Breastfeeding supporter colleagues of mine have been involved in helping Janipher Maseko, an 18 year old Ugandan woman who is currently being held in Yarls Wood Immigration Detention Centre. She has two babies, aged 15 months and 4 weeks. The tiny baby is being breastfed. She has been told that she will be removed from the UK without her children on Friday 1st June.
Janipher sought asylum as an unaccompanied minor after coming to this country as an orphan and after being raped in Uganda. Her asylum claim had been closed in March 2007 when she was heavily pregnant. Hillingdon Social Services, responsible for her at the time, immediately stopped all support and evicted her and her baby daughter. Staff at Hillingdon Hospital had to press Social Services to rehouse her. But at the end of April, a week after her son was born, she was evicted her again and threw away all her belongings. Ms Maseko tried to reach a friend in Brighton and was sleeping rough in Crawley when passers-by found her and called the police. Sussex Social Services put her babies into foster care even though she was breastfeeding her infant son and there was no cause to doubt her fitness and eagerness to care for her children - Ms Maseko needed shelter, money and healthcare. No arrangements were made to help her keep in touch with her children. Still bleeding after childbirth and with engorged breasts, Ms Maseko was held in a cell for four days without a shower or change of clothes.
When my colleagues went to see her, they were refused permission to give her an electric breast pump, the most efficient way of maintaining lactation and also of relieving the intense discomfort from the engorgment she was suffering and they were only able to get a manual pump to her after some discussion.
The children were reunited with her after the intervention of advocates on her behalf including the Black Women's Rape Action Project.
I am horrified at such brutal and inhuman treatment of this young mother and her children. How can it be justified to deport a mother to a country where she has fled rape and violence and has no family to help her and leave her babies here? How can a supposedly civilised government treat human beings in this way?
She is getting legal and practical help, but the more people who can raise awareness of her plight over the next few days the better.
Below are some ways in which you can to support Janipher and ensure she and her children can build their lives in the UK:
1. Urge that Ms Maseko and her children be immediately released, housed, supported and granted asylum, and that there be a prompt independent investigation into her treatment by all those in authority who were responsible for her care. Fax or email your letter to:· Liam Byrne MP, Minister of State for Immigration, Nationality and Citizenship, Fax: 020 7035 4745 firstname.lastname@example.org ·
Meg Munn MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Women and Equality)Fax: 020 7944 5891 email@example.com·
Beverley Hughes MP, Minister for Children, Young People & FamiliesFax:020 7219 2961 firstname.lastname@example.org ·
Patricia Hewitt MP, Secretary of State for Health, Fax: 020 7210 5410.MB-SofS@dh.gsi.gov.uk·
Brian Pollett, Head of Detention Services, Brian.Pollett2@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk ·
Victoria Jones, Director of Yarl's Wood, Fax: 01234 821152
2. Alert your networks, the press and other media.
3. Write to your MP as a concerned constituent asking her/him to raise it in Parliament.