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Protecting refugee women and girls from violence

A Collection of Good Practices

An increasing number of refugees worldwide are women and children. In many cases, they are forced to leave their homes due to armed conflicts, insecurity or generalised violence. For women and girls, their migration experience is shaped by some particular features, the roots of which lie in the gendered forms of violence they may face throughout their journey. Some may leave their country of origin because of experiences of gender-based violence or in fear of such violence, while others may seek to escape the threat of female genital mutilation or forced marriage. Without regular pathways to reach a country where they can seek international protection, women often have to resort to dangerous routes. During their journey, they are exposed to sexual and gender-based violence, including rape, sexual exploitation and abuse, sexual harassment, psychological violence, trafficking, early and forced marriage, transactional sex and domestic violence. Women travelling alone and those only accompanied by their children are particularly at risk of abuse, as are pregnant women, adolescent girls, unaccompanied minors and women with disabilities.

Despite their experiences of violence and trauma, refugee women and girls undertake risky journeys to a safer and independent future, showing incredible strength, self-reliance and resilience. However, once they reach their destination, many women and young girls still face risks due to limited access to support services, a lack of effective procedures to identify survivors of gender-based violence and inadequate reception conditions in accommodation facilities. The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights highlighted gender-based violence against refugee women and girls as an area of concern in its June 2016 monthly report on the migration situation. In October 2016, the Agency reported that safety and protection of asylum seekers from violence, exploitation and abuse remains an area in need of priority action by the EU Member States.

Obtaining reliable national data which provides prevalence estimates and insights into the causes and consequences of various forms of violence against refugee women and girls remains a challenge. The EU Fundamental Rights Agency reported in June 2016 that no EU Member State collects data on reported incidents of gender-based violence towards female refugees that have just arrived or need international protection. Similarly, the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, noted in her last report that “there is a lack of data on such human rights violations, a fact that prevents authorities from taking the necessary measures to ensure the safety of refugee women and girls.”

The aim of this report is to suggest positive actions that international organisations, local, regional, or national authorities, civil society organisations and NGOs can take to better protect refugee women and girls from violence. This is with the goal of promoting the exchange of good and promising practices and opening up a space for transnational dialogue, experience-sharing and peer-to-peer learning.

We aim to:

  • Document and provide accessible information about good and promising practices that are innovative, transferable and effective.
  • Facilitate experience-sharing between key actors and stakeholders in this field through a collection of good practices. This collection presents a mix of projects, policies and practices intended as a resource for governments, local, regional and national authorities, policymakers, NGOs, and civil society organisations.
  • Encourage learning, dialogue, and inspiration across regions, countries and communities.