Hostile Borders Kill Women. We will not be silenced.

16 March 2021
Ffion Wyn Evans

We are deeply saddened by the case of Sarah Everard, a young woman whose life was cut short far too soon in the most violent of circumstances. 

We share in the country’s collective anger and demand justice for all women experiencing violence – on our streets, in our homes and at the hands of the State. We stand steadfast in our struggle for justice, and do so in remembrance of all the women who have been killed by police officers and border guards, in prison, in immigration detention, or in state custody. 

Our mission, in organising for dignity and justice with migrant communities, means we see every day the abuses of power and violence against migrant women. From our Community Programme Team who provide essential case work support, our self-organised Women Rights Group, to the network of organisations, partners and allies who organise and campaign with us, we know far too well how hostile and racist immigration policies are a perpetrator of violence against women. 

The Government’s hostile and racist border regime is a key perpetrator of violence.  Violence isn’t always a striking hand or a physical force. It can be invisible, it can be emotional, it can be financial. It takes many forms but it is always abusive. The state perpetrates violence against migrant women in many ways:

Immigration Detention and Removal

Immigration Detention and Removal Centres are an act of violence on our women. Many women who are detained are survivors of trafficking, gender based violence and need protection and support not further violence. Earlier this month Priti Patel announced plans to open a new detention centre for migrant women.  These plans must be rejected, campaigns such as Set her Free by Women for Refugee Women are vital in resisting the damage done by this violence. 

Excluding migrant women from accessing life-saving services

The Domestic Abuse Bill, is seen as a landmark moment for protecting survivors of domestic abuse. However, it won’t protect all women. The Step Up Migrant Women Network have highlighted that many migrant women will be excluded as many will be unable to access the life-saving services survivors need. 

Additionally, through our Patients Not Passports campaign we know of women being too afraid to access medical help for fear of being charged thousands of pounds for treatment. Denying essential and much needed treatment is an act of violence. 

Traps women into destitution, poverty and isolation

Many do not have the right to work – including women who are seeking asylum or who are undocumented. Additionally they will only have limited or no access to state support, through punishing no Recourse to Public Funds conditions attached to immigration status . This pushes women into exploitative and dangerous situations. Trapping women into destitution is an act of violence. The devastating yet avoidable tragedy of Mercy Baguma, who starved to death next to her young baby boy should be our raw, desperate and unfiltered rally cry for justice. Sisters Not Strangers is organising to end destitution. 

Making them unsafe in their “homes”

Throughout the pandemic, destitute asylum seeking women have been forced to live in hotels provided by the government. The conditions within these hotels have been labelled as unfit for purpose, and their shocking realities are now being exposed. We know of mothers with young babies, who have been left with no support, without nappies or milk for their babies, without nutritious food and forced to live off £8 per week. We know of women who are too afraid to ask for help. This is an act of physical and mental abuse. 

Women have nowhere to turn

The Hostile Environment embeds immigration controls into every aspect of society: it recruits all those whose job it is to provide care and support to be border guards. The Hostile Environment policy ruins lives – it makes people destitute, street homeless, isolated and live in a constant fear. Migrant women are at the sharp end of this, and we demand a change. 

Today we stand in solidarity with all women who are affected and all who are expressing their anger at this moment. Justice and dignity is needed, and Migrants Organise will not rest until all women are safe. 

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Now is the time to resist hostile and racist borders.

Migrants Organise is a platform where migrants, refugees connect, build common ground, organise for dignity and justice for all.

We are building a movement for migrant justice, please sign and support our call for fair, humane immigration reform.

Below, we have listed organisations who are working to advance the rights and safety of migrant women: 

Women for Refugee Women 

Kanlungan

Latin American Women’s Refugee Services

Voices of Domestic Workers

The Monitoring Group 

Southall Black Sisters

Sisters Uncut

Sisters Not Strangers

Patients Not Passports

Women Asylum Seekers Together

Middle East Women and Society Organisation (MEWSo)

Sisters United Halifax

Step Up Migrant Women

Soas Detainee Support

Voices of Domestic Workers

IKWRO – Women’s Rights Organisation  

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