7 February 2014
According to UK Home Office statistics, 1,902 women seeking asylum were detained in 2012 in the UK, which equates to roughly a third of women asylum applicants for this period. Of the 46 detained women interviewed for a new report by UK-based NGO Women for Refugee Women, over 85% said they had been raped or tortured in their country of origin. More than half said they had thought about suicide during detention, and more than one in five had attempted to kill themselves.
Of the 1,867 women asylum seekers who left detention in 2012, 40% had been detained for more than a month and only 36% were removed from the UK.
Half of the interviewed women claimed they were subjected to verbal abuse by a member of staff and four alleged physical or sexual assault.
Women for Refugee Women recommend that female asylum seekers are not detained while their asylum cases are being considered. This is especially the case for those who allege experiences of rape, sexual violence, and other forms of torture. If detention is ever necessary, it must be for the purpose of removal, only after alternatives to detention have been meaningfully considered and must be for the shortest possible time and in any event less than 28 days. In addition, free and quality legal advice must be available to all detainees.
Women for Refugee Women argues that there are such serious flaws in the screening process of the Detained Fast Track procedure – according to which the whole asylum case is heard in detention within 7-14 days – and in asylum seekers’ ability to get a fair hearing in the fast track that this process should be ended.