“Human rights of women refugees must be met” warns European Parliament

Labour Party

The European Parliament has called for measures to ensure the basic needs and human rights of women seeking asylum are addressed, including their protection from violence.

I was responsible for drafting the resolution which, I am delighted to say, was passed by the European Parliament yesterday, on International Women’s Day.

I said in a statement that I believe the needs of women refugees have been overlooked for too long and yet increasing numbers of women and children are travelling to Europe having fled war and persecution.

UNHCR figures from January this year reveal the majority of those arriving in the EU are women and children so we must act to ensure they are safe and properly cared for.

Asylum is not gender neutral and our laws and policies must reflect that.

Violence is an everyday reality for many women and girls fleeing conflict. But pressure on asylum systems should never excuse failure to protect women from violence nor should women seeking asylum experience any double standards; they should have the same rights as other victims of gender-based violence.

The resolution sets out a comprehensive EU wide strategy for women refugees and asylum seekers.

The measures include ending the detention of children and family reunification. It also states that reception centre staff are properly equipped and trained to deal with the additional needs of women refugees on their arrival through their entire stay. Staff must be able to identify those who may be victims of gender based violence including trafficking and enforced marriages.

The report also calls for properly and securely segregated sanitation and sleeping facilities. And women refugees must also have access, as soon as they arrive, to complete information about their rights, whether they concern the asylum procedure or reproductive health.

The arbitrary detention of women and children is not acceptable the report states, especially if this is for administrative convenience and is a violation of their liberty.

You will find a link to my full report here.

The measures set out to improve the conditions of women seeking asylum include:
• female interviewers, translators and interpreters
• Trauma counselling for women who have experienced gender-based violence
• Childcare during screening and asylum interviews
• Information for women on their right to lodge an asylum claim, independently of their spouse and to have a legal status independent of that of their spouse
• Gender-specific training for staff, and
• Legal assistance for women in reception centres
• End detention of children, pregnant women and rape victims
• Gender-segregated sleeping and sanitation facilities