A woman reported to police that she was kidnapped and abused during September 2016 and March 2017 in Germany, before she made it to the United Kingdom.
While reporting her case to the London police station in March, the unnamed woman in her 20s admitted that she entered the U.K. illegally.
However, instead of helping her out in such trying times, the police first took her to the Havens sexual assault center, which provides care for women who have been sexually assaulted, but then officers suddenly arrested and detained her. They took her at an east London police station to question her about her immigration status.
The woman was five months pregnant at the time of arrest.
“She was arrested on suspicion of illegal entry into the U.K. and she was taken into custody at an east London police station,” a spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police said.
“Whilst there immigration officials attended and interviewed her.”
The officials issued a notice giving the woman temporary leave to remain in the U.K. but for that to be possible she had to notify them about her whereabouts. But without legal permission to live in Britain she could be detained and deported at any time.
The Haven center for sexual assault victims was naturally furious at the troubled woman’s arrested. The center reportedly launched a formal complaint with Scotland Yard over the case.
A spokeswoman for King’s College hospital NHS foundation trust, which manages the Havens, said it objected police’s actions. “Providing patients with appropriate care in a safe environment is our top priority,” she said. “Following the arrest of a patient at the Haven, we formally raised concerns with the Metropolitan police about the appropriateness of this setting for such action. We also spoke to the police commissioner more generally about our role in caring for a complex mix of patients.”
“[The arrested woman] presented herself as a victim, but even though she was taken to the Havens she was not given the care and support she needed,” said Fizza Qureshi, director of the Migrants’ Rights Network.
She explained the woman in question is only one of the many other females who have been targeted by the immigration enforcement after they go to the authorities seeking help.
“It was probably incredibly traumatic to be arrested for something she voluntarily declared. It’s possible that she didn’t have any other options [and] may have been forced to come to the U.K.,” she added.
Qureshi campaigns for a safe reporting system that would enable undocumented immigrants to get all the support from the police, the NHS, other authorities and local councils.
“If you want to tackle crime you have to have protection for someone who is undocumented,” she said.
“They are putting immigration enforcement before someone’s situation as a victim of crime…the whole idea is to create a hostile environment.”
Thumbnail Credits: Reuters, Adnan Abidi