Why does the English government hate Black Jamaican woman, Pauline Taylor-French?

Graham French and Pauline Taylor-French

Why does the English government hate Pauline Taylor-French? Pauline Taylor-French is now 45 years old. At the age of 28, Pauline Taylor-French found herself in an abusive relationship, took her two daughters and fled Jamaica. She went to England, where she has lived, and thrived, for 17 years. For 17 years, Pauline Taylor-French lived `legally’ in England on a series of student visas. A few years ago, she met Graham French. Soon after, they established a home together. They became engaged. In 2017, Pauline Taylor and Graham French were engaged and making their wedding plans. Then, in September 2017, Pauline Taylor was taken to Yarl’s Wood, where she was detained for 24 days. Pauline Taylor and Graham French have since married. Pauline Taylor-French is married to a citizen of the United Kingdom. Both of Pauline Taylor-French’s grandmothers were British citizens. Pauline Taylor’s grandfather fought with the Royal Navy in World War II. None of that seems to matter. Why does none of that matter? Why does the English government go out of its way to demonstrate its hatred for Pauline Taylor-French?

While in Yarl’s Wood for 24 days, Pauline Taylor-French lost 14 pounds. She engaged in self harm. She was put on suicide watch. Reflecting on their situation, Graham French says, “Why are they treating us like this? All her family are here, they have settled status, she has British grandparents, she’s married to me I’m a British citizen, we meet all the criteria for a spouse visa. She almost died when she was detained, being sent to Jamaica could kill her.”

Being sent to Jamaica could kill her. As far as the English government is concerned, that’s fine. Pauline Taylor-French was never meant to survive: “Where an application has been refused and a person has no legal basis to remain in the UK, they should make arrangements to leave.” If being in Jamaica kills her, that’s Pauline Taylor-French’s fault. The Home Office is only following orders.

Why does the English government hate Pauline Taylor-French? A year ago, we asked why the English government hates 59-year-old Yvonne Williams and 64-year-old Yvonne Smith, both originally Jamaican and both with no ties left in Jamaica? Two years ago, we asked why the English government hates 61-year old Paulette Wilson, born in Jamaica and with no ties left in Jamaica? Nine years ago, we asked why the English government hates Jamaican born asylum seekers Denise McNeill, 35 years old, and Shellyann Stupart, at that time both involved in a hunger strike at Yarl’s Wood.

In 2014, we asked why the English government hates 40-year-old Jamaican born Christine Case. Officially Christine Case died of a massive pulmonary thromboembolism, but fellow prisoners said Christine Case was denied medical assistance. Christine Case called for help, as she was feeling severe chest pains, and the `care’ she received was paracetamol, a mild analgesic for minor aches and pains.  Serco runs Yarl’s Wood. Serco claimed they have “24-hour, seven-day urgent medical cover on site at Yarl’s Wood.” Ask Christine Case.

That was 2014. In 1993, immigration officers killed 40-year-old Jamaican Joy Gardner, 40, as her five-year-old son and her mother watched. Joy Gardner had applied for compassionate leave to remain in England. She had no idea that her appeal had been denied. The police showed up and opened fire. Twenty years later, Joy Gardner’s mother, Myrna Simpson, says, simply, “We need justice for our children, our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren.” Who remembers Joy Gardner? Who remembers Christine Case?

These Jamaican born women are surrounded and embraced by Black and Brown sisters from across the Global South and East: Evenia Mawongera, from Zimbabwe; Opelo Kgari and Florence Kgari, from Botswana; Lazia NabbanjaErioth MwesigwaBetty Tibikawa, from Uganda; Kelechi ChiobaAderonke Apata, from Nigeria; Lydia Besong, from Cameroon; Dianne Ngoza, from the DRC; Mabel Gawanas, from Namibia; Mariam Ibrahim Yusuf, from Somalia; Chennan Fei, from China; Shiromini Satkunarajah, from Sri Lanka; Irene Clennell, from Singapore; Bita Ghaedi, from Iran; Azbaa Dar, from Pakistan. So many named, so many unnamed. This is but a sliver of the empire of hatred being constructed by immigration regimes, in England, the United States, Australia, and beyond. Why does England hate Pauline Taylor-French?

This week the Home Office gave Pauline Taylor-French a 30-month stay… and then what? Two years of intense struggle, fear, anxiety, terror do not just go away, nor are they meant to. Too often have we asked why this State or that State hates this Black woman or that Brown woman. The time for questions is over. It’s time, way past time, to turn down the walls, to end the terror, to reckon with the hatred of women of color, to confront the policies that are today’s iteration of empire as genocide. “They should make arrangements to leave.”

