We are a group of women in Greater Manchester who support lesbian and bisexual asylum seekers and refugees.
The group was set up in 2007 as an anti-deportation campaign for a lesbian from Sierra Leone. In February 2008 the campaign was successful, and she was given leave to remain in Britain. Due to the high profile of this campaign more lesbian asylum seekers contacted the group during this time looking for support. We therefore decided to continue as a general support group for lesbian and bisexual asylum seekers and refugees.
The group now consists of several volunteers supporting a number of lesbian or bisexual refugees or women seeking asylum from countries such as Afghanistan, Jamaica, Liberia, Gambia, Saudi Arabia, Uganda, Cameroon, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Iran, Namibia, South Africa, Pakistan, Kenya, Zambia, Malawi and Somalia.
Many of the women contacting us were looking for safe space, where they can be comfortable to tell their stories about their sexuality.
The group gives these women a place to be themselves amongst other lesbian and bisexual asylum seekers, refugees and supporters. We also give whatever support we can, depending on the needs of the individual women (e.g. support through the legal process, petitions for individual women to support their fight to stay in Britain, help with grants for women given refugee status, etc
OUR AIMS ARE:
● To provide a social network offering emotional support to lesbians and bisexual women currently applying for asylum and those refugees who have been granted leave to stay in the UK
● To offer practical support and assistance to members with current asylum applications based on sexuality and to ensure that our members are treated equally and with dignity during the often-inhumane asylum process.
WHAT WE DO:
● Organising monthly meetings as a safe space for socialising, discussion of campaigns and legal cases and individual support needs.
● Accompanying women to appointments at Dallas Court, the Home Office and with solicitors and others as appropriate.
● Supporting immigration court cases by attending court hearings, standing as witnesses and writing statements of support.
● Researching information about (mis) treatment of lesbians in countries outside the UK to support asylum claims.
● Working with and sharing information with other organisations, such as Asylum Aid, Community Arts Northwest, Weeks Centre for Social and Policy Research to name but a few.
● Raising funds to support the group's activities
For most of our members the group is the only safe space they experience in which they can relax and be open about their sexuality and their experiences and make friends.
Many refugee and asylum seeker communities have brought the homophobia of their home countries with them, so our members do not feel able to be out in other groups and organisations. We have supported women from Liberia, Jamaica, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Namibia, Sierra Leone, Gambia, etc
Members face extremely violent and abusive homophobic treatment in their home countries and applying for an asylum involves leaving family and friends behind, probably forever, in the hope of being able to establish a safe new life. If their legal cases fail, they face being returned to further homophobic violence, persecution and possibly death in their home countries.
HOW DO WE PAY FOR ALL THIS?
Over the years we have made successful applications to The Women’s Trust Fund, the Feminist Review Trust, ROSA, Smallwood Trust, Pride Community Fund, Allen Lane Foundation, Funder Birds, GMCVO, Edge Fund, Lush, Red Nose, Filia, Clothmakers Trust, Forever Manchester, Resourcing Racial Justice and Lfest.
The Valley Sisters put on regular fundraisers for LISG. Other groups have put one off fundraising events for us over the years, eg the Todmorden women's disco, and Gaslight in Manchester.
We have organised some fundraising activities and we are constantly looking for new possibilities for funding including applications to trusts.
WHAT IS THE MONEY FOR?
● Travel expenses for refugees and asylum-seeking lesbians or bisexual women to attend the monthly support group meetings, social events, Home Office interviews etc
● Refreshments for the monthly support group meetings (we meet over lunchtime on a Saturday as this is the time that suits most members of the group)
● Financial support for those who no longer receive any funds from H/O because their cases have been refused.
● Some women have been refused Legal aid Solicitors therefore we may need to pay for some services of private Solicitors.
● Members who have had claims refused do not qualify for some free NHS medical help such as prescription costs so we can fund these.
● Emergency accommodation for members who H/O support has been discontinued
● Smart phones (in emergencies) and mobile top ups.
● Grocery vouchers
We meet on a monthly basis at the Pankhurst Centre in Manchester and organise regular social events where members freely opt in to attend.
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