The Protection Gap


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:



Read the stories about how these measures affect women in the asylum system

Read about our achievements so far!

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.

shutterstock_23840299“If I was a girl who was good and quiet and stayed in the house, I don’t know if any of this would have happened to me. 

“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.

Refugee women in Glasgow SRC

The Refugee Women’s Strategy Group in Glasgow supports the Protection Gap campaign


1. Childcare

We said:
The Action Plan says:

The Home Office will look into options for providing childcare in areas where it is currently unavailable (London, Glasgow & Liverpool).








2. Female Interviewer and Interpreter

We said:
The Action Plan says:

A female interviewer will now be guaranteed to any woman who requests one at screening. A script is being developed to clearly explain this option at that point.

The Home Office will consult with the Interpreters Unit about recruiting more female staff.






3. Training on how trauma affects memory

We said:
The Action Plan says:

The Home Office has now included information about trauma and memory along with a case study concerning sexual violence in its new credibility training programme for interviewers.

Relevant training from the College Policing will also be included in this module.

The Home Office will take forward training on trauma and sexual violence for interpreters too.




4. Counselling

We said:
The Action Plan says:

From May 2015, women who disclose sexual violence at screening in Croydon will be signposted to organisations that provide counselling. This will be rolled out nationwide in September 2015 if it is successful.

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.




5. Information

We said:
The Action Plan says:

The Home Office will review the information provided to women seeking asylum, including information about the new provisions listed above.








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.

LtR: Marjan, Mhurai, Baroness Helena Kennedy, Christie and Princess, 10 March 2015

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
  • 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