Christine Case

(Photo Credit 1: Shropshire Star) (Photo Credit 2: BBC)

Why does the English government hate Yvonne Williams and Yvonne Smith?

Hostile environment

Why does the English government hate Yvonne Williams and Yvonne Smith? Yvonne Williams is 59 years old, Black, a grandmother, a Jamaican-born immigrant with no family left in Jamaica. Yvonne Williams has been in England since 2002. She has been the primary carer for her grandchildren. She has also tended to her 82-year-old mother, who arrived in England in 1962. Yvonne Smith is 64 years old, Black, a grandmother, a Jamaican-born immigrant with no family left in Jamaica. Yvonne Smith has been in England for twenty years. She has been the primary carer for her 92-year-old father, who arrived in England in 1957. Both Yvonne Williams and Yvonne Smith spent the last nine months in Yarl’s Wood, and both were informed last week that they were to be deported any day now. In the past four days, both Yvonne Williams and Yvonne Smith were released from Yarl’s Wood, but the cloud of deportation, intimidation and abuse still hangs over them. What horrible crime have these two blameless Black grandmothers committed? Migrating while Black; living while Black.

The English government has hated so very many women of color, women whom they’ve dumped into Yarl’s Wood, terrorized, and then either `released’ or deported. In the past year, that list includes Kelechi Chioba,  Erioth MwesigwaShiromini SatkunarajahIrene ClennellChennan Fei, Patricia Simeon, Opelo Kgari, Florence Kgari, and Paulette Wilson. Paulette Wilson is 61 years old, Black, a grandmother, a Jamaican-born immigrant who arrived in England at the age of 10, in 1968.

After World War II, England needed labor and so `encouraged’ migration from the Empire and the Commonwealth nations. It passed the British Nationality Act of 1948 which gave citizenship to anyone living in the United Kingdom and its colonies and offered the right of entry and settlement. In June 1948 the HMT Empire Windrush brought 492 people from Jamaica to England. The generation of Afro-Caribbean women, men, children who went to England, to rebuild the country, is known as the Windrush Generation. Paulette Wilson, Yvonne Williams and Yvonne Smith are members of the Windrush Generation.

In 2012, then Home Secretary Theresa May revealed her “hostile environment” plan: “The aim is to create here in Britain a really hostile environment for illegal migration.” In 2014, that plan became law. The problem is that the Windrush generation, including their children, are legal. Being legal doesn’t mean one can’t be, or become, criminalized, especially if one is Black. Recently, the Home Department revealed that it kept “`ambitious but deliverable’ removal targets.” With that revelation, and the flood of stories of Windrush individuals and families, the so-called Windrush Scandal erupted. Now the State has apologized … sort of. Now the State claims that citizenship will endow to members of the Windrush generation, all members of Commonwealth nations who came during the same period, and children of the Windrush Generation. Meanwhile, Yvonne Smith is still being told she might be deported.

The ”hostile environment” is a hateful environment. Its use of health service data to restrict immigration is “a very bad idea”, and intentionally so. The “hostile environment” has spread to other countries in the European Union and to the criminalization of migrants, immigrants, and those who support them: “The hostile environment permeates deeper and it’s very easy once a destabilising environment has been established for it to permeate through the layers to a very low level indeed.” Abusive and violent men are using the “hostile environment” to threaten, control and hurt their partners. None of this is surprising. The “hostile environment” is designed as a reign of terror, which targets women particularly.

It permeates through the layers to a very low level indeed. Hostility identifies its “target” as an enemy. Not an outsider nor a stranger, but an enemy. A “hostile environment” is a declaration of war, and this particular war is being waged on the bodies of elder Black women. Ending the “hostile environment” policy is a small, and necessary, step. The larger step would be to recognize that the “hostile environment” is a “hateful environment”, and then, having named the violence as hatred, address the hatred. Why does the English government hate blameless Black elder women  Paulette Wilson, Yvonne Williams and Yvonne Smith? The hostile environment. It’s not hostility; it’s hatred.

Yvette Williams visits her mother

 

(Photo Credit 1: The Guardian / Home Office) (Photo Credit 2: Independent)

Why does the English government hate Opelo Kgari and Florence Kgari?

