The Refugee Crisis Is Not Gender Neutral

Independently of the concrete threats, women are facing if they have to flee (internal displacement as well as seeking refuge in neighbouring countries or in the EU), the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) is protesting against the root causes of war and violence which force them to flee.

As war and conflicts continue to rage in many parts of the world, a women’s situation becomes more precarious. In war zones patriarchal suppression, domestic violence as well as multiple forms of sexually use and economic disempowerment are on the increase. Rape and sexually assaults are well documented weapons of war. Women and children make up the majority of refugees and internally displaced persons in Syria. Discriminative family and civil laws that subject access to passport or family documents to the approval of men within the family further hinders the capacity of women and children to leave the territory and seek asylum outside. Those who escape the Syrian conflict still face threats of sexual violence and harassment along the refugee route with nowhere to turn for protection.

CROSSING BORDERS: While attempting to cross borders, women are target of smugglers and traffickers to be sexually and economically exploited. Women refugees report a very high incidence of robbery, and the lack of money is making them very vulnerable to further exploitation, including sexual trafficking as they travel the refugee route through Europe. Being in a state of transit, women are more likely to be sold into prostitution networks, forced into early marriages and exploited into domestic servitude. Women and girls are frequently at risk of violence, sexually harassment, assault and rape by other migrants and refugees, local residents, police and authorities with no recourse to justice and legal mechanisms.
Throughout the Balkans refugee women complain of inflated prices for basic needs; all too often local individuals are exploiting the situation of the refugees for their own gains. Basic security, which is supposed to be provided by local authorities in countries along the refugee route, ranges from very limited to almost non-existent – and police sometimes are a part of the problem in that they ignore incidences of exploitation or violence or are themselves perpetrating these crimes.
ARRIVING AT EU BORDERS: A basic lack of fundamental rights at EU borders and subsequently in detention centres is the reason why an alarming number of cases of women abused by aid-workers and guard has been reported. Women and children are cramped, without separate washrooms for women and men, and without secure and separate sleeping areas. Furthermore, the masculinisation of the humanitarian sector and the asylum system are a crucial factor that leads to sexually re-victimisation and re-traumatisation of women who have already experienced male violence. European states fail to establish minimum standards of getting sensitive emergency measures and responses: female interpreters, safe rooms, information on their rights and complaint mechanisms.
In EUROPE: Lack of adequate shelter in urban and especially rural sectors, very few separated shelters, lack of trained personal, translators, child care, information about rights. It is not just about food and clothes, women and girls suffer from unsafe infrastructure and accommodation, limited health and psychological services and a lack of adequate information on asylum procedures and psychosocial services. The insecurity and trauma faced by the refugee population is leading to increasing levels of domestic violence, with women forced to stay with abusive partners.
Arms trade must immediately stop – especially in regions of conflict.
Enlargement of “secure countries of origin” and dirty deals with dictators and Human rights violators (Turkey – EU, EU/Germany – Lybia) must stop immediately.
We need open borders instead of the new fences and walls – alimented by new patriotism, (ethic) nationalism, right-wing and fascist movements.
Despite the knowledge that women are more vulnerable on the trek, asylum policies and refugee policy don’t consider enough specific needs for their protection.

WILPF requests:
1. To governments:
Guarantee safe and legal access to European countries (EU) and support Greece
Stop the EU-Turkey AP and abstain from deals with (one of) the Libyan governments and Egypt
Maintain a climate of welcome, respect of Human rights and international conventions
Start positive campaigns (together with supporters of the CSO), support integration measures and positive media echo
Sign, ratify and commit to implement the Istanbul Convention: guarantee fundamental rights to be protected from GBV at individual, structural and institutional level regardless her legal status
Guarantee access to justice, recording violence, CEDAW report 32
Support the World’s humanitarian summit in May in Istanbul and the Women’s refugee commission
Involve refugee women on peace tables, negotiations
Update NAP of UNSCR 1325on refugee women, use the Honeywell report in national legislation
Don’t accept impunity for GBV against refugee women
Don’t eliminate family reunification from the Asylum law and praxis
2. To local entities:
Provide gender sensitive responses in infrastructure and access to legal advices
Allocate fully and provide security shelters which respect specific needs for women
Provide woman interpreters, child care, individual interviews, mandatory training for interviewers on sexualité violence,trauma, credibility assessment
Provide specific entities to empower women and to train young men asylum seekers
3. To Civil society:
Promote participation of refugee women in social and political debates
Fight actively pessimism, hostility and fear against human beings in misery and a global situation which forces people to migrate and initiate positive campaigns (art, literature, cultural exchanges)
Continue to fight against weapons export, military interventions (for example NATO in the Mediterranean) push back actions, exclusion and GBV
Build networks with women in all European countries ( specific focus on Balcan countries) against poverty, new patriotism with strong tendancies to exclusion and growing fascism, and against new walls
Fight against economic imperialism as root cause of the economic crisis on the basis of feminist ecomomy, care policies and empowerment