A voice for refugee women…
Jess McCabe // 13 August 2009
The Testimony Project seeks to amplify the voices of women telling their stories about the asylum system in the UK and life as asylum seekers and refugees.
Women facing the UK asylum system do it on their own. Home Office policy deliberately suppresses and isolates those seeking asylum, keeping them out of sight, out of mind. The Testimony Project seeks to tell their stories.
At the moment, you can watch video testimonies and read the stories of eight women who’ve been through the asylum system, and talk about why they came to the UK and what that process was like.
Farhat, who has been granted leave to remain with her daughters, says:
When we were initially told that our case had been refused, I was so shocked. The Home Office either didn’t know what life is like in Pakistan, or didn’t care. It’s not easy to hide there, you’re so vulnerable, and they didn’t even consider the forced marriage issue. We put in an appeal and that too was refused. The adjudicator said that Pakistan is an Islamic country and my husband a Muslim man, ‘who are we to impose our ways onto someone?’ I couldn’t believe that this was being said in an English court.
All through 2005 we campaigned. When such a thing has happened to you, you want to move on but the system doesn’t allow you to, you’re left in limbo. Every time a scab forms, you scrape it off – I used to feel I had wounds all over me. In the end, because my husband continued to threaten us, I was granted leave to remain in 2007. I cried and cried but its strange, I didn’t know how to cope and was so depressed. Even now, it’s only temporary leave to remain for five years. Then they might decide to send us back.
The asylum system here is a form of torture. You’ve escaped persecution in your own country, you come to the UK and are persecuted more. It makes me so angry when they say it’s easy for people to leave their countries. I missed Pakistan so much, sometimes so much so that I used to think about returning. I believe in destiny and thought: ‘If I die, I die.’ But I couldn’t because of the children. When I look at my daughters now, I know the struggle has been worth it.
The stories are not easy to watch or read about, and could be triggering. But this seems like a really important project, given how much asylum seekers and refugees are demonised in the media.