Opelo Kgari

The hunger strike at Yarl’s Wood is now in its second week. In the past week, the Home Office first tried to claim there was no hunger strike, then tried to claim that if there was a hunger strike there was no reason for it, and finally lit upon the great idea of claiming the hunger strike was for dietary and religious reasons. None of these patent lies worked, the hunger strike continues, and the support for it deepens and grows. Meanwhile, on Saturday, Opelo Kgari, one of the spokespersons for the hunger strikers, and her mother, Florence Kgari, were, without notice, dumped into a van, hauled to Heathrow, and told that they were to be dumped onto an 8:15 pm Ethiopian Airlines flight to Addis Ababa. Opelo Kgari and Florence Kgari are originally from Botswana. Thanks to last minute interventions, the two were `spared’ that ordeal … and returned to Yarl’s Wood. Why does the English government hate Opelo Kgari and her mother, Florence Kgari?

Opelo Kgari is 27 years old. She has lived in England since she was 13 years old. She excelled in secondary school, and has an unblemished record of accomplishment. Last May, on her way back from a brief holiday with friends in Belfast, Opelo Kgari was thrown into a holding cell for 12 hours … for no apparent reason. Six weeks ago, Opelo Kgari dutifully reported to the Home Office, as she does every two weeks, and was thrown into a holding cell, again for 12 hours, and then shipped to Yarl’s Wood: “This time round, I wasn’t even wearing a bra. I was going to yoga with a friend after reporting to the Home Office, so I just threw a coat on. I never got to the class. They put me and my mum in a holding cell for over 12 hours, with three officers outside. I didn’t have a bra for five days once I got here, or a change of underwear.” What justifies such inhumane treatment?

Opelo Kgari has been asking that exact question, on her own and as one of the spokespersons for the 120 women on hunger strike in Yarl’s Wood. Opelo Kgari has become the spokesperson partially because her English is so good, but more because she has much to say about the conditions and their impact on the women: “There’s one woman who spends all day walking around the centre with a packed handbag, claiming she had everything she needs in there. She’s clearly not well. And there’s an Iranian woman who’s on suicide watch. Officers just sit outside her cell with the door open. She clearly shouldn’t be in here at all. It’s inhumane.”

It’s inhumane. Hatred is always inhumane. Why does the English government hate Erioth Mwesigwa, Shiromini Satkunarajah, Irene Clennell, Chennan Fei, Kelechi Chioba, Paulette Wilson, Patricia Simeon, Lazia Nabbanja, and this is only a partial list of prominent cases within the last twelve months. Why does the English government hate Opelo Kgari and her mother, Florence Kgari? What is the point of a policy that predictably traumatizes women, of whom the majority are women of color? The Independent has put a focus on Opelo Kgari’s situation, calling it “a terrible case” and, echoing Opelo Kgari, a facet of England’s inhumane immigration system. Today, Independent reporter Charlotte England wrote, “Saturday night was a victory. But we must keep paying attention to what is happening in Yarl’s Wood — where Opelo is still being held against her will and still faces deportation — and other similar facilities, and we must keep putting pressure on politicians to end detention and unlawful, unjust deportations entirely.”

Deportation is preceded by incarceration. For those not deported, incarceration has preceded “community release.” In either case, “incarceration” is a cover for institutional violence against women. Why does the English government hate Opelo Kgari and Florence Kgari?

 

(Photo Credit: Independent)

At Yarl’s Wood, 120 women prisoners are on hunger strike! #ShutYarlsWood


England built a special hell for women: Yarl’s Wood. This week, 120 Yarl’s Wood women prisoners are on hunger strike. The women are protesting indefinite detention, abysmal healthcare services, abuse, and denial of personal and collective dignity and humanity. Today, after being denied entry for a year, shadow home secretary Diane Abbott was finally allowed inside the complex. Abbott was accompanied by Shami Chakrabarti, the shadow attorney general. Eight years ago, to the day, women prisoners at Yarl’s Wood engaged in a hunger strike from February 5 to March 19, 2010. That same year, in January, Bita Ghaedi entered into a weeks long individual hunger strike, out of fear of certain death if she was returned to Iran. In March 2015, women prisoners at Yarl’s Wood went on a hunger strike. Why does England, or the government of England, want to demean, abuse and traumatized so many vulnerable already traumatized women, most of women are African and Asian? Why does England hate so many women so intensely? When will this reign of terror end?

One hunger striker, an Algerian woman who has lived in England since she was 11 years old, explained, “Every day I wake up and I have to think of a reason to go on. I’ve given up thinking about the outside – I’ve given up thinking about it. I feel like I’m in someone’s dungeon and no one is letting me out. I might as well be blindfolded in a van going 100 miles an hour in a direction I don’t know. The indefinite detention causes people so much stress. People are breaking down psychologically. We have no fight left. They break you down. It’s inhumane. And there’s no psychological help. I’ve tried speaking to a psychological nurse in the centre about issues I have, and he advised me to speak to my solicitor about it.” This woman has been in Yarl’s Wood for three months. She has no idea if and when she will be released.

