The charity Women for Refugee Women has released some important new research looking into the experiences of asylum-seeking women in the UK. The new report, Will I ever be safe? Asylum-seeking women made destitute in the UK, features evidence from partners across the UK including NACCOM member organisations, explores the experiences of 106 destitute asylum-seeking women who have struggled to survive here whilst seeking sanctuary, making it the largest piece of research on the topic.
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The key findings of the report highlight how:
Asylum-seeking women are being made homeless, hungry and vulnerable to abuse in the UK:
- 32 of these 106 women said they were raped or sexually abused in their country of origin and again when destitute in the UK.
- Almost half were street homeless while destitute in the UK. ‘Rosie’, who was trafficked from Nigeria, slept outside for a continuous period of six months, while she was pregnant. 25% said they were raped or experienced sexual violence while sleeping outside.
- 95% were hungry while destitute.
- 95% felt depressed; a third tried to kill themselves.
These women have already experienced abuse and violence in their countries of origin:
- 78% of these 106 women said they had fled gender-based violence in their country of origin.
- A third said they were raped by state authorities in their countries of origin.
- A quarter of them came from DR Congo, where women have been targeted in ongoing conflicts and repression.
- 16% are lesbian or bisexual and were targeted because of their sexuality, in countries where homosexuality is illegal, such as Uganda and Cameroon.
Most of the women in the survey were made destitute after their asylum claim was refused, but when they were unable to return to their countries of origin due to their fears of further persecution. Some women were made destitute after getting leave to remain, due to the challenges of moving on to mainstream benefits.
Natasha Walter, director of Women for Refugee Women, says:
“It is shocking to see how women who have already survived extreme violence and abuse are being left with no support when they come to the UK to seek safety. These punitive policies are leaving women who have already gone through rape and torture vulnerable to abuse all over again in this country. Too often, our government is ignoring the needs of women who cross borders. It is time to build a fairer asylum process in which women are protected from harm and in which they can be supported to live with dignity.”
Women for Refugee Women will be holding an event on Friday 14th February, bringing together refugee women in Birmingham to share solidarity and support on this issue and launch a new campaign against the destitution of asylum-seeking women, #SistersNotStrangers.