18 March 2016

The Women’s Refugee Commission published a report highlighting the issues faced by refugee women and girls in Germany and Sweden, the two countries which have welcomed the highest number of asylum seekers in the past few years. According to UNICEF, in February 2016 women and children made up 63% of the refugees crossing from Greece into FYROM. There is no guarantee of safety for refugee women and girls on the move in transit countries. However, once they reach Europe and their destination country, their vulnerability is too often underrated and the risks do not cease.

The report highlights that the organisation of reception centres in the two countries fails to ensure the physical and mental safety of female refugees, and rather aims at short-term solutions. Facilities are arranged in a non-gender-sensitive manner, lack separated spaces for men and women and there is no adequate system to properly identify and address the needs of gender-based violence survivors. Furthermore, incidents of sexual assault and violence have been perpetrated within the reception centres walls, the document highlights.

Even though Germany and Sweden recognise gender-based persecution as grounds for asylum, women and girls have to face a complicated legal system, hindering de facto their access to support. The report calls on the governments of Germany and Sweden to set up a standardised system to ensure an effective response to gender-based violence and the development of a proper medical and psychosocial system to identify and support victims. It also calls on the EU to guarantee fair and comprehensive access to asylum and legal protection, facilitate family reunification and boost access to resettlement and durable solutions.

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This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 18 March 2016. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.