Refugees are often faced with impossible choices. If you were in their shoes, what would you do?Take the quiz!
When women seek protection in the UK, they often find themselves falling through a protection gap. The protection gap is gendered in that it presents barriers and challenges to many women who seek asylum in ways which are not normally a factor for men. There are five specific barriers which can affect women’s asylum claims in different, and adverse ways. Read about how these five barriers affect women who are seeking protection from persecution.
The Protection Gap campaign is lead by an advisory group of refugee women advocates, and is based on the experiences of women going through the UK asylum system. Here are some of their stories:
“I could have opened up more but my little boy was there, I don’t want to bias his mind, I don’t want him to go through that trauma. When it’s just you and your child, you struggle. In the interview there was a bit of disturbance because he wanted attention.”
“My brain, when I was facing a young man, it was not connecting properly to my mouth, I couldn’t explain myself clearly. My culture is from the Middle East, I think it made me uncomfortable trying to explain myself. He wasn’t good for me to speak to.”
Trained interviewer & interpreter:
“The interviewer was difficult to deal with and I faced more problems with the interpreter at the trial. He was just not willing to translate fully what I was saying. He was skimming over very important things like he didn’t want to talk about some of the things I was saying.”
“The fear follows you. The system is so demanding that I lost the energy. We waited for a long, long time for our asylum decision, I was drained and I needed support. I was used to having the whole family around me, but we were left alone. I felt lonely and isolated.”
“You don’t know what rights you have. All you know is that there is democracy here, but you don’t know as a woman what you are entitled to. You don’t know if you can ask things. Women from my community don’t have confidence, they are scared and they don’t know that they have rights.”
Help us close the Protection Gap for women in our asylum system – learn more about the campaign!
Names & some identifying details have been changed.
Photography by Warren Goldswain | Design by The Red B
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.
“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.