21 March 2014

In a position paper on gender-based violence against women and girls who are refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons and others in need of international protection, UNHCR calls on the EU to adopt a broad policy framework for tackling such violence beyond existing actions.

UNHCR urges the EU and its Member States to ratify the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women. Currently, only 8 of the 47 Member States of the Council of Europe have ratified the Convention.

The lack of privacy in detention and reception centres can heighten the risk of violence against asylum-seeking women and girls, ‘especially when they are considered by members of their own communities not to conform with gender norms’. The European Asylum Support Office (EASO) should ‘support Member States in establishing mechanisms for the prevention of and response to gender-based violence in asylum and detention centres’.

Refugee women and girls may also experience more specific and less common forms of gender-based violence: female genital mutilation, forced marriages, or crimes of ‘honour’ at the hands of their families and/or communities.

UNHCR also warns against the problems with returning trafficked women to their country of origin, since ‘they may fear re-victimization at the hands of traffickers, risk being re-trafficked, or being stigmatized for their participation in sex work’.

In addition, according to the report, due to a lack of adequate identification and protection mechanisms for stateless persons, stateless women and girls face difficulties regularizing their stay in the EU, making them particularly vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.

Member States are required by the recast Reception Conditions Directive to inform the Commission how special reception needs are identified during the asylum procedure. UNHCR recommends that the European Commission use this reporting requirement to ‘address the gap in data collection and knowledge on gender-based violence in EU asylum reception systems’.

This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 21 March 2014
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