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Uganda women to be traded by UK & Uganda governments

Virunga Mountains

One very ill and weak woman was taken on a 12-hour journey to Dungavel Detention Centre in Scotland, where she remains on hunger strike. Other women, including spokeswoman Harriet Anyangokolo, have been released having at
last secured legal representation and the opportunity to get their case reconsidered as a result of their protest. But at least two women have been deported, one of whom was stopped by corrupt immigration officials in Uganda demanding she give them all her money or they would hand her over to the police. She is now in hiding. There has been no contact
with the other woman. The Home Office refuses to take any
responsibility for monitoring the safety of those it returns.

Ms Anyangokolo comments: 'There are 250 of us, cooped up in terrible conditions. Some of us have children with us, some have left them behind, and others are mothers as a result of rape. We are innocent women and children whose rights are being violated. Many of us are ill as a result of torture, some are HIV+ and some are so depressed they have tried to commit suicide. After all we have suffered the British government still wants to deport us back to war zones and the dictators we opposed, denying us protection and safety. They dump us in detention centres where we suffer again from poor medical attention, bad food, harassment and sexual intimidation by male staff, false accusations and racism causing us more trauma. We have been denied the opportunity to make our claims properly through cuts in legal aid, negligent or even corrupt lawyers, and racism and sexism in decisions refusing our claims.

Some of us have been forced onto planes with the most appalling brutality and regardless of the justice of our claim. Women are continuing to fight for our rights and against deportation – we deserve safe accommodation not imprisonment, because we are not criminals, we
are simply asylum seekers who deserve protection under international law. It would be better to die in a British rather than a Ugandan detention centre.'

The government is determined to deport those it labels 'failed asylum seekers' no matter how unjustly. There is widespread recognition that the legal representation available to asylum seekers is deficient and in some cases corrupt. The cases below illustrate how these deficiencies are life threatening for women asylum seekers who are routinely imprisoned - against UNHCR and the government's own guidelines - and
threatened with deportation. As a result of their public protest, most of the women have now secured legal representation. The threat of removal should be lifted and all the women should be released immediately whilst their cases are reconsidered.

For more information contact: Legal Action for Women

Crossroads Women’s Centre PO Box 287 London NW6 5QU

Tel: 020 7482 2496 minicom/voice Fax: 020 7209 4761; Mob: 079291 38554

E-mail: law@crossroadswomen.net

Ms Gloria Chalimpa (HO Ref: C1117339/3 Port Ref: SEV/02/5277) has been in detention since 24 June 2005 and is due to be deported on 22 September. She suffered years of repeated rape from the age of six, when the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) killed her parents and abducted her. She was trained as a child soldier how to fight and use guns. She was sold to a 'sponsor', who also raped her and later arranged for her
to study in the UK. On a visit back to Uganda she was arrested and imprisoned for kissing another woman in a nightclub. She managed to escape and returned to the UK. But when she claimed asylum she was put on the 'fast-track' procedure and detained in Yarl's Wood. The fast-track system, which is claimed to be only used for 'straight
forward' cases, drastically reduces the time to prepare an asylum claim, denying women like Ms Chalimpa’s access to independent legal representation and other expert support upon which their lives depend.

Ms Chalimpa's case was refused and she had to appeal without legal representation. Her lawyer said that there was insufficient likelihood of her winning her case to justify applying for legal aid. Her appeal was refused and she is now too ill to ask for reconsideration of her case, which is her right, and as a result her case was closed. Ms Chalimpa has a one year old daughter born in the UK whom she has not seen since being detained, compounding her depression and she has
attempted suicide several times, including on Monday of this week when she was found trying to hang herself in the laundry room in Yarl’s Wood. She has no memory of what happened and is now on constant suicide watch. We are urgently trying to find her legal representation.

Ms Madina Irimeri (HO Ref: G 1121198/2 Port ref: AFC/561670) has been detained for three months in the UK and is due to be deported on 20 September. She was detained in military barracks in Uganda where she suffered rape and other torture. The Home Office refused to believe her account when she claimed asylum. Ms Irimeri's lawyer failed to keep her
informed of what was being done on her case, and she never saw what was submitted to the authorities. No expert report was commissioned by her lawyer for her appeal hearing to document Ms Irimeri's account of her experiences and investigate their impact on her. An affidavit she had got from Uganda confirming her account was dismissed by the adjudicator because it was a fax. She has obtained an original of this document but it is not clear whether her lawyers have even submitted this. She nowhas a new lawyer who is pursuing her claim.