In 2017, `Voke’ spent eight months in Yarl’s Wood. While imprisoned there, she attempted suicide: “It was such a relief to get out of there. But I don’t understand why they had to put me through it at all. I hope I will start to feel better soon, but I will never forget being detained. I will never forget Yarl’s Wood.”

Eight years ago, Yarl’s Wood hunger strikers – including Denise McNeil, 35 year old Jamaican asylum seeker; Mojirola Daniels, Nigerian asylum seeker; Leila, Iranian asylum seeker; Victoria Odeleye, 32 year old Nigerian asylum seeker –  reported torture, rape, starvation, other forms of abuse. They described the devastating impact of Yarl’s Wood on imprisoned children, such as 10-year-old Egyptian Nardin Mansour. They mourned and protested the suicides as they explained that Yarl’s Wood was intent on killing them. As Laura A, a Sierra Leonean and former Yarl’s Wood prisoner, noted: “I am a fighter, I am used to fight to live, but to be told, ‘You faked your life,’ is a little like death.”

The Yarl’s Wood women hunger strikers took the calculus of the killing and turned it on its head, saying they were better than that. They said they were women, fighters used to fighting, peacemakers used to making peace, and no one could decide that it was right for them to be slaughtered. They called out, shouted, screamed, fasted, demanded to be heard … and here we are eight years later.

Over 80 percent of the women in Yarl’s Wood are survivors fleeing sexual or gender-based violence. The vast majority of women in Yarl’s Wood end up being released into the community. What sort of factory is designed to produce damage: damaged bodies, souls, psyches, lives? Yarl’s Wood. The time for concern and for discussion is over. The time for justice, and for reparations, is long overdue. Shut Yarl’s Wood down; do it now.

 

(Photo Credit: Politics.co.uk) (Image Credit: Detained Voices)

Why does England hate Ugandan lesbian asylum seeker Lazia Nabbanja? #SetHerFree

Why does England hate Ugandan lesbian asylum seeker Lazia Nabbanja? For that matter, why has England hated Ugandan lesbian asylum seekers Brenda Namigadde, Jackie Nanyonjo, Betty Tibikawa, Anne Nasozzi and so many others? Why has England invested so much time, energy, resources into torturing these women who have already been tortured by their families, neighbors and the State? Why does England continue to subject lesbian asylum seekers to the degradations and humiliations of the society of the queer spectacle? What threat do these Black lesbian women pose to the security of England and Wales? Today, Lazia Nabbanja, just another Ugandan lesbian asylum seeker, sits in Yarl’s Wood awaiting deportation. Why?

Lazia Nabbanja’s story is all too familiar. In 2009, Lazia Nabbanja’s family forced her to marry a man. Seven years later he discovered her with her girlfriend. He beat her and left her unconscious. She fled, first to her grandparents’ house and then to the United Kingdom, where she applied for asylum. In England, Home Affairs decided that Lazia Nabbanja is not sufficiently lesbian to warrant asylum and sent her to Yarl’s Wood. Lazia Nabbanja’s story is all too familiar.

Despite Lazia Nabbanja’s story, including photos, being spread across Ugandan media, Home Affairs claims that she would not be in danger if she returned “home.” Again, Lazia Nabbanja’s story is all too familiar. This is the story of Brenda Namigadde, Jackie Nanyonjo, Betty Tibikawa, Anne Nasozzi, and now Lazia Nabbanja.

An online petition is circulating: URGENT: STOP THE REMOVAL OF LAZIA NABBANJA (A LESBIAN WOMAN) TO UGANDA. Please consider signing it. Consider, as well, the urgency of this question: Why does England hate Lazia Nabbanja?

 

(Photo Credit: The Independent / The Petition Site)

In England, it’s official. Immigrant detention is bad for health. Shut them down!

Today, the British Medical Association issued a report calling for the closure of immigration removal centers. They’re bad for the detainees’ health. The British Medical Association, or BMA, “is the voice of doctors and medical students in the UK. It is an apolitical, professional organisation and independent trade union, representing doctors and medical students from all branches of medicine across the UK and supporting them to deliver the highest standards of care.” While nothing in the report is particularly new, it’s the first time the doctors’ union has formally acted.

According to the BMA, “The UK operates one of the largest immigration detention systems in Europe. It holds around 3,500 individuals in 11 immigration removal centres (IRCs) at any one time. There is no fixed time limit on immigration detention in the UK. This means detention can be for an indeterminate period. Individuals will rarely know the term of their detention. The BMA believes immigration detention should be phased out, and replaced with more humane means of monitoring people facing removal from the UK.”

