The first parallel session, I attended a session on problems facing women refugees, Jender a session on ethnic minority women in politics. (That’s where she heard about Fawcett’s new Femocracy campaign to get more ethnic minority women involved in politics.) The session, from folks at the NRC, raised the following important issues that face women refugees in the UK:
- Gender based persecution is not one of the reasons accepted as a reason for fleeing one’s country of origin.
- Reports of rape are rarely believed at the initial asylum interview. And this is true even if women are coming from places where rape is an extremely widespread weapon of war.
- At the initial interview, lack of childcare means women often have to bring their children with them, thus making it more difficult to report on horrific experiences that caused them to flee.
- Lack of childcare makes it difficult for women, who are predominantly primary caregivers, to attend language classes that would empower them to engage in their new country.
- Language barriers mean that women who suffer domestic violence are often unable to access the resources that could help them.
- Women who have asylum applications as dependents upon their partners are often disinclined to report domestic violence, fearing this will threaten their application for refugee status.
- In the cases in which women do leave abusive relationships, women whose applications have been rejected (and hence are on section 4 support – see here for more details for the process) have ‘no recourse to public funds’ and hence cannot take places at domestic violence refuges in the UK. (For more on the campaign to change this, see here.)
Shatali is campaining on this latter issue, and Helen, Catherine and Fatima from the NRC continue to do great work, with REACT around the city of Sheffield promoting awareness of the problems that face women refugees. For those interested in getting involved, see here for opportunities!