Government must act to end violence against refugee and asylum seeking women

I am  calling for the Government to take action to end the violence faced by thousands of refugee and asylum-seeking women as they search for safety in the UK as it is failing to prevent and respond to violence experienced by women.

The lack of effective action by the Government undermines the UK’s position as a global leader in the fight to end violence against women and girls. I remain deeply concerned and have made tackling violence against women and girls one of my top ten constituency priorities.

Refugee and asylum seeking women are at risk of violence at all stages of their journey to safety, including after arrival here in the UK. They face particular risks when on the move and this is principally because of a lack of safe and legal routes to protection often forcing them to turn to smugglers. 

The risks they face after arrival in the UK are compounded by an asylum support and accommodation system that fails to guarantee women’s safety and protection from violence. For example most asylum seekers will spend time in one or more of seven initial accommodation centres in the UK, likely to be a large full board hostel, which are sometimes overwhelmingly dominated by men. Communal and eating areas are mixed, bathrooms are usually unisex and several of the centres have no women-only or safe spaces. 

Vulnerable women and young girls are reporting being anxious about using the bathroom at night and or going hungry because they feel intimidated or fearful of being sexually harassed in the corridors or the canteen.

The lack of commitment to the safety of women in the asylum process by the UK Government is manifested in the most recent version of its Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy, which includes only a short paragraph referencing asylum, but not a single commitment to taking action to guarantee their safety and protection from violence.

The Government must now act and introduce the changes to our own asylum seekers system that are so desperately needed.

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