MEPs have condemned the protection gap facing women and girls in the European refugee crisis
A coalition of 360 UK organisations lead by Asylum Aid in a campaign for better protections for women refugees who have experienced rape or gender-based violence has had their demands adopted in a new report of the European Parliament FEMM Committee on Women’s Rights. The report, led by London MEP Mary Honeyball, denounces the treatment of refugee survivors of violence across Europe, calling for a series of urgent measures to protect women and girls in European asylum systems.
The report criticises the failure across European states to take account of the increased vulnerability of women and girls fleeing persecution, both in terms of the types of abuse they are likely to have suffered in the countries they are coming from, and in terms of their protection needs in countries of arrival.
When refugee women reach the UK, for example, the government still does not guarantee that women who have experienced rape or gender-based violence will be able to have female interpreters when telling their stories at their asylum interview, or childcare so that they don’t have to expose their children to the trauma of hearing about the abuse they have suffered. This can mean they don’t tell their full story, which can lead to wrongful detention or refusal of right to remain.
Zara, a refugee from Iraq who campaigns with Asylum Aid said, “I was facing a young man… My culture is from the Middle East, I think it made me uncomfortable trying to explain myself.”
The women’s committee strongly urges member states to rectify these issues, as well as provide comprehensive training to interviewers and interpreters on the effects of sexual and gendered violence, and adequate information and psychological support to survivors of such abuses within the system.
Hani, from Sudan said “That trauma follows you. You recall all of these things. Counselling is really, really important. It should be there. It would have really helped me to have that. It would have helped me be able to tell them what happened more clearly from the start too.”
Asylum Aid welcomes the report’s recommendations, and the progress that the Home Office is making on these issues because of our campaign, particularly as regards childcare. It is the UK’s responsibility to do our fair share in the European crisis to ensure that the needs of survivors of sexual or gendered violence are taken care of, starting with urgent gender-sensitive reforms in our own asylum system.
The report emphasises the important role of direct participation of refugee women in shaping the policies that affect them. At Asylum Aid, we coordinate a group of refugee women advocates who lead our activities in campaigning for these reforms.
The report will be launched at an event in London on 4 March & voted on in the European Parliament on International Women’s Day on 8 March
Interviews with case studies available on request
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Names & some identifying details of case studies have been changed.
Photography by Alexandra Embiricos & Flashon Studios