Sunday, 7 December 2008

Press Release
Ms B and a spokeswoman from WAR are available for interviews020- 7482 2496, 07846 160 723,
Landmark damages for rape survivor detained unlawfully

A woman rape survivor has won unprecedented damages for being unlawfully detained in Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre. Ms B, who fled Cameroon having suffered rape and other torture was detained in December 2006 shortly after her arrival in the UK . She reported to the authorities that she was a rape survivor and according to detention rules should have been seen by a “medical practitioner” within 24 hours [1]. Her report of rape was ignored and she was put on the “fast track” for removal [2].
Judge Parker at a previous hearing ruled that Ms B had scars which should have indicated “the gravity of the mistreatment she had been subjected to” in the Cameroon and this should have “brought about the claimant’s release from detention.” He held the detention to be “unlawful”.
Today Ms B was awarded £38,000 damages including £6,000 for "aggravated damages". This is one of the biggest awards of its kind.

Ms B says:
“At long last the courts have been ready to hear how I have suffered and have ruled that I was detained unlawfully. When I first claimed asylum the Immigration Judge dismissed the rape I suffered because I hadn’t spoken about it at my first interview. I didn’t do that because the Home Office officials treated me so badly and I was sure they would think I was ‘dirty’. It was only the support of other women in detention who told me about Women Against Rape (WAR) that allowed me to speak. WAR fought to stop my removal, with a pro-bono barrister and made sure I could stay in this country to fight my case.”

Ms B’s ruling sets a crucial precedent for many other women in detention. Research by Legal Action for Women found that over 70% of women in Yarl’s Wood are victims of rape and half of them had suffered other torture [3]. Instead of being medically assessed and released most have had their cases fast tracked. Home Office rules which should secure their release are systematically flouted. Many have been denied legal representation and medical and other expert help.
As a result women, and often their children, suffer months imprisoned in terrible circumstances and many are sent back to the countries they fled, often never having had help from specialist organisations to report rape or to gather evidence needed to challenge the routine dismissal of rape as grounds for asylum [4].
Back ground
During her six months in Yarl’s Wood, Ms B was a key participant in a hunger strike and protest against the horrendous conditions in which women and their children are held. They wrote to the government:
“ . . .as grandmothers, mothers, sisters & daughters. We are victims of rape, torture & ill treatment, having been forced to flee our countries of origin. Suicidal attempts are many, pregnant women have lost their babies, the suffering is endless. When it comes to removing us we are being beaten mercilessly, bundled in the plane & injured in the most inhumane way.”
Ms B adds:
“I am still waiting for a decision on my asylum claim and meanwhile have been forced to live in a house where the roof leaked, with no light or gas, and with no money to live on, only vouchers. We have suffered attacks from racists who tried to set fire to the building while we slept.”