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UK branded ‘hypocrites’ over pledge to end sexual violence

PROTEST: The Black Women’s Rape Action Project (BWRAP) will gather outside a global summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict

A GROUP that supports rape survivors has said it will continue its protests outside a global summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict currently underway in east London.

The Black Women’s Rape Action Project (BWRAP), which protested outside the conference yesterday (June 11) told The Voice that they, and some rape survivors, will again gather at 1.30pm today (June 12).

They will gather at the One Western Gateway, Royal Victoria Dock, near by the Excel Centre, where the conference is being held.

BWRAP, a group that advocates for the rights of women including rape survivors and asylum seekers, said it was protesting to bring attention to UK immigration officials' alleged ill-treatment of rape survivors from war torn countries.

In a statement, BWRAP claimed that many rape survivors come to the UK seeking asylum and protection only to end up being arrested as illegal immigrants and placed in detention centres such as Yarls Wood.

The group also claimed that some rape survivors were then fast-tracked through the immigration application process, only to end up being deported back to the very war zones from which they escaped.

In a statement, BWRAP said: "While the Summit claims to support 'courageous survivors', women seeking asylum and protection in the UK are detained, abused and deported back to the very war zones where they were attacked. Some have lost their lives after having been refused health care. So much for the government’s crocodile tears about rape survivors!"

A Home Office spokesperson said: "The UK has a proud history of granting asylum to those who need it and all applications are carefully considered.

"We are committed to treating women who seek refuge on the grounds of having suffered sexual violence with dignity and respect and our staff receive mandatory training on managing such cases sensitively."

The UK also works closely with Asylum Aid and the Refugee Council to develop new training and guidance on how the UK deals with gender based claims and this is now built into mandatory training. They have also worked close with the UNHCR, the Refugee Council and the Scottish Refugee Council in a collaborative effort to improve processes for referring to the appropriate services asylum seekers who are the victims of sexual and gender based violence.

SUMMIT: Brad Pitt, William Hague and Angelina Jolie arrive at the ExCel in London Docklands for the third day of the Global Summit To End Sexual Violence

But BWRAP campaigners said the UK needs to do more to help. Its campaigners said: "About 20 rape survivors and supporters protested against the UK government’s hypocrisy. We will be back Thursday June 12 when home secretary Theresa May addresses the summit."

BWRAP is also calling on Hollywood Actress and UN envoy Angelina Jolie, who is backing the conference, to visit Yarls Wood during her UK visit.

“We call on Angelina Jolie to come to Yarl’s Wood this Sunday (June 15) and hear the truth from women who’ve fled rape and murder in conflict zones and are under threat of being forced back to torture,” BWRAP said.

The group is hosting an International day to close detention centres on Sunday (June 15) at t 4.30pm at the Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre, Bedfordshire.

During the conference, Jolie and UK Foreign Secretary William Hague called for governments to back a new International Protocol that aims to set an international standard for how to investigate and document sexual violence. The aim, they said, is to increase the number of prosecutions for these crimes worldwide and ensure that victims are cared for.

They called for governments to announce their support for the Protocol and to also pledge to implement the new protocol in full. They want it to become a turning point in how crimes of sexual violence in conflict are investigated, and ultimately deterred.

Jolie said: “It is a myth that rape is an inevitable part of conflict. There's nothing inevitable about it. It is a weapon of war aimed at civilians. It has nothing to do with sex, everything to do with power.”

She added: “We must send a message around the world that there is no disgrace in being a survivor of sexual violence. That the shame is on the aggressor. We need to shatter that impunity and make justice the norm, not the exception, for these crimes.”

Hague added: "From Central African Republic to Sudan to Syria, untold thousands of rapes have gone entirely unpunished.

"We know that one of the primary reasons for the lack of prosecutions for sexual violence in conflict is the difficulty of gathering evidence that can stand up in court, and the trauma and the stigma faced by survivors in the process. This protocol is designed to overcome those fundamental barriers.

"And we are determined to ensure that prosecutors, police forces, peacekeepers and civil society on the front line in this struggle know how best to document and investigate sexual violence in conflict so that perpetrators can be successfully prosecuted."

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