The report is a study in the obvious. Detention is bad, worse for those living with mental health issues. Detention is particularly bad for the most vulnerable. The negative impacts of detention don’t end when detainees leave the prisons. The obviousness is the point. What kind of world needs yet another study to tell us that prison is bad for survivors of torture, rape, persecution, genocidal violence? What kind of world needs yet another study to tell us that the most vulnerable are most vulnerable?

What follows are excerpts from the report. Read them and weep.

“Various studies have identified the negative impact of immigration on mental health, and that the severity of this impact increases the longer detention continues. Depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are the most common mental health problems, and women, asylum seekers, and victims of torture are particularly vulnerable. Even if it does not reach a clinical threshold, all immigration detainees will face challenges to their wellbeing during their time in detention.”

“Detention can be especially detrimental to the health of more vulnerable individuals (including children, pregnant women, victims of torture, and those with serious mental illness) who should only be detained in exceptional circumstances.”

“Women:

–– Various bodies of work show increasing evidence that women in detention have distinct needs and particular problems and vulnerabilities.
–– Pregnant women have specific health needs, and can be particularly vulnerable in detention. [NB: Pregnant women are identified in the Home Office guidance asbeing particularly vulnerable to harm in detention.]
–– Women experience the same prior traumatic experiences as men, but can also experience trauma that is specific to women, such as female genital mutilation (FGM). They are also more commonly, but not exclusively, the victims of domestic or sexual violence, or trafficking. They are therefore likely to require care and interventions that acknowledge the differences in their experience and context. [NB. Victims of sexual or gender-based violence (including FGM) or victims of human trafficking or modern slavery are identified in the Home Office guidance as being particularly vulnerable to harm in detention.]
“–– Immigration detention has a negative impact on mental health;
–– The severity of the impact on mental health increases the longer detention continues;
–– Depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are the most common mental health problems;
–– Women, asylum seekers, and victims of torture are all particularly vulnerable groups; and
–– The negative impact on mental health persists long after detention.”

“Retraumatisation can take on specific forms. Female asylum seekers, for example, report higher levels of sexual assault and gender-based violence, yet are frequently detained in centres with male custody staff, where a number of allegations of sexual assault have been made. The Home Office has continually refused to release details of the allegations or the outcomes of investigations. The detention environment may also be particularly retraumatising for LGBT individuals, many of whom will have faced persecution, victimisation, and violence as a result of their identity.”

The United Kingdom has 11 immigration removal centers: Brook House, Campsfield House, Colnbrook, Dungavel House, Harmondsworth, Larne House, Morton Hall, Pennine House, The Verne, Tinsley House, and Yarl’s Wood. They are factories for the production of trauma, and the assembly line is speeding up. The time for “concern” is over. The 11 black sites are a constellation of abomination: bad for the health of detainees, democracy, and humanity. Tear them down now. Shut Yarl’s Wood, shut all 11 centers, and shut their fraternal order of detention centers across the “free world”. Do it now! The doctors have spoken.

 

(Photo and image credit: The Justice Gap)

Why does the English government hate Paulette Wilson and Patricia Simeon?

Paulette Wilson

Why does the English government hate Paulette Wilson and Patricia Simeon? What horrible crime has each committed? The only binding element in their combined story is that they are Black immigrant women. Individually, each woman’s story shows a State built of shameful violence against women. Taken together, the combined story of Paulette Wilson and Patricia Simeon shows a State in which State violence against women of color immigrants is an ever expanding and intensifying evil, a key part of which is the humdrum ordinariness of the women’s stories. What happened and is happening to Paulette Wilson and Patricia Simeon happens every day and all the time. Their stories are so common they barely get told.

Paulette Wilson is 61 years old. She arrived in England, from Jamaica, in 1968, when she was 10 years old. She has never left England. She has never returned to Jamaica. She grew up in Telford, where her grandparents looked after her. She has a British daughter and grandchild. She has 34 years of National Insurance payments. The law in the United Kingdom states that anyone who settled there prior to January 1, 1973, has the right to remain in the country. Paulette Wilson’s lawyers provided evidence, ample evidence, that she had been in the country since 1968, and that evidence was ignored. Last week, she was taken to Yarl’s Wood. Today, she and her daughter were informed that she was going to be released. When asked about the “heavy handed” approach applied to this Black woman who has lived, nonstop and without trouble for 50 years in the country, when asked about the reasons for ignoring both the law and evidence, the Home Office replied, “We do not routinely comment on individual cases.”

