Naima is from Bangladesh where she lived with her husband and son. Her husband was an activist in the Freedom Party, a Bangladeshi opposition party. Naima worked in a women’s organisation educating rural women about their rights.
Her husband's increasing political prominence eventually forced him into hiding. In October 2000, Naima was kidnapped, gang raped and tortured by government agents wanting to find her husband.
Forced to flee Bangladesh, the family claimed asylum on arrival in the UK in April 2002. The asylum application was rejected as their country of origin was said to be on the “safe” list of countries.
Naima and her family reapplied for asylum, and were sent to live in Manchester. At 6am on August 2004 the family was woken by immigration officials banging on the door. They were shown a letter and told that they were being deported. They had received no prior warning.
The family were taken to Heathrow airport. Naima was terrified that she and her family would be deported to Bangladesh where her husband’s political opponents were still after them. Her extended family in Bangladesh had received threats and had told her that they were at risk and could not help her if she returned.
Naima, her husband and children (she had recently given given birth), were told to wait in a room for their flight back to Bangladesh. While there, her husband and son were taken away by security staff. Naima was then grabbed by three female guards who restrained her hands and twisted her arms behind her back. She says that she found it hard to breathe. Another guard kicked her back and told her she would be taken onto an aeroplane. She was put in a van.
At that time I thought, how can human beings be like this?
“At that time I thought how can human beings be like this, and I asked them, don’t I look like a human being? But I realised. You are human beings why don’t you listen to me and I showed them both my hands, too swollen and black spots and I showed them, what you did to me… how can you do this to me? You are a woman like me how can you do this to me? You are like my mom and you are like my sister, you are like my friend ... don’t know how you can do this to me.. And after they were shouting just shouting, and I didn’t listen I just sat in their van.”
She was taken to a building where she was manhandled into another room. The door was locked behind her. She was told that she would remain there until the next flight to Bangladesh. She was told that her husband would be detained in a removal centre. She had no time to say goodbye to him.
Surprisingly, and for no apparent reason, Naima and the children were then released. She returned to Manchester, with no money and nowhere to go. Some two months later, again with no reason's given, her husband was allowed to rejoin them.
One day in late March 2005, when Naima was a month into a third pregnancy, her husband did not return home after taking their older son to school. He called her from the airport to tell her that he was about to be deported to Bangladesh. She has not seen her husband since; he has never seen his third child.
On 13 April 2008, Naima was finally granted indefinite leave to remain. She continues her efforts to reunite the family by securing her husband’s return to the UK but so far has been unsuccessful. Naima is trying to secure a spousal visa for him and has filed the necessary papers, but she is struggling financially as she needs to show that she can support him.
She is a founding member of Women Asylum Seekers Together (WAST), Manchester.
Everyone has the right to seek asylum. The Testimony Project believes that those seeking refuge in our country should have the right to dignified, humane and fair treatment that respects their human rights, protects their physical and mental wellbeing, and that follows a fair and efficient process. Deliberate destitution, violent deportation, the splitting of families, and dehumanising detention run counter to the original spirit of asylum and should cease immediately. Please, hear our voice.