Female Asylum Seekers Failed by the UKBA

Over the past few days, we’ve seen a huge amount of media coverage of Women for Refugee Women’s brilliant report detailing the UKBA and Home Office’s failure to support and protect women seeking asylum in the UK.

The reported revealed that 74% of women seeking asylum in the UK are refused at first decision, despite the fact that 50% of all female applicants were victims of rape, and another 50% have experienced arrest or imprisonment.

Of those who were refused asylum, two thirds were consequently made destitute. A further 56% of these individuals had to sleep rough, 16% experienced sexual violence and 18% were forced into unpaid labour for food or shelter.

The psychological impact of both detention and destitution is hard to ignore. Half of the women questioned for the report had thought about killing themselves whilst battling with our fickle asylum system.

This is not a UK specific phenomena; female asylum seekers all across the EU are faced with asylum systems that continually fail to acknowledge and protect their rights as weomne. In an article written today by Asylum Aid’s Communications and Public Affairs Office, Russell Hargrave, the multiple discrepancies in asylum legislation across European countries were blamed for the EU’s inability to provide sufficient support and sanctuary for women fleeing persecution:

Among the nine states researched – the UK, Belgium, France, Hungary, Italy, Malta, Romania, Spain, and Sweden – there are glaring discrepancies in national asylum practice. The protection available to women in one state may be wholly absent across the border. Spain, for example, fails to recognise trafficking as a form of persecution.Neither is Forced Genital Mutilation (FGM) always recognised as persecution in France, Malta, and Romania. 

On a strategic level, fewer than half the states have adopted gender guidelines so are missing a crucial tool for guiding asylum decision-makers on gender-related claims. One country, Romania, fails entirely to publish asylum statistics broken down by gender, despite legal obligations to do so.

For more information about the report, see the following articles:
Women for Refugee Women – ‘Refused’ (full report).
The Scotsman – ‘Asylum ‘needs to address rape issue’ – 28/5/2012
Left Foot Forward – ‘Poor standards persist across Europe for women seeking asylum’ – 30/5/2012
Women’s Hour, 28/5/2012 (interview withe a woman who was refused asylum in UK)

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