In so many ways, this is not an individual case; in so many ways, this case is routine.

Just down the road a bit lies Sheffield, where Patricia Simeon has lived since 2012. Patricia Simeon is 30 years old, Hal Paulette Wilson’s age. Patricia Simeon is a lesbian organizer and human rights campaigner from Sierra Leone. She is locally well known for campaigning for LGBT+, refugee, and faith community rights. She is one of the founders of LASS, the Lesbian Asylum Support Sheffield group. Initially refused asylum, Patricia Simeon was preparing for a November 7 appeal when, last Wednesday, she was picked up and dumped in Yarl’s Wood. Friends and allies launched a campaign to set her free. They noted that Patricia Simeon has provided ample evidence of having been tortured, which means, according to Home Office rules, she should never have been detained. As with Paulette Wilson, the rules and evidence were ignored. On Tuesday, Patricia Simeon was released from Yarl’s Wood.

While the release of both Paulette Wilson and Patricia Simeon is a cause for celebration, the question remains, “Why does the English government hate Paulette Wilson and Patricia Simeon?” They join the list of women of color immigrant women who have had to live with that same question, a list that includes, in the past seven months alone, Kelechi Chioba,  Erioth MwesigwaShiromini SatkunarajahIrene ClennellChennan Fei. As members of #SetHerFree and Movement for Justice By Any Means Necessary know, and as every woman who’s been held in or threatened with a stay in Yarl’s Wood, there is no setting free and there is no justice until Yarl’s Wood and its adjudicating apparatus is destroyed, once and for all, brick by brick, razor wire by razor wire, pen by pen. Shut Yarl’s Wood down; do it now!

Patricia Simeon

(Photo Credit 1: BBC) (Photo Credit 2: Change.org)

Why does the English government hate Kelechi Chioba?

Kelechi Chioba

Why does the English government hate 36-year-old Kelechi Chioba? What horrible crime has she committed? The same crime committed by other immigrant women of color: Mabel Gawanas, Dianne Ngoza, Erioth Mwesigwa, Shiromini Satkunarajah, Irene Clennell, Chennan Fei, to name only the most recent. Is it that Kelechi Chioba lives with physical disabilities and mental health issues? Is it that Kelechi Chioba is a disability rights activist and fiercely independent? Is it that Kelechi Chioba applied for asylum? Is it that Kelechi Chioba is a Black African woman? Is it that Kelechi Chioba is a queer woman? Is it that Kelechi Chiobia is a queer Black African woman? Is it that Kelechi Chioba is a Black Nigerian woman? Yes, to each and all of the above. Each attribute is another “crime” committed against the State, and so Kelechi Chioba has been told to prepare for Yarl’s Wood and then for the long trip “home”, to the place where she was deemed a “curse” and beaten and abandoned. That’s why it’s called criminal justice.

Kelechi Chioba’s story is one of self-determination and autonomy. Living with polio and scoliosis, Kelechi Chioba was viewed as a “curse” by her family, in particular by her father. She was beaten by family members. In response, she decided to work, save her money, and go to England to study. While working and saving, she was sexually abused at work. Desperate, she attempted suicide. Finally, Kelechi Chioba saved enough money to pay for her visa and fees, and moved to England, in 2011, where she studied hospital, health and social care at the University of Wolverhampton. When Kelechi Chioba arrived in England, she used crutches, but by 2014, her physical condition had changed such that she became wheelchair reliant. She needed operations. Her arm deteriorated, which meant she needed an electric wheelchair. Every step of the way, Kelechi Chioba paid her way. For that reason, in 2014, she had to suspend classes. At that point, Kelechi Chioba applied for asylum.

During her time at Wolverhampton, and since, Kelechi Chioba has been a prominent and leading activist. For example, in 2014, she signed an open letter supporting the right to free education. Her signature read: “Kelechi Chioba, Black students’ committee and disabled students’ rep, NUS”. She has worked continually for the National Union of Students (NUS) Disabled Students Campaign and Black Students Campaign. As Kelechi Chioba explains, ““I’m someone who believes that disability is not the same as incapability. I believe that I can do things with my life. I want to make a change, I want to progress. When I came to the UK the education system inspired me to become an activist. Thanks to the freedoms this culture offers me, I now have the courage to talk about what happened to me, and I want to help other victims of violence and abuse to talk about their experiences.”

