- 49% had experienced arrest or imprisonment as part of the experiences they were fleeing
- 66% had experienced gender-related persecution, including sexual violence, forced marriage, and female genital mutilation.
- 52% had experienced violence from soldiers, police or prison guards
- 32% had been raped by soldiers, police or prison guards
- 21% had been raped by their husband, family member or someone else
- Others were fleeing forced marriage, forced prostitution and female genital mutilation
- Altogether, 66% had experienced some kind of gender-related persecution and 48% had experienced rape
Almost all these women (67 out of 72) had been refused asylum.
- Of these, 75% said that they had not been believed
- 67% had then been made destitute (left without any means of support or accommodation)
- 25% had then been detained.
- Not a single woman felt able to contemplate returning to their country of origin.
The consequences for these women were severe:
- Of those who had been made destitute, 96% relied on charities for food and 56% had been forced to sleep outside.
- 16% had been subjected to sexual violence while destitute and a similar number had worked unpaid for food or shelter.
- One woman said, “I was forced to sleep with men for me to have accommodation and food. I was forced to go and be a prostitute for me to survive.”
- When asked what they felt about being refused asylum, 97% said they were
- Depressed, 93% were scared and 63% said they had thought about killing themselves.
One woman said, “They kill me already. I feel like the walking dead.”
The director of Women for Refugee Women, writer Natasha Walter, highlights the failure of the government to respond to the needs of survivors of gender-based violence "who have survived rape and abuse [and] are refused asylum and experience destitution, detention and despair in this country.”
Debora Singer, Policy and Research Manager at Asylum Aid, said: “The harrowing stories told in Refused are a crucial reminder of how often women are failed by our asylum system. These are women fleeing unspeakable violence, yet they are routinely let down when they turn to the
The reform of the asylum process and the issues it raises must not be hijacked by the tabloid press, by fear, by racism and xenophobia, by reductive thinking, by generalisation, by meaningless rhetoric or by ignorance. In order to create a progressive, just and peaceful world society campaigners, politicians and leaders must publicly challenge the poisonous myths (about sexual violence, about race and culture and about immigration) which keep inequality in place and support abusive, cruel and inhumane practices.
The report advocates several measures including ministerial leadership and influence in challenging the Home Office culture of disbelief; improvements in the quality of asylum decision-making by everyone up to judge level, through training, guidance and consciousness raising about the nature and impact of gender-related persecution; access to free quality legal advice and representation for all asylum seekers; a ceasing of the destitution of those refused asylum; granting asylum seekers permission to work if their case has not been resolved within six months or they have been refused but temporarily cannot be returned through no fault of their own; welfare support for all asylum seekers who need it, until the point of return or integration.
The report states:
The numbers of people entering theWomen for Women International, in association with many other groups focused on the rights and welfare of asylum seekers, asks the government to heed the findings in Refused, note the upsurge in campaigning and concern around the issue and reform the asylum process in such a way that women are respectfully heard, understood by informed and enlightened listeners, believed and then treated with humanity and dignity. These women (and also their brothers, fathers, sons) are victims, not perpetrators; survivors, not criminals; refugees and escapees, not parasites and exploiters.
to claim asylum are not large. Many of the women who come here to seek refuge have fled persecution that we would struggle to imagine, and are desperate to find safety. It is time that we built a just and humane asylum process, in order to give every woman who comes to this country fleeing persecution a fair hearing and a chance to rebuild her life. UK
A criticism of asylum seekers is that they want something for free. I agree with that. They demand an awful lot which is free: kindness, basic humanity, faith and trust. And they deserve to be given it.
- Women for Women International have produced a short film which summarises the issues in Refused. Click here to view it.
- The foreword to Refused has been written by Baroness Helena Kennedy QC and the report launch was hosted by Baroness Joan Bakewell at the House of Lords late last month.
- Novelist Esther Freud has written an interview with a refugee woman for Refused, while Livia Firth, Mariella Frostrup, Oona King and Juliet Stevenson have recorded filmed messages of support.
- The Times featured the story of Saron, a refugee from Ethiopia who had been imprisoned, raped and tortured in her home country, but who was refused asylum in the UK
- Natasha Walter spoke on Woman's Hour on Radio 4 with a woman who fled
after she was imprisoned and beaten. Ethiopia
- Comedian and campaigner Kate Smurthwaite wrote about the issue in The Independent.
- Women for Refugee Women enables women refugees themselves to speak out. Find out about Journeys, which tells the story of Saron and Alicia, who were refused asylum, detained and threatened with deportation; Motherland, which tells the stories of women and children detained at Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre; and the Break the Silence event which showcased Lydia Besong’s play How I Became an Asylum Seeker.
- Finally let me express my admiration for Natasha Walter, who not only talks the talk and writes the rights, she also rights the wrongs and walks the walk.