The Great Debate UK

Women, asylum and the UK Border Agency

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gvgGauri van Gulik is a Women’s Rights Advocate and Researcher for Human Rights Watch and author of the report “Fast-Tracked Unfairness: Detention and Denial of Women Asylum Seekers in the UK. The opinions expressed are her own. Reuters will host a “follow-the-sun” live blog on Monday, March 8, 2010, International Women’s Day. Please tune in.–

Last week, the Home Office Minister Meg Hillier said on the BBC’s Woman’s Hour programme that the UK Border Agency ensures that very complex cases brought by women asylum seekers do not go through the UK’s so-called “detained fast-track” asylum process, a route designed for straightforward asylum claims that can be decided quickly.

The experience of Laura from Sierra Leone suggests otherwise. According to her asylum claim, Laura witnessed her father’s beheading, was raped several times, was imprisoned, was forced to have an abortion by having her stomach cut open, and was trafficked into the UK. Cases are rarely more complicated than Laura’s. Yet she was still sent into the “detained fast-track” system designed for straightforward claims.

Human Rights Watch’s new report “Fast-Tracked Unfairness: Detention and Denial of Women Asylum Seekers in the UK”, looks at how women end up being locked up in Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre in the “detained fast-track” system, despite complex claims, and what they go through once they are there. We did not assess the validity of claims but simply looked at whether these women are getting a full and fair examination of their asylum claim – which is everyone’s right under international law.

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