Report condemns government for failing to protect women seeking asylum from violence

Last updated February 19, 2015Press release

Top MPs accuse the government of failing to protect women seeking asylum against violence, in a scathing report released today.

The Joint Committee on Human Rights strongly condemned the government for failing to protect women and young girls here in the UK, despite a commitment to tackling gender-based violence abroad.

Refugee Action agrees with the findings of the report and stresses that the government’s failure to protect women and girls in the asylum system greatly endangers their safety and forces them to remain in abusive homes, or otherwise end up homeless and destitute.

The Committee also found worrying evidence of women in the asylum system being doubly discriminated against, for being a woman and an asylum seeker, and often treated with disbelief. The report urged the government to protect women and girls against violence, regardless of their immigration status.

“We express concern that current Home Office policies can leave them destitute and that this in itself leads to women being at greater risk of being a victim of violence,” said the Committee.

All of our projects support vulnerable women; in particular our Women’s Advice Project helps women who have suffered domestic abuse and gender-based violence. Aissata, who had been trafficked to the UK, remained with her abusive partner because she was so scared of the police arresting her for her irregular immigration status. One day after a particularly brutal attack by her partner, Aissata was left hospitalised. Once she was well enough to leave the hospital, although incredibly distressed and in physical pain, she was escorted directly to an immigration detention centre.

Refugee Action helped Aissata access the physical, emotional and legal support she needed. As she had not realised she had the right to claim asylum, we put her in touch with a lawyer to help her pursue the claim.

Refugee Action Bristol manager, Elinor Harris, stated:

“At Refugee Action we work daily with women who are at great risk of violence and are let down by the UK asylum system. Many women say to me that without Refugee Action’s support they would be left destitute and at risk of returning to being trafficked and sexually exploited.”

Read the report here.