Wheelchair-user Manjeet Kaur was told by government contractors that she would be evicted from her home of three years in Whalley Range, Manchester, if she did not leave voluntarily.
The housing is managed by the outsourcing giant Serco on behalf of the Home Office’s National Asylum Support Service, which had told Serco that her asylum case had been turned down, even though she was still appealing against being denied asylum.
Today (Thursday), she was supported by disabled activists and other campaigners as her appeal against the withdrawal of housing support was heard by the asylum and immigration tribunal.
A judge found that she could stay in her home until the asylum process had been completed.
After the hearing in Manchester, she told Disability News Service that the judge’s decision was “fantastic”.
Kaur, a human rights campaigner, thanked all those who had supported her, and said: “It wasn’t just a fight for me it was a fight for everyone in my situation, whether they are disabled or non-disabled.
“I have been threatened with destitution, and this is happening to other people in similar circumstances.
“This asylum-seeker process for me is taking away the zest for living, and the stress has caused health complications.”
She said the way she had been treated “raises many questions” about the UK government’s commitment to human rights.
She added: “I feel I have not been treated fairly. It has been a very, very hard time.”
She said she had heard about the equality and human rights offered by the west, and had come to the UK seeking protection and support, but instead had faced “another battle, another struggle”.
“I have been fighting almost four years just to stay here. I fail to understand why I have been put into a situation like this.”
She is chair of the Manchester-based human rights organisation RAPAR, which works with displaced people, and she appeared on ITV news last year to criticise a new immigration crackdown announced by home secretary Theresa May at the 2013 Conservative party conference.
Fellow activists say she has been a “tireless campaigner for human rights”, and has worked with the UK Disabled People’s Council to highlight injustices faced by disabled asylum-seekers.
Her MP, Kate Green, said: “I have been in touch with Manjeet for some time now. The Home Office’s previous failures on her case have been quite unacceptable.
“It is now wholly inappropriate for the Home Office to withdraw her support when she has outstanding representations to the court of appeal, and I have contacted the Home Office to ask why this has happened.”
Disabled activist Sharon Hooley, a member of both Disabled People Against Cuts and the Disabled People’s Direct Action Network (DAN), who spoke at today’s protest, said: “I’m absolutely delighted that Manjeet Kaur has won her case against the attempt to evict her.
“I’m also proud to have been one of so many different communities and groups who came together to support a wonderful woman who dedicates her time to helping others in their fight for their human rights.”
Rhetta Moran, of RAPAR, said: “It is barbaric what Manjeet Kaur – with this very grossly underfunded human rights charity RAPAR and the support that we have called upon – has had to go through in the lead-up to today.
“We have had to stop the Home Office, in the name of the government, from evicting a [female wheelchair-user] onto Manchester’s streets.
“No victory, including this one, is inevitable. Manjeet’s safe future will be secured when her human rights are being respected as rights – not favours. Her campaign will continue until that future arrives.”
Home Office confusion over her rights and needs was underlined when it sent an inaccessible car to take her to the tribunal hearing.
By the time an accessible vehicle had arrived and taken her to the tribunal building in Manchester, the judge in London – hearing the case via a video-link – had already decided in her favour on the paperwork in the case alone.
Kaur said: “It shows how the Home Office are functioning. They have no idea whatsoever who I am.”
She fled to the UK from India in 2011 after she was beaten twice and threatened with rape and murder by thugs hunting for her husband Amitt Bhatt, an Indian journalist and human rights activist who had been threatened and attacked because of his anti-government articles and books. He eventually escaped to the UK himself, and has also claimed asylum.
Despite documents which show that she was originally from Afghanistan, the Home Office wants to return her to India where, she says, there is no-one to support her and 90 per cent of the infrastructure is not accessible to her.
So far, the Home Office has failed to comment on the case.
16 October 2014