JOIN THE PROTECTION GAP CAMPAIGN
Women and girls who have fled the world’s most brutal wars and repressive countries fall through a protection gap in the UK asylum system. Many of them have been raped or have experienced domestic violence, but they are not given the basic protections that we take for granted when it comes to any other woman in this situation.
We believe that no woman seeking asylum should have to tell her story:
- in front of her children
- to a male interviewer or interpreter if she is not comfortable with this
- to someone who doesn’t understand how trauma affects memory
- without being given counselling
- without information about her rights as a woman in the asylum system
When Zara* came to this country, fleeing persecution for her Christian faith, she was interviewed by a man. As an Iraqi woman, she was unused to talking to men, especially about sensitive topics, she felt uncomfortable and wasn’t able to tell him the details of her ordeal. Unsupported and confused by an opaque asylum process that was not explained to her, she became depressed. She says that she has always been independent, but her experiences here completely broke down her strength and self-belief.
With her exceptional motivation and tenacity, Zara is rebuilding her life, helping out in her church while she waits for papers to allow her to work. She supports our campaign for a more gender-sensitive system for survivors like herself, fleeing abuse. She says that with a minimum level of support, refugee women could regain their independence and start contributing to society sooner.
“But I was a girl who was out of the house and working and I wanted to live. It was hard to work as a woman in my country, but since I was 16 I never even took pocket money from my parents – I wanted to make my own life.
“It’s so hard for me to come to a new country and say I need you to help me now. It’s not what I’m used to.
“But in this country I knew that there are rights for women, I hoped for protection. I come from a country where they can destroy your life, just like that. Now I’m here I wonder why are women in my situation treated so differently? Not given the rights that women are supposed to have here; are we not human too?”
We believe that women seeking asylum should have the same rights as other women. We want the Home Office to put these rights in place. When women like Zara come to us for protection, we must offer them a gender-sensitive procedure worthy of our reputation as a global leader on women’s rights. The five campaign demands reflect the minimum standards that the Foreign Office is promoting around the world for women in situations of conflict. Here in the UK, however, the Home Office falls short of those standards. Read our Protection Gap campaign briefing.
This is a Women’s Asylum Charter campaign supported by over 360 organisations.
Protection Gap demands in Home Office Women’s Asylum Action Plan
Your support is making a difference! The Home Office has written up a new Women’s Asylum Action Plan, and every single one of the Protection Gap campaign demands has been addressed! Now is time to keep up the pressure, and make sure these measures are translated, from promises in an Action Plan, to treating women with the dignity they deserve in practice.
2. Female Interviewer and Interpreter
The Home Office will consult with the Interpreters Unit about recruiting more female staff.
3. Training on how trauma affects memory
The Home Office will take forward training on trauma and sexual violence for interpreters too.
A six-month pilot to refer women disclosing sexual violence in their interview to a counselling service is planned, followed by a national roll-out if funding allows.
Get involved with the Protection Gap campaign!
On 10 March we delivered 1,223 postcards to Members of Parliament, calling on them to ask the Home Secretary to put these measures in place. The barrister, women’s rights activist and Member of the House of Lords, Baroness Helena Kennedy received the postcards and heard from refugee women with experience of the asylum system and its lack of compassion for women and girls.
We’re no longer sending postcards, but you can still help us close the Protection Gap for refugee women and girls!
- Donate now to help pay for a lawyer to help a woman with a complex claim navigate the system.
- Sign up to receive campaign news about how you can get involved as we keep pushing for these rights to be made a reality!
- Join your organisation to the Women’s Asylum Charter – email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Share this campaign with your friends!
*Names and some details have been changed to protect anonymity
Photos by Felix Mizioznikov and Alexandra Embiricos
Postcard design by The Red Brick Road