Camden charity helps widow win fight for her children

16:05 16 September 2010

Women at the Crossroads Women Centre celebrate.

Women at the Crossroads Women Centre celebrate.

Jonathan Goldberg 07958 229 037

A WIDOW has spoken of the relief she felt at being allowed to reunite with her children for the first time in seven years following publicity of her plight by the Ham&High.

Peace Musabi, 40, has worked with the Kentish Town-based group Women Against Rape (WAR) since 2004 to find her three children Samuel, 18, Diana, 16, and Daniel, 13, after she was able to escape genocide from her native Burundi for life in the UK.

Following a hearing on July 22, judges from the Immigration and Asylum Tribunal finally ruled that it would be “unreasonable to expect this family to reunite either in Burundi, or in Uganda” and now Ms Musabi is being allowed to bring her children to live with her in the UK.

The Ham&High has previously reported how Hutu Ms Musabi was forced to flee the country without her children after being targeted by Tutsi authorities in Burundi.

Her husband disappeared, along with her eldest son, and her brother was beheaded in front of her as he tried to protect her.

She managed to send her children to safety but was captured and imprisoned without trial. In jail, she was tortured and raped repeatedly.

Now after the long wait to see her children again she has had her wish granted and flew to see them last week to make the final preparations of their move to London.

Ms Musabi said: “It was amazing, I can’t describe the feeling. My children are ok but we have a lot to work through.

“They are feeling excited and are looking forward to coming over.”

It is now likely to be several months before her children can join her in the UK once visas have been signed off and travel arrangements are sorted out.

She still feels immense anger at the protracted process she has had to go through for the right to be reunited with her children.

“I’m happy because at long last they’ve been allowed to come but at the same time the children couldn’t understand why it’s taken so long, and I couldn’t explain it to them,” she said.

The initial Home Office ruling forbidding Ms Musabi’s children from joining her had hinged around her asylum status.

Instead of full refugee status, she was only granted “indefinite leave to remain” under the government’s Legacy programme, which does not automatically guarantee the right for a person’s children to join them. WAR is campaigning for this rule to be changed.

“It’s been very traumatising for me and my children,” Ms Musabi added. “I wouldn’t wish it on any mother to go through this punishment. We had to be apart all this time when I knew where they were.”

She says that her court victory was only possible because of the backing she received from WAR, media coverage and the consistent support of campaigners, some of whom staged a vigil outside the court while her case was heard in July.

But she also warned that while the amount of campaigning in her case may have had a bearing on the judges’ decision, there are many women in similar circumstances who have not been so lucky.

Anne Neal, of Women Against Rape, called on any agencies defending the rights of children to support their call for the automatic right to family reunion for all asylum seekers, including cases decided under the Legacy programme.

She said: “This is a victory not only for Peace but for other mothers who have been tragically separated.”

A Home Office Spokesman said: “We note the Immigration Judge’s decision and we will be reviewing the case in light of the determination.

“Each application to enter the UK is considered on its individual merits, taking into account all evidence submitted, and in accordance with the immigration rules.”

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