[Brussels, 16 June 2016] Ahead of the European Council which will take place at the end of June and will address migration among other issues, the European Women’s Lobby has sent a letter to Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, calling on him to listen to women’s voices and take urgent action to uphold the human rights of women and girls refugees in Europe.
The European Women’s Lobby (EWL) just concluded a unique five-month project “From conflict to peace? Women’s and girls’ voices on the move”, aiming to raise awareness on the reality of violence and human rights’ violation faced by refugee women and girls in Europe, in partnership with the Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC). The #womensvoices report comprises a series of concrete and timely recommendations.
EWL members are also sending a similar letter to their head of state, calling for:
- Ensuring that the EU and all its member states ratify and implement the Istanbul Convention, without any reserve, and mainstream the specific needs of refugee and migrant women through the 5 Ps Framework developed in our report.
- Ensuring that transit/accommodation centres are built and staffed in a gender-sensitive manner, and to use our check list “Implementing a gender-sensitive humanitarian response” at all levels.
- Ensuring that EU and national asylum procedures comply with the UNHCR Guidelines on International Protection and include a gender perspective in all aspects, according to our check list “Engendering the asylum systems”.
Women and girls fleeing conflicts and travelling to or settling in Europe are at higher risk of suffering from male violence. On the way and in the centres, they face rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, from different perpetrators; they have to resort to prostitution in order to get access to food, housing or transport; they face domestic violence; girls are being sold for marriage or trafficked for sexual exploitation… Moreover, the way that transit, reception and accommodation centres are built, organised and staffed has a direct impact on women’s and girls’ ability to be safe form male violence. Recent field assessment by WRC in Greece gives direct evidence of this reality. Finally, the lack of gendered interpretation and disregard for gender sensitive EU and national asylum policies is a massive breach of women’s and girls’ human rights.
Based on field trip assessments, strategic meetings at national and European levels, and data collected on the ground by EWL members in different countries, and unveiled during EWL #womensvoices European Dialogue, the EWL #womensvoices report calls for:
- Comprehensive policies to end all forms of violence against women and girls in the EU and its member states, and specific measures to ensure that women and girls refugees and asylum seekers are protected and get access to justice.
- A humanitarian response which succeeds in protecting women and girls from male violence and exploitation.
- Gender-sensitive asylum policies and procedures to help women and girls to escape or denounce male violence and access to their full human rights.
Moreover, during the EWL General Assembly on 4 June, all EWL members adopted an emergency motion on “Promotion of women protection in EU and UN refugee policies”, which requests the following:
- That EU Member States should increase the number of UNHCR quota refugees and give priority to women within the quota system;
- That EU Member States implement the principle of family unification upheld in the UN Refugee Convention of 1951, in order that mothers, sisters and daughters of men refugees travel to Europe safely and avoid becoming victims of human traffickers;
- That EU Member States apply the principle of human rights to women refugees and children including internally displaced persons (IDP), taking into account especially women’s asylum claims, including child, early and forced marriages, as contained in international instruments such as CEDAW and the Convention on the Rights of the Child;
- That EU Member States implement EU law dealing with asylum, including relevant Directives on gender and women’s rights.
In May, leaders of the world came together at the World Humanitarian Summit and called for gender equality, women’s empowerment and women’s rights to become pillars of humanitarian action. Now is the time for action for Europe to implement a gender-sensitive humanitarian response and protect all refugee women and girls from male violence!