Written by Rosanna Wiseman, LAWRS
Photo: MP Stella Creasy and migrant women speaking out.
This International Women’s Day hundreds of migrant and refugee women entered Parliament to demand safety, dignity and liberty for all women. Women for Refugee Women set up the #AllWomenCount campaign to ensure that the voices of migrant and refugee women were also listened to on the centenary year of women’s suffrage.
It was a beautiful event. Women of all ages and backgrounds gathered in a committee room in Parliament to join in song and speech and stand up for each other’s rights. We heard heart-wrenching testimonies from asylum seekers, inspiring stories from refugee activists and motivating speeches from sympathetic politicians. Not to forget the amazing performances from refugee women choirs.
G, a member of the campaign #StepUpMigrantWomen and survivor of domestic violence who has seen her daughter being taken away from her and threatened with deportation, left many of the room in tears after telling us her story. After being supported by loud cheers from the room she spoke through her tears to demand that:
“Migrant women like me need to be believed by the police where my rights as a survivor are put above the passport I hold.”
She ended her speech with the powerful assertion that
“[migrant survivors] have the right to live free of violence regardless of our immigration status”.
[This is video edited by Gal-Dem that the Step Up Migrant Women campaign did with other survivors who have undergone similar situations like G.]
More than 10 MPs came into the room to witness the incredible force of migrant women campaigning in Parliament. Kate Green, MP from Stretford and Urmston, urged:
“Migrant and refugee women are still suffering from this system. It is wrong women are placed in detention. We add another layer of insecurity and torture. It must stop.”
MP Stella Creasy talked about how, although she was proud about progress in women’s rights in the country and the many inspiring feminist activists, she was “ashamed women are still locked up in detention centres and that women with No Recourse to Public Funds are not heard.”
She insisted that “while detention centres exist, Britain is not a free country.”
MP Jess Philips, who has visited Yarl’s Wood detention centre several times and personally helped several women leave, asserted that she would keep on going back to Yarl’s Wood until there are no more detainees.
The Step Up Migrant Women Campaign has produced and released a video where we can hear two survivors of domestic violence powerfully demanding that the Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill and the Data Protection Bill protect migrant women’s rights to safety above immigration control.