A transgender woman in Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre who says she entered the UK when she was sex trafficked by a gang will be deported back to Thailand in a matter of days to a “situation of great danger.”
Tanya*, who has been detained in Yarl’s Wood since December 30 2017, has been informed that she will be deported to her home nation of Thailand in a matter of days in a Home Office bail hearing today.
Alledging that she was trafficked into the country as a sex worker in 2014, Tanya says she escaped a gang in which she was indentured as a “ladyboy escort” in 2015 and began to build a new life as an asylum claimant.
However, when she had to “sign” to confirm her identity and status as an asylum claimant in the UK on December 30, she was told that she would be taken to an immigration detention centre, Yarl’s Wood, away from her and her partner Oli’s home.
Since that date, she has endured a hunger strike, solitary confinement and ill mental health as she has fought for her right to stay in the country.
“When I arrived I felt shocked, I felt sad, I felt helpless,” she told PinkNews.
“But now I can no longer see the light. I just want to be with Oli and I want to be back in London living the life I was before,” she added.
After Tanya’s partner visa was rejected in January, she has fought a hard battle to stay in the country.
Her biggest backer and best friend Paul has taken on Tanya’s advocacy and support work to date, but has been hospitalised in the past week, resulting in Tanya struggling to find the right support and help with translations during her bail hearing.
Before being hospitalised, Paul wrote in a letter to the Home Office: “You seem to take the stance that Tanyakorn is not cooperating in simply supplying the first name of the chaperone that trafficked her into the country.”
He alleges that this is the only name Tanya was told when she entered the country.
Her friend and fellow Thai native Ratchanee* has said that Tanya’s life could be at stake if she is deported.
“She will face a life of discrimination out of there, and a situation of great danger,” she said.
“Everyone thinks because Bangkok is fine with trans people, everywhere else in Thailand is, but it is not the case.
“She will be laughed at, she will be beaten, she will be trafficked again. Trans people are so much more prone to being trafficked,” she explained.
“They could rape her, they could do anything. I’m trying my best to help. But she’s a nice person. She’s a nice person who just wants to live her life.”
“Victims of trafficking are routinely failed by the Home Office, alongside asylum seekers they are treated as liars from the outset and face an impossible task to build a case from behind bars,” said a spokesperson for Movement for Justice.
Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott has called Tanya’s case “truly shocking” and has reminded the government of its “duty of care to all victims of abuse.”
“If they are confirmed the details of this case are truly shocking. Sadly, having recently visited Yarl’s Wood I know this case is not unique,” she said.
“The Government has a duty of care to all victims of abuse, including trafficking. Both Amber Rudd and Theresa May have offered reassurances that victims would not be kept in immigration detention.
“But this case and many others show those assurances are false. We in Labour are calling on the Government to meet its humanitarian and legal obligations. No-one should be detained or deported who is a victim of trafficking or abuse,” she added.
“”It is absolutely shocking to see the Home Office planning to deport Tanya. Not only did she escape a trafficking gang, but she built a life in London with her partner,” said co-leader of the Green Party, Caroline Lucas.
“To deport her to Thailand – from where she was originally trafficked – is simply wrong. Britain’s system of detention and deportation is cruel, and wilfully ignores the damage being done to people’s mental health. Tanya should be given the chance to continue to build her life here in Britain, not exposed to further danger.”
“We’re clinging on out here,” said her friend Sonya*, who is also being detained in Yarl’s Wood. “We don’t know whether we’re coming or going. Tanya has half the spark she did when she first came in here.”
Anyone incarcerated in a detention centre can be detained for as long as the Home Office wishes.
Immigration Minister Caroline Oakes says has defended the government’s intention to take “punitive action” against strikers.
As a non-EU asylum applicant, statistics do not appear to work in Tanya’s favour.
According to official statistics, 67 percent of EU victims are accepted into the country, in comparison to 14 percent of non-EU applicants.
Applicants also have to undergo a separate asylum process to their EU counterparts.
“The UK’s system of detention and deportation inevitably subjects people with histories of abuse and exploitation to the violence of imprisonment and forced removal,” said Tom Kemp From SOAS Detainee Support.
“Detention and deportation are harmful for everyone, but can be particularly damaging for people at risk of violence because of their gender presentation or identity. People on hunger strike in Yarl’s Wood IRC recently spoke about trans detainees being denied hormone treatment. The only way to prevent vulnerable people from detention is to remove detention from the immigration system,” he added.
“We do not routinely comment on individual cases,” said a Home Office spokesperson.
*names abbreviated for security purposes