New research released last week by the Refugee Council and the Asylum Support Appeals Project (ASAP) has found that female asylum seekers in the UK are not being adequately protected from abuse and violence.
The comprehensive 64-page report, Women seeking asylum: Safe from violence in the UK?,
The report explores the extent to which the UK asylum system ensures the safety of women who are facing domestic abuse and other forms of gender-based violence.
Part one of the report (chapters 1 to 3) provides contextual information on the legislative and policy framework that underpins the asylum support system. Current asylum support policy is analysed through the lens of women’s needs and experiences, drawing on relevant data that emerged from the Refugee Council and ASAP’s research and interviews for the report.
The second part of the report (chapters 4 to 8) presents substantive findings on the extent to which the asylum support system ensures women’s safety if they disclose that they are at risk from abuse, violence or exploitation. The final chapter provides suggested examples of good practice for agencies working with female asylum seekers.
Overall, ASAP and the Refugee Council say they were alarmed to find that women can be at risk of abuse and violence at any stage of the asylum support system. Women who are applying for asylum support or facing destitution after their asylum claims have been refused were found to be at a heightened risk of abuse.
Anna Musgrave, Head of Advocacy at the Refugee Council, said: “There is a tragic irony in learning that women who have arrived on our shores after fleeing violence in their home countries, go on to face further violence here in the UK, a country where they thought they would be safe.
“Women seeking asylum have been largely absent from cross-Government efforts to address violence against women and girls – this need to change. We hope the Home Office will heed this new evidence and take steps to ensure that the asylum support system prevents and responds to the violence experienced by women seeking asylum.”
The report makes a number of detailed recommendations for the Home Office, which are summarised as follows:
• The Home Office should ensure that women seeking asylum are firmly included in UK cross-Government efforts to address violence against women and girls, and any future cross-Government strategy on ending violence against women and girls should reflect this.
• The Home Office should publish a revised policy that addresses the domestic violence and abuse experienced by women seeking asylum, as a priority, and monitor its implementation. The revised policy should provide an effective and consistent response to domestic abuse, at all points of the asylum support journey.
• The Home Office should consult and review all key asylum support policy instructions to ensure that these policies explicitly respond to the needs of women who are experiencing or at risk of all forms of gender-based exploitation or abuse.
• The Home Office should work with accommodation providers, ensuring they act to reduce women’s exposure to all forms of gender-based abuse and exploitation and feel safe in their accommodation.
• The Home Office should ensure that no woman faces homelessness and destitution when exiting the asylum support system after being granted refugee status or another form of leave.
• The Home Office should amend the current UK cross-Government action plan to end violence against women and girls to include the above recommendations.