Exclusive: Trans woman who faces ‘violence and rape’ in Thailand expected to be deported from the UK tonight
A transgender woman detainee at Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre who was allegedly trafficked to the UK is expected to be deported tonight.
According to activists advocating on behalf of Tanya*, the Home Office began the process of deporting her earlier this week.
PinkNews has previously reported on her case after the UK government decided to deport her following an unsuccessful Home Office bail hearing.
Since the end of March, Tanya has been left waiting for her deportation, as the Home Office does not give notice to those it intends to deport and often carries out such procedures at night.
After being kept in a reception area in Yarl’s Wood, Tanya was moved from the Bedfordshire detention centre to Heathrow airport on Friday afternoon.
SOAS Detainee Support, a University of SOAS student advocacy group, has hit out at the Home Office’s decision.
The group has mounted a campaign to put pressure on the Thai Airways airline to refuse to fly Tanya, as the airline has no legal obligation to comply with the Home Office’s instructions.
This strategy has prevented several deportations in recent months.
“We have received news that Tanya is being taken on flight TG917 at 21.25 tonight on Thai Airways. Please tweet the airline telling them that they do not have to comply in the violent deportation of Tanya,” the group said.
Speaking to PinkNews, a SOAS Detainee Support member who wished to be known only as Melissa, said: “Tanya was taken from her room at Yarl’s Wood early this morning and told she would be deported today.
“She was then held in the reception room for hours and despite constantly asking for more information, including her flight details, she was given nothing.
“As a trans woman and a survivor of sex trafficking, Tanya faces great danger if sent back to Thailand. The Home Office knows this, and is deporting her anyway.”
Melissa continued: “Detention and deportation are harmful, racist, and unjust practices.
“Tanya currently has no legal representation, as she was messed around by a private solicitor who dropped her case when it got too complicated.”
Friends of Tanya have told PinkNews that they are seeking an injunction to prevent Tanya’s deportation.
Yasmine, a friend of Tanya’s, told PinkNews that her fellow detainees in Yarl’s Wood were “utterly devastated” about her looming deportation.
“We in Yarl’s Wood are utterly devastated that our friend is being deported and we feel helpless, not only is she transgender, but also a victim of trafficking and modern-day slavery.
“She is also a victim of rogue lawyers, who along with the Home Office have victimised this girl further and condemned her, I have no faith in this system.”
Yasmine continued: “I wish I was religious as I fear only some divine intervention will stop this injustice.”
Tanya was previously represented by her best friend Paul*, but after he was suddenly hospitalised last month, Tanya was left with no representation until SOAS Detainee Support became involved.
Tanya, who has been detained in Yarl’s Wood since December 30 2017, has said that she had been trafficked into the UK by a gang as a sex worker in 2014.
She said she escaped the gang in which she was indentured as a “ladyboy escort” in 2015 and began to build a new life as an asylum claimant.
“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 [her partner, Oli] and I want to be back in London living the life I was before,” she said.
Tanya’s friend and fellow Thai native Ratchanee* has said that Tanya’s life could be imperilled 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.”
Many politicians have condemned the Home Office’s decision to deport Tanya, including the Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott and Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas.
Abbott 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.
Lucas said: “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.”
“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.”
Unlike many other European countries, the UK has a policy of “indefinite detention” where anyone incarcerated in a detention centre can be detained for as long as the Home Office wishes.
Most other European countries have set limits on how long a person can be held in an immigration removal centre.
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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.
Thai Airways did not immediately return a request for comment.
*PinkNews has not given full names to protect the identities of those involved.