By Staff Reporter
Brussels has proposed comprehensive measures to make asylum-seeking women feel safer on arrival at reception centres in Europe.
The European Parliament Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee said such measures should be adopted as part of broader reforms on migration and asylum policy.
MEPs on the committee also expressed their belief that gender-based violence should be a valid reason to seeking asylum in the EU.
“This report aims to highlight the exceptionally vulnerable situation of women refugees in the European Union,” said rapporteur Mary Honeyball. “They have fled persecution in their home countries only to undertake a perilous journey in order to reach a place of safety.
“On arrival at reception centres these already vulnerable women, who may be victims of sexual violence, trafficking or other violent crimes, face additional barriers which further increases their already vulnerable positions.”
Asylum policies and procedures, including the assessment of asylum claims, need to be gender sensitive, said the committee. And violence-related asylum claims in particular should in fact be accepted to protect women from secondary victimisation.
MEPs also stressed the need for LGBTQ-sensitive reception as violence against people in those communities is common in reception facilities.
“Pressure on the asylum reception 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,” said Honeyball.
The report calls for a number of measures to ensure that women’s needs are met throughout the asylum process, such as gender-specific training for staff including comprehensive training on sexual violence; gender-segregated sleeping and sanitation facilities; and the right to request female interviewers and interpreters, as well as childcare during screening.
Also recommended are access to gender-sensitive health services, including prenatal and postnatal care; trauma counselling for women who have experienced gender-based violence; access to high-quality legal advice; and informing married women of their right to make an asylum application independent of their spouse.
MEPs are calling for an end of the detention of children, pregnant women seeking asylum, and survivors of sexual violence and trafficking – the latter also requiring safe and legal routes to the EU.
The committee expressed their belief that any list of safe countries of origin should not result in less favourable procedural treatment for women whose claims for asylum are based on fear or experience of gender-based violence.