Refugees in Britain, exhibition

This video says about itself:

Watch documentary maker Nick Broomfield’s short film, made for Amnesty International, about destitute refused asylum seekers in the UK.

From British daily The Morning Star:

Exhibition to highlight plight of Britain’s failed asylum-seekers

Sunday 15 March 2009

THE hidden lives of failed asylum-seekers living in destitution in Britian are revealed on Monday in an exhibition of photographs and personal testimonies.

Photographer Abbie Trayler-Smith has taken pictures of men and women from the Congo, Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Zimbabwe and other troubled countries for the Still Human, Still Here exhibition in central London.

The exhibition was launched by a coalition of human rights organisations including Amnesty International and the Refugee Council. …

The exhibition includes the testimony of a woman named only as Anne – not her real name – from the Congo, who has spent three years living in destitution after being refused asylum.

She said she fled the Congo after being raped, beaten and tortured for condemning the forced recruitment of child soldiers.

She alleged that she had been forced to sleep rough in Britain and was set upon by a gang while she slept on a park bench. Two of the assailants raped her, she said, adding that she was too terrified to report the attack. …

Still Human, Still Here coalition spokesman Mike Kaye said: “Government policy towards refused asylum-seekers is forcing people into complete destitution. This policy is inhumane and it is failing – driving people underground, into a world of poverty and hunger.”

Still Human, Still Here will run until April 4 at the Host Gallery, 1 Honduras Street, London EC1.

REFUGEE campaigners stormed the constituency office of Immigration Minister Phil Woolas on Saturday night to demand the closure of all “immigration prisons”: here.

Kenya condemned on Somali exiles: here.

Ruined: Congo is setting for prize-winning play on wartime violence against women: here.

5 thoughts on “Refugees in Britain, exhibition

  1. Women in Congo speak out about rape despite taboo
    Rape has been used as a brutal weapon on war, now victims fight back by telling their stories

    By Michelle Faul
    Associated Press

    2009-03-16 01:16 AM

    Zamuda Sikujuwa, 53, seen at her temporary home in Goma, Congo, on Feb. 20, was raped in 2003 by soldiers who killed her husband and two children.

    Zamuda Sikujuwa shuffles to a bench in the sunshine, pushes apart her thighs with a grimace of pain and pumps her fist up and down in a lewd-looking gesture to show how the militiamen shoved an automatic rifle inside her.

    The brutish act tore apart her insides after seven of the men had taken turns raping her. She lost consciousness and wishes now that her life also had ended on that day.

    The rebels from the Tutsi tribe had come demanding U.S. dollars. But when her husband could not even produce local currency, they put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger. When her two children started crying, the rebels killed them too. Then they attacked Sikujuwa and left her for dead.

    The 53-year-old still has difficulty walking after two operations. Yet she wants to tell the world her story, even though repeating it brings back the nightmares.

    “It’s hard, hard, hard,” she says. “I’m alone in this world. My body is partly mended but I don’t know if my heart will ever heal. … I want this violence to stop. I don’t want other women to have to suffer what I am suffering.”

    Rape has been used as a brutal weapon of war in Congo, where conflicts based on tribal lines have spawned dozens of armed groups amid back-to-back civil wars that drew in several African nations. More than 5 million people have died since 1994.

    Women have become even more vulnerable since a rebel advance at the end of last year drove a quarter-million people from their homes and fighting this year left another 100,000 others homeless, according to aid workers.

    Now some of the women are fighting back the only way they know how – by talking about what happened.

    ___A campaign spearheaded by the U.N. Children’s Fund is working with local groups to break traditional taboos around talking about the violence. They’re using radio stations broadcasting in local languages, and more activists are getting to remote areas.

    “Many more victims are coming forward. We receive a lot of SMS text messages and cell phone calls from women who have been raped and need help,” says campaign leader Esther Ntoto.

    Five months ago, U.N. officials began bringing together women to tell their stories to rooms full of local officials, community leaders, even children. One sign of success is that more men than women have volunteered for training to encourage victims to come forward and their communities to confront the issues.

