Deeming Egypt a “safe country”, the United Kingdom Border Agency have refused the family asylum in the UK. But as an openly lesbian teenager hiding from a cruel and abusive father, for Shrouk Egypt would be far from safe.
Shrouk El-Atter and her relatives will be deported from the UK back to Egypt, where she endured 15 years of violence at the hands of her father. At age 16, she came out as lesbian and is now terrified of being forced back to Egypt, where the authorities openly state that “…homosexuality is socially detested and legally condemned and persecuted”.
In a country where homosexuality is equated with indecency and immorality and where human rights groups have condemned the persecution of homosexuals, Shrouk’s life would certainly be one lived in fear and hiding. It is also highly likely she would be forced into marriage, Female Genital Mutilation, and risks an honour killing if she resists either.
Fleeing not just from the threat of social persecution, Shrouk and her family also fled the violence of an abusive father and husband, who threatened them with death and rape. Moreover, the man in question has links with Egypt’s judges and police, with which he has bribed his way out of several prison sentences. It is safe to say that his family will be afforded no such protection.
Even going into hiding will be difficult, as Shrouk’s mother, Friman Saleh, was formerly a television presenter in Egypt and has a high profile among the people. By being returned to Egypt, this high-profile family faces social persecution, physical abuse, threat of death and rape at the hands of an abusive family member.
Reasons for the refusal
Home Office policy has deemed Egypt a “safe country”, regardless of this clearly not applying to the case of this family. The United Kingdom Border Agency have responded to the family’s concerns by suggesting they wear a niqab to help hide their identities – by doing so, they have acknowledged that their lives are in fact endangered enough to warrant hiding.
Another reason for the refusal of asylum is that Shrouk’s mother initially lied and claimed the family to be from Iraq, as she feared for the safety of her other daughter (Laialy) in Egypt if the authorities were informed of their seeking refuge in the UK. Even though the Home Office thought it necessary to help Laialy, they stand by their claim that Egypt is a safe place for their return.
The fact that Saleh lied initially, however good her reasons were, has disadvantaged them under the UKBA’s “culture of disbelief”, under which any inconsistency in interviews is grounds to disregard any other evidence – however credible.
Says Shrouk, “Voluntary leave was offered along with £500 and if voluntary leave is not taken then the government said they would forcibly send us back home. Even if they offer a million pounds for voluntary leave, what use would it be if the result is death?”
Shrouk and her family are highly valued in their community in Cardiff; the children excel in their academic studies despite the constant threat of detention and deportation, and her mother has suffered several nervous breakdowns in her anxiety over the fate of her family.
As the “Save the Shrouk!” campaign against the deportation continues, many are stepping forward in their support to Save the Shrouk! By joining the Facebook group, signing online and paper petitions and writing to the Home Secretary, people all over the country are showing their support for Shrouk and her family.
“Safe country” or not, in the particular case of this family, a by-the-book analysis of their situation will end in a life of fear, hiding, abuse and possibly death. As the petitions and support groups fill up, perhaps the authorities will rethink the deportation of this family. Hundreds await the final decision.
The campaigners say: You can e-mail a letter to: firstname.lastname@example.org, UKBApublicenquiries@UKBA.gsi.gov.uk, CITTO@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk, and Privateoffice.email@example.com. Or post it to: Rt. Hon Theresa May, MP
Secretary of State for the Home Office, 2 Marsham St, London, SW1 4DF. And please let the campaign know of any action you are taking in support of Shrouk. E-mail her at: firstname.lastname@example.org