Sapnahar is a 12-year old girl from a small village in Bangladesh. She was raped by a local boy, became pregnant and gave birth to a baby girl. Before giving birth Sapnahar was tried and convicted by a salish or traditional village court in her home village. Her ‘crime’ was to have had sexual relations outside of marriage. The boy who raped her was never brought before a salish or civilian court. Sapnahar never reported the incident of the rape to the local police because she feared that the boy’s family and the community in which she lived would take the side of the boy and hurt her. As a result of the decision of the salish court, Sapnahar was sentenced to 120 lashes. Due to her pregnancy the village elders decided that she should be punished only after giving birth to her baby. Salish courts are officially outlawed in Bangladesh. The government of Bangladesh knows that they are operating in many rural areas and yet is unable to do much to control them. Before the village elders could punish Sapnahar she was secretly taken to a shelter for battered women. She stayed at the shelter in the capital, Dhaka, for a few weeks under the care of older women. Only Sapnahar’s mother knew where she was. After some time the safe house began to receive anonymous telephone calls saying that Sapnahar must return to her village or she would be kidnapped and forcibly taken back. The safe house received a dozen telephone calls, each one more threatening, until the head of the shelter decided to call the police. The police chief said there was little he could do against an anonymous caller; besides, he said, he had “more serious” problems to deal with. Soon afterwards, Sapnahar was smuggled out of Bangladesh to Calcutta in India, where she had a relative. She travelled to India with her baby daughter, who was then three months old. Sapnahar traveled with a smuggler using false documents. After crossing the border into India the smuggler handed Sapnahar over to one of his contacts. She was taken by bus to her relative’s home and the smuggler disappeared. Sapnahar and her baby stayed with the relatives, who were middle class and had their own shop in Calcutta, for about a month. She had no contact with her family in Bangladesh during this time. Then one day she was told that she would be sent to Europe. Airline tickets and papers were arranged, and Sapnahar and her baby travelled to a European country on a falsified Indian passport, which had been issued with a visitor’s visa from the New Delhi embassy of a Central European state. Sapnahar was accompanied on the trip to Europe by another woman who told her to say, if asked, that she was the woman’s daughter and the baby was her little sister. Sapnahar, the other woman and the baby took a flight to the capital of a Central European state from Delhi. Upon arrival at the airport the woman who had accompanied Sapnahar and her child disappeared. Sapnahar did not know what to do, so she hid in a washroom with her baby girl. She was discovered several hours later by a cleaning lady who saw her crying. As Sapnahar knew neither the local language nor English, the cleaning lady took her to the police office at the airport. The police arranged for an interpreter to come to the airport and, after some encouragement from the police and the interpreter, Sapnahar told her story. The police prepared a preliminary interview report and sent it with a ‘most urgent’ notice to the Directorate of Immigration to conduct a further interview and take a decision.
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Question 1 of 3
Assuming that Sapnahar cannot tell the relevant authorities why she had to flee Bangladesh and come to the Central European state, what information could you rely on in order to assess her claim to refugee status? List the sources of information you would need. Where could you find the information you need?
Grading can be reviewed and adjusted.Grading can be reviewed and adjusted.
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Question 2 of 3
Assuming Sapnahar can communicate with you through an interpreter, how would you conduct an interview with her? What special measures would you take, if any, to ensure that Sapnahar feels comfortable speaking to you or others about her problems? What else would you do to provide for any special needs Sapnahar and her baby may have, such as medical or psychological care?Grading can be reviewed and adjusted.Grading can be reviewed and adjusted.
Question 3 of 3
Assuming that Sapnahar’s story is reviewed for reliability, in your view is she in need of international protection under the 1951 Refugee Convention or not? What about her baby? Prepare a brief outline of your analysis of the case. If Sapnahar and/or her baby daughter are not refugees under the terms of the 1951 Refugee Convention, should they be entitled to the protection of any other of their specific human rights? Are they entitled to humanitarian protection in the host country?Grading can be reviewed and adjusted.Grading can be reviewed and adjusted.