The client, Ms. Kamara* was born in Freetown, Sierra Leone. When she was a baby, her mother took her to Nigeria to prevent her from undergoing Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C). At age 20, she returned to Sierra Leone, where her family insisted that she submit herself to FGM/C. Ms. Kamara refused and, subsequently, was threatened and attacked. She fled the country and requested asylum in the Netherlands.
Ms. Kamara claimed to be at risk of persecution. The fear was that she and her newborn daughter would be forced to undergo FGM/C if returned to Sierra Leone. Her grandmother is a powerful woman in Freetown, where the practice is not criminalized. There are no mechanisms for reporting, prosecuting, or protecting women and girls at risk of FGM/C. Ms. Kamara's lawyer contacted us and requested an expert opinion to form part of the evidence in the asylum claim.
FGM/C in Sierra Leone
Unlike many other countries where FGM/C is practiced, in Sierra Leone it's an initiation into secret female societies called Bondo or Sande. The practice is a group ritual, often performed on several girls simultaneously. FGM/C prevalence in Sierra Leone is one of the highest in the world: 89.6% of girls and women aged 15-49 have been cut.
In assessing the case and writing our extensive report, we focused on whether Ms. Kamara and her daughter would be at risk of undergoing FGM/C, whether the authorities would be able to protect her and wheter she would be able to relocate within their home country.
We found her account to be consistent with Dr. Middelburg’s background knowledge and concluded that it was plausible that, upon their return to Sierra Leone, they would face a real risk (‘forseeable risk’) to undergo FGM/C. Consequently, she would most probably find herself in a situation that conflicts with Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
*For security and privacy reasons, the names of clients and specific facts and details from this case have been modified.