CEO Steve Ridgeway
Virgin Atlantic Airways
Fax: 01293 444124
Dear Mr Ridgeway,
Re: Sima Valand due to be forcibly removed from the UK on Friday 8th May 2009*
Sima arrived in the UK, from India, legally in 2006 with her husband. During the 15 years of their marriage Sima was subjected to frequent verbal, physical and sexual abuse by her husband. Following their arrival in the UK, the violence escalated. It culminated in a horrific rape in May 2008. The attack was so severe that Sima made the decision to report it to the police.
While her husband was on bail, the threat to Sima was sufficient to force her to move to Nottingham for her safety. She was subjected to frequent death threats from the husband’s family in the UK and in India because she was pursuing the court case. In spite of this, Sima continued with the case and her husband was eventually convicted and given a lengthy prison sentence.
As a result of the persecution, Sima applied for asylum on the grounds that she had a genuine fear of being killed by her husband or his family if she were returned to India. Before she left India, she had been treated as a slave and beaten by her husband’s family. Their treatment of her was so bad that she attempted suicide. The husband’s jail sentence and the fact that she has begun divorce proceedings have only exacerbated their malice towards her.
Her in-laws have contacted her on frequent occasions to tell her that they will cut her up and kill her if she returns to India.
India has a deeply entrenched patriarchal system and women are expected to conform to a strict social code. As a result, although it is Sima’s husband who has been responsible for appallingly violent behaviour, it is Sima’s action in reporting that behaviour and giving evidence against him that is considered shameful amongst her family and the community as a whole.
It is extremely common in India that incidents of serious domestic violence against women are not taken seriously. The police and courts are often unwilling to intervene in such matters. Amnesty International have noted that it is very difficult for women to seek justice through the criminal justice system in India and that women victims of crime are at a severe disadvantage. This means that it is highly unlikely that Sima will get the protection that she needs should she be returned.
Sima was born and brought up in Sudan although she is of Indian origin and has an Indian passport. She has few family members in India and following the court case, these ties have deteriorated. The Home Office have argued that Sima could live with her uncle if she is returned to India. However, the details of the rape case have become widely known and he will no longer speak to her.
Sima’s in-laws in India are aware of Sima’s movements and since being detained on Tuesday, Sima has received threatening messages stating that they know she is about to be removed from the UK and that they will track her down.
In addition, Sima has been diagnosed with and was being treated for deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Her treatment for this has been disrupted by being put in detention and putting her on a long-haul flight would be extremely dangerous to her health.
The UK Home Office says it is up to the carrier, whether they carry deportees. Please do not deport Sima Valand - she is at risk of being seriously harmed if not killed by her husband’s family should she be returned to India.
Please do not carry out the UK’s enforcement policies which put people at risk in this way.
*Full flight details not included for Sima’s protection