Kelechi Chioba organizes and encourages, and she and her supporters wait to see what happens next. This week, Liz Truss, the “Justice” Secretary, proposed a new fast track system for asylum seekers. The last fast track system was an atrocity, but that doesn’t matter. In a global economy of miserable efficiencies, in which women who seek haven are criminalized and then forced to pay for “the troubles” they have caused. Fast track is just another way of proving time is money, and Black women’s lives are cheap. Why does the English government hate Kelechi Chioba? Because she wants to help create a world in which a disabled Black queer woman living with mental health concerns can live happily and productively, with dignity and self-respect. And that desire is a crime. #SaveKelechi

(Photo Credit: YouCaring)

Why does the English government hate Chennan Fei?

Chennan Fei

Why does the English government hate 28-year-old Chennan Fei? What horrible crime has she committed? The same crime committed by other immigrant women of color: Mabel Gawanas, Dianne Ngoza, Erioth Mwesigwa, Shiromini Satkunarajah, and Irene Clennell, to name a few. Chennan Fei is blameless. She has done everything right, and, in the spectacle of State intimidation of immigrant women of color, that counts for less than nothing.

In 2002, Chennan Fei, then 13 years old, was brought by her parents to Scotland. Her parents were on student visas. Chennan Fei grew up in Glasgow, attended school there and university in Edinburgh, developed a community of friends, fell in love in Glasgow and thrived. Glasgow is Chennan Fei’s home.

Unbeknownst to Chennan Fei, her parents’ visa expired a few years after their arrival. Then, in 2012, the then-Home Secretary Theresa May announced new, stringent restrictions on immigrants. Tucked into the new menu was the withdrawal of Paragraph 276B(i)(b) of the Immigration Rules, which allowed for settlement in the United Kingdom after 14 years’ residence. With that, Chennan Fei was thrown into limbo, and, until recently, she had no idea.

On March 23, Chennan Fei was arrested and taken to Dungavel Immigration Removal Centre. On March 25, she was moved to Yarl’s Wood and told she would be deported to China today, Wednesday, March 29.

While in Yarl’s Wood, Chennan Fei wrote: “It’s a strange feeling. Although they say it’s not a prison, I am trapped. My mind and my body wants to be liberated. I can’t seem to remember much from the last few days, and this agonising feeling just grows stronger every passing day. Being here is mind numbing, I see others losing track of the date and time. I just hope I don’t have to stay here too long. I want to come home to Scotland.”

Her partner Duncan Harkness says: “Chennan …  is deeply loved by a wide circle of friends and family … As Chennan moved to the UK as a young child, she has no friends, family or contacts in China. It would be inhumane to deport her back to a country where she has no support, nowhere to stay and no family to provide assistance.”

Chennan Fei’s local MP, Anne McLaughlin, says, “I met Chennan 18 months ago when she visited my Glasgow North East constituency to explain the circumstances surrounding her current immigration status. I was very impressed with this sensitive, intelligent young woman. Although, there is no rule or provision in the Immigration Act that deals directly with the ‘children’ of over-stayers, for Chennan to be exiled from all her friends and family in the UK is an extremely harsh decision for the Home Office to make. Chennan is now 28 years old and has lived more than half her life in Scotland. She has a Scottish partner and most definitely established a strong ‘private life’ here. Although her almost 15 years living in the UK may not be considered ‘legal’, this is through no fault of Chennan’s. She is blameless.”

Her attorney Usman Aslam, agrees, “Chennan, despite having funded her education from her own resources, having attained a degree in accountancy through the University of Edinburgh and having integrated within society and being involved in community activities, was still considered as someone who should be sent away from Scotland. The decision shocked a number of local groups with which she had volunteered. Chennan hopes to ultimately be granted leave to remain so that she can look forward to her life in the community and country that she loves.”

A friend, Annette Christie, started a petition, “Help Chennan Fei stay in Scotland“. Thus far, over 2000 people have signed. Please consider adding your name.

On Tuesday night, Chennan Fei was given a temporary reprieve, and today returned by train to Glasgow. She now awaits her next court appearance. Who benefits from such persecution? This form of structural and immediate brutality etches into the body and soul of the blameless, the individuals and their communities, that, despite all evidence to the contrary, they are the ones who bear the blame, the ones who dared to call this place home. That’s why the English government hates Chennan Fei. #SaveChennanFei

(Photo Credit: Change.org)

Why does England hate Erioth Mwesigwa, Shiromini Satkunarajah, and Irene Clennell?