    Video footage of the campaign Women Breaking the Silence shows officials startled by the atrocities recounted. A provincial minister interrupted to ask reporters not to film a woman’s face. But she took the microphone to declare: “I am not ashamed to show my face and publish my identity. The shame lies with those who broke me open and with the authorities who failed to protect me.

    “If you don’t hear me, see me, you will not understand why it is so important that we fight this together.”

    That woman, Honorata Kizende, described how her life as a school teacher and the mother of seven children ended when she was kidnapped in 2001. She was held as a sex slave for 18 months and passed around from one Hutu fighter to another until she escaped. She is now a counselor and trains others to help survivors of sexual violence.

    One of the difficulties is the “huge problem of impunity,” said Mireille Kahatwa Amani, a lawyer working at an office at HEAL Africa Hospital opened a year ago by the Chicago-based American Bar Association.

    “It’s difficult to prosecute perpetrators because they can buy off the police or a judge. There’s no guarantee of justice,” she says.

    Still, with funding from the U.S. State Department, lawyers have interviewed more than 250 victims and pursued more than 100 cases. In 11 months, they have received 30 judgments with only two acquittals. Those found guilty have been punished with sentences of five to 20 years in jail, Kahatwa says.

    Her big success this year was against a man who has been condemned to 20 years in jail for raping a 6-year-old neighbor and infecting her with the AIDS virus. Kahatwa says the judgment came just a month after the complaint was filed, a record.

    Reconstructive surgery

    Kasongo Manyema takes small, careful steps, fearful of unwrapping the cloth tied like a baby’s diaper to catch the blood, urine and feces that has been dribbling from her body for 20 years.

    She was 19 then, when men in military uniform attacked her as she weeded her family’s cassava field.

    A U.N. helicopter has brought her to HEAL Africa Hospital in Goma, where reconstructive surgery could help her incontinence and the stench that follows her and thousands of other Congolese women suffering from fistulas.

    Fistulas usually result from giving birth in poor conditions. In Congo, they are caused by violent rapes that tear apart the flesh separating the bladder and rectum from the vagina.

    Dr. Christophe Kinoma, one of only two surgeons who perform the reconstructive operations in east Congo, says there’s a 50-50 chance that surgery can mend Manyema and others like her.

    “Yesterday I did five fistula operations and we have more than 100 women waiting here and who knows how many out in the bush who never ever get to a hospital.”

    Kinoma says it has become the norm for armed men to use guns, knives and bayonets to rupture their victims’ bodies. Sometimes they shoot bullets up women’s vaginas. Victims often are rejected by their families, contract HIV, and are left to live in pain and shame.

    The trauma that haunts these children and women also affects those who help them.

    Hortense Tshomba, who has been counseling victims for three years, says she hopes to give them the courage to return to their homes. Many are rejected by husbands and fathers who say the attacks have left them “unclean.”

    “We try to counsel them as couples. For girls rejected by their parents, we try to intervene. Some families accept them back; others don’t.”

    When counseling does not help, HEAL Africa offers lessons in sewing and handicrafts to teach them to survive financially. She says rejected women who don’t get help often are forced from communities and become beggars.

    “Sometimes I have nightmares,” Tshomba says. “When I leave after hearing all these horror stories, really it’s like my brain is on fire. I have to listen to some jazz to ease my soul.”


  2. Female prisoners double in decade

    Justice: The size of the female prison population in Scotland has doubled over the last 10 years, a Holyrood committee has heard.

    Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill appeared before Holyrood’s equal opportunities committee as part of an inquiry into women offenders in the justice system.

    A number of initiatives have been established in recent years aimed at keeping more women out of prison, he said in a submission.

    But he stated: “Despite these efforts, the prison population continues to grow and women continue to be remanded or given short custodial sentences.”


  3. Pingback: Refugees from Iraq, Afghan wars in Germany | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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