much wealth has been stolen from Africa and other Third World countries for many centuries.
Comment from BWRAP and WAR:
“The RC are being paid £70 million a year by the government to administer Section 55 forcing women – many of whom are rape survivors and children to sleep rough. Now is the time for the voluntary sector groups to stop collaborating with this government brutality and violence, and to oppose the witch hunt against asylum seekers”.
In defending asylum seekers, we defend ourselves – Power to all the sisters and brothers for freedom of movement.
Legal Action for Women, Women of Colour (WinWages), Payday Men’s network
Destitute Asylum Seekers Call for Support High Court,
The Strand, 9am, Wed 27 Aug
Help scrap Section 55, the inhuman law making people homeless and destitute. Protest outside
We are women and men from many countries – Burundi, Comoros, Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Kurdistan, Liberia, Palestine, Sudan, and Togo – camping outside Refugee Council. On 7 August we were evicted from our rooms because NASS said that we didn't apply for asylum in a "reasonable and practical time" but many of us applied within one or two days of arriving, yet were evicted.
Section 55 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act is being used to deny people any means of survival if they don’t claim asylum as soon as they arrive in Britain. On 31 July judges ruled that applying Section 55 -- making people destitute and homeless -- is “inhumane and degrading treatment and violates the Human Rights Convention”. The Home Office is challenging the decision on 27 Aug. In the meantime, NASS says they will abide by the court’s ruling, but they don’t. If they did, why are we still homeless, hungry, thirsty and forced to camp outside Refugee Council’s office and other places?
We came to Refugee Council Friday 8 Aug to get housing. Some of us had been sleeping out for days before that. We stayed together and slept outside the Refugee Council. They told us it was illegal for them to help us, even though Refugee Council’s duty is to represent and care for refugees. We were left with no food, no mats or blankets, no information about our cases, and no medical care. We got cardboard to sleep on. Some Refugee Council staff with feelings gave us water. Local people came to help. We contacted the French Speaking African General Council, Single Parent Aid, and Detainee Support & Help Unit for help, who have camped out with us. Six of us fell seriously ill and three were rushed to hospital. Some people were so depressed they could not eat, and we were all angry and very anxious.
At the weekend, Refugee Council only gave us water, biscuits and pot noodles, but no hot water!
We got sympathetic media attention, and only then Refugee Council said they could do something for us. Some people were temporarily housed, but not all of us. Local people urged Social Services to give temporary housing to some of us who were sick. Local Mosques and churches particularly helped with emergency floor space.
We suffered a lot of harassment sleeping on the pavement, first of all from Refugee Council security staff. Refugee Council asked the local council to remove the gifts given to us by well-wishers, including our water cooler, plates, food, blankets and our personal things. Organisations helping us had to demand a meeting with Refugee Council management to stop their security staff harassing the people camping out, and we organised people to be on guard while we slept. We had no toilets or bathroom or even places to wash. Women are especially fearful of sleeping out, and particularly suffer from lack of privacy and bath facilities. Many of us have developed back and chest problems from sleeping rough, as well as other medical problems. No one knows how many people are getting very seriously ill, or are dying from being forced to sleep rough, especially during winter and when the weather is less kind.
We are denied all we need to rebuild our lives. We are fleeing persecution, war, genocide, torture, ill treatment, and discrimination. It is an outrage that anyone seeking a place of safety is treated this way. It can take years before our asylum claims are processed. Are they saying we should sleep rough and live destitute all this time? ARE THEY TRYING TO KILL US?
We are stamped like animals, labelled, treated with mistrust so that no one believes anything we say. You are not treated as a person, but as a number. When we go to Refugee Council they don’t ask our names but say “Are you Section 55?” We are treated as less than human. Some of us have been refused specialist health care because we are “Section 55”. We are being made to live like prisoners. Refusing food and shelter, and forcing people to suffer starvation is as bad as killing people with bullets in a dictator's regime.
To All Asylum Seekers & Refugees . . .
We are calling on you to come and join those of us who are already protesting. We know you are also going through the same things, especially women with children fighting against dispersal. The more we have protesting, the more our protest can help all of us.
. . . And Every Individual and Community
We ask for support from all those who are for justice and against the way we are treated. All must come and support the three people whose legal cases are challenging Section 55 in the Appeal Court Wednesday 27 August. We are asking voluntary organisations to help publicise this demonstration. We also need people to sleep at the church, vehicles to help transport people from the church to Refugee Council daily, plus food, blankets, bedding, and money for travel passes and transport. People and groups who support us and give us things can’t buy the right to be in charge of our movement.
Meet us every day at the Refugee Council,
6-8pm in Bellefields Rd, behind Refugee Council in Brixton, SW9. Under Section 55 anyone of us can be made destitute. Join us in changing the law.
Because we have been persecuted and forced to leave our countries, and we've suffered again here including fighting against homelessness and destitution, we should automatically have our papers and the right to stay.
WE ARE CALLING FOR:
· Permanent housing including for women who feel under physical threat in their accommodation
· Health care and other support, particularly for women and children who are often rape survivors, pregnant, breastfeeding mothers
· Refugee Council and all so-called NGOs must stop administering the inhuman and discriminatory dispersal and accommodation system
· The end of all forced dispersal
· The right to benefits and the NHS
· The right to work so we are not impoverished
· The government to recognise rape of women or men as persecution and torture and therefore grounds for asylum.
Come and help scrap the inhuman “Section 55”, Wed 27 Aug, 9am
High Court, The Strand, WC1. Nearest tube: Temple or Charing Cross
Destitute Asylum Seekers Email: email@example.com
FSA: 020 7401 7440 DSHU: 020 7703 5435
SPA: 020 7733 4461 LAW & Women of Colour (WinWages): 020 7482 2496
We are being helped daily by Legal Action for Women (LAW) which called the Action Lobby of Refugee Council led by Eritean women, and Women of Colour (WinWages) and the African Liberation Support Campaign.
A full list of supporters and a copy of our petition is available.
women of colour