Irene Clennell

Why does the English government hate Erioth Mwesigwa, Shiromini Satkunarajah, and Irene Clennell? What horrible crime has each committed? Individually, each woman’s story shows a State built of shameful violence against women. Taken together, the collective story of Erioth Mwesigwa, Shiromini Satkunarajah, and Irene Clennell shows a State in which “callous attitudes towards immigrants” entails expanding and intensifying evil, a key part of which is the humdrum ordinariness of the women’s stories. What happened and is happening to Erioth Mwesigwa, Shiromini Satkunarajah and Irene Clennell happens every day and all the time. It is the State unguent that keeps the everyday together.

More than 30 years ago, Erioth Mwesigwa’s husband was suspected of opposing Milton Obote, the then-President of Uganda. Her husband escaped and made it to England, where he was given asylum. Erioth Mwesigwa stayed, was imprisoned and raped by soldiers. Finally, Erioth Mwesigwa escaped prison and went into hiding. She changed hiding places repeatedly. Her godfather, who hid her at one point, was killed.  In 2002, Erioth Mwesigwa fled Uganda and made her way to England. She has lived in England for nearly 14 years. Recently, she was detained and sent to Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre. On February 10, guards came to take her to the airport and “remove” her to Uganda. Erioth Mwesigwa reportedly politely but firmly declined the invitation. The guards backed off, threatening to return with more force.

Erioth Mwesigwa has been an active, vocal and visible member of the All African Women’s Group, a self-help group of women asylum seekers, immigrants and refugees, formed in 2003. Erioth Mwesigwa called the All African Women’s Group and left this message: “I do not understand why the Home Office gave refugee status to my ex-husband, who thankfully was able to escape with our children before anything terrible happened, yet refuses it to me when I was the one unable to get out in time and so suffered the terrible consequences. It took many years for me to escape from Uganda after the imprisonment and rapes. I lived those years in constant fear; hiding from place to place, rarely leaving the house and only in darkness. I had lost all hope, self-confidence, and nearly my mind. Finally I was found and ordered to make my husband come back to Uganda. My friends told me that I would be killed and organized my escape to the UK. It is here that I have found people who love and care for me. The men who abused me in Uganda are still in positions of authority. I can never go back and be safe.”

Shiromini Satkunarajah studies engineering at Bangor University and is an exceptional student. Shiromini Satkunarajah arrived in the United Kingdom eight years ago, at the age of 12. She worked hard, studied hard, and planned hard. She, her father and mother had fled the civil war in Sri Lanka, and had arrived on her father’s student visa. When her father died, in 2011, she and her mother, Roshani, were allowed to stay so as to complete her studies. On February 21, they appeared for their regular sign-in and were informed that Shiromini Satkunarajah’s application for full student visa was denied. The two were taken home to pack, taken back to the local police station where they were held for two days, and then carted off to Yarl’s Wood, where they were told they would be shipped off to Sri Lanka, Tuesday, February 28.

More than 165,000 people signed a petition to overturn the petition. Her local Member of Parliament waged a mighty campaign within the halls of the legislature. Clergy and other prominent figures lobbied and urged. At the eleventh hour, Shiromini Satkunarajah and her mother were told they would be set free, and that Shiromini Satkunarajah could return to her studies.

On Sunday, February 26, Irene Clennell was forcibly put on a plane to Singapore.

Irene Clennell moved to England in 1988. Two years later, she met and married an Englishman, John. They have two children together, and one grandchild, all in England. For the past few years, Irene Clennell has been the primary carer for her husband, who has suffered various major illnesses. Starting in 1990, Irene Clennell was given indefinite leave to remain in the UK. During that time, she spent periods in Singapore caring for her parents before they died. Recently passed laws require that a couple can demonstrate long periods of uninterrupted time living in the United Kingdom. Because Irene Clennell took care of her parents when they were dying, she was picked up, carted off to Dungavel House Immigration Removal Centre, in Scotland, and from there, with £12 in her pocket and the clothes on her back, she was shipped off to Singapore.

Now the 53-year-old grandmother, mother, wife sits in Singapore and gives interviews, organizes, waits, and hopes: “If there are enough people fighting and giving support, I think I will get back to Britain.”

On Monday, February 20, hundreds called for Erioth Mwesigwa to be set free. Shiromini Satkunarajah was set free, thanks to the intervention of close to 200,000 people. Irene Clennell now relies on the work of “enough people fighting” to have her set free. This is the new face of the old White Male Supremacist Imperial State. For non-native born women of color, “freedom” must be purchased, with actual money and with the labor time of hundreds of thousands. The English government hates Erioth Mwesigwa, Shiromini Satkunarajah, and Irene Clennell because hatred pays.

Shiromini Satkunarajah

 

(Photo Credit 1: Laura Gallant / Buzzfeed) {Photo Credit 2: Wales On Line)