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Men Against Rape Against Women | 14.07.2004 13:48 | Gender

On Wednesday 14 July, 5.00pm Portcullis House, Westminster, a delegation of rape survivors from Burundi, Congo Brazzaville, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda will present evidence to the All Party Parliamentary Group on the Great Lakes Region & Genocide Prevention.

The delegation will highlight a fundamental injustice: despite well-documented human rights abuses, including extra judicial executions, unlawful killings and torture in many countries of the Great Lakes Region, women’s asylum claims are routinely refused, ignoring compelling evidence of the rape and other torture and persecution they and their families have suffered. A number of women face imminent deportation to countries where their lives are in danger.

Even when the Home Office acknowledges that it is not safe for asylum seekers to be returned, for example, to DRC, many are denied housing or support and left destitute. The Home Office has made support conditional on women signing hardship assistance forms in which they must agree to be returned to the country they have fled from whenever the Home Office decides. Most refuse as they fear for their lives, and so are forced to depend on friends, charity, the church or strangers to survive. They are unable to get help from refugee charities[1]. As a result several women have been raped by men who offered somewhere to stay when they were sleeping rough.

The recent exposure of sexual and other torture of Iraqi prisoners by the US military was met by worldwide condemnation and horror. Women are facing rape and other torture just as bad in the countries of the Great Lakes but this is being routinely dismissed by the Home Office. Even when the Home Office acknowledges that women have suffered torture and persecution, they say that it is safe for them to return. A woman from Uganda had her rape by soldiers dismissed as “simple, dreadful, lust”. She won her right to stay only after Women Against Rape conducted a public campaign.

It is urgent to act immediately. While deportations to the DRC have been suspended, women are vulnerable. Ms Helene Sambora from the All African Women’s Group says: “All deportations to this region must be stopped because we fear further rape, violence or even death. We would rather die hungry and homeless in Britain than sign our own death warrants. We want MPs who are concerned about human rights in this region to act now and make sure we get the same protection all rape survivors and all refugees are entitled to. The Home Office must recognise rape as torture, give us the right to stay in Britain and restore our rights to benefits, housing, healthcare and other resources so we can begin new lives in Britain and be reunited with our families.” Sarah Kajumba from DRC adds: “None of this would be happening without the arms trade.”

[1] The lucrative contracts the Refugee Council, Migrant Helpline, Refugee Arrivals Project, etc. signed to run NASS’ housing and other services commit them to “co-operate with the removal process”, denying help to those whose claims are closed unless they sign agreements to be returned to the country they fled.

For more information contact: All African Women’s Group, Black Women’s Rape Action Project, Women Against Rape

Crossroads Women’s Centre, 230a Kentish Town Road, London NW5 2AB

Tel: 020 7482 2496; Mobile: 07980659831 Fax 020 7209 4761

Email: or

Men Against Rape Against Women