Ms Charity Mutebwa (HO Ref: M1210512 Port Ref: CEU570884) has been detained for three months and is on the 32nd day of her hunger strike. She was taken to Uganda after her Rwandan parents were slaughtered in the genocide of 1994. As supporters of an opposition party her husband
and brother were killed and she was detained, where she was repeatedly gang raped by government soldiers. She escaped and fled to the UK but her her account of her experiences was dismissed by the Home Office and the courts. Her case was badly handled by her legal representatives – she later discovered the person representing her was a translator not a
solicitor. The firm then claimed to have no knowledge of her case and that they did not have her documents, so she could not get another solicitor to pursue her claim. Her deportation should have been stopped when a new solicitor issued legal proceedings the day before she was due to go. But she was still taken to Heathrow airport. It was only when she insisted on calling her lawyer that the Home Office who confirmed
she should not be deported. Ms Mutebwa was extremely weak and sick from her hunger strike but instead of returning to Yarl’s Wood, she was taken on a gruelling 12-hour journey to Dungavel Detention Centre in Scotland, locked in a small cell within the prison van. Ms Mutebwa’s new lawyer is pursuing her asylum claim.

Ms Grace Namanda (HO ref: N1075891 Port ref: MEU/03/3636) has been held in Yarl’s Wood for the past three months. She was diagnosed as being HIV+ and fell ill while in the UK. She claimed asylum as the treatment upon which her life depends is not available in Uganda. Although she
won her case on human rights grounds, the Home Office appealed the decision claiming the treatment she needed was available and free in Uganda. Ms Namanda's husband, father and siblings have all died because they did not get the treatment they needed. Her sister is her only remaining adult relative and is raising ten children, of whom five are orphans, but has no income. They have been depending on whatever Ms Namanda managed to send from her meager NASS support which has been stopped, so she is now extremely worried about them.

Recent press coverage has exposed how aid money meant to be funding HIV/AIDs treatment has 'disappeared'. Experts have also challenged the authenticity of the government statistics on the availability and effectiveness of its treatment programmes, which the UK authorities have been citing. Having very recently secured legal representation, Ms
Namanda has started taking a little fruit and vegetables as she was becoming too ill to pursue her case.

Ms Sophie Odogo (HO Ref: O1086410/2) was detained on 17 May 2005 and has been in Bedford Hospital since Sunday, where we have not been able to speak with her because she is too weak. She fled to the UK after a relative helped her escape detention in Uganda, where she suffered repeated rape and other torture. She was detained the day after her asylum interview. The Home Office said they did not believe her
account, citing her lack of knowledge about her husband's political activities. No expert evidence investigating and assessing the traumatic impact of her experiences was commissioned by her lawyer. Her account of rape was dismissed by the adjudicator at her appeal and her application for Judicial Review was refused. She has a new lawyer who
is pursuing her case.

Ms Enid Ruhango (HO ref: R1095499 Port ref: LBE/393901) was detained on 17 May and has also been in Bedford Hospital after she collapsed in Yarl’s Wood on Sunday. She was raped by Ugandan soldiers looking for her husband who was in the LRA, and again when she was taken into
detention. She was raped again by the man who brought her to the UK. She is HIV positive. Again no expert evidence was commissioned by her lawyer to document her experiences and needs. The Home Office and the adjudicator at her appeal dismissed her account claiming the availability of free HIV/AIDs treatment in Uganda. She too has found a new lawyer through the help of Alistair Birt MP, who has been intervening in the women’s cases.

Ms Salima Sekindi (HO ref: S1060767 Port ref: EDD/00/9612) is on the 32nd day of hunger strike. She was detained on 30 May 2005 and is due to be deported on 13/14 September. Ms Sekindi fled from Uganda after being raped by members of the security forces who came to her home looking for her husband, who was involved in the opposition. After she made her initial asylum application she never heard again from her
lawyer despite her numerous phone calls and faxes. It was only when she was picked up and taken into detention that she found out that the Home Office had refused her case. She found out that her appeal hearing had gone ahead without her knowledge and without her lawyer present. She has now found a new lawyer to pursue her case.

Since Legal Action for Women issued an asylum rights Self-Help Guide* in June, Black Women’s Rape Action Project and Women Against Rape have been inundated with calls from women in detention. Vulnerable and traumatized women are being forced onto planes with the most appalling brutality and regardless of the validity of their claim.

There is no doubt that these women will be even more vulnerable in Uganda having spoken out about the torture they suffered. Please help save the hunger strikers. Your calls/letters could be decisive. Send us a copy of anything you write to the Home Office.

Free Uganda

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