Women for Refugee Women publishes report ‘Refused: the experiences of women denied asylum in the UK’

In May 2012, Women for Refugee Women published a report, Refused, which shines a light into the experiences of women who have been denied asylum in the UK. WRW challenges the injustices experienced by women seeking asylum in the UK. They enable women refugees themselves to speak out through arts events and exhibitions, media work and lobbying opportunities which bring the voices of refugee women to wide audiences.

The study shows that nearly half of women who claim asylum in the UK have experienced rape, and nearly half have been arrested or imprisoned, but most are denied asylum in the UK.

Key findings of the report:

  • Along with other countries, the UK has made a commitment to give asylum to those fleeing persecution if their own state cannot protect them. Only a third of the 18,000 people who claimed asylum in 2010 were women, yet 74% of these women were turned down. Refused explores the experiences of 72 women who have sought asylum in the UK.
  • Persecution
    These women were asked about the experiences they had fled in their home country. 49% had experienced arrest or imprisonment; 52% had experienced violence from soldiers, police or prison guards; 32% had been raped by soldiers, police or prison guards; and 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.
  • Refusal
    Despite these experiences, of the 70 women who disclosed the initial outcome of their application, 67 women were refused asylum. Of those who had been refused, three quarters said that they had not been believed, suggesting that the culture of disbelief which has previously been observed in the Home Office is still a major cause for concern. The women who had been refused asylum were asked about the effects of refusal: 67% had been made destitute (left without any means of support or accommodation) and 25% had been detained. Not a single woman felt able to contemplate returning to their country of origin.
  • Destitution
    Of those who had been made destitute, 96% had relied on charities for food and 56% had been forced to sleep outside. 16% had experienced sexual violence while destitute and a similar number had worked unpaid for food or shelter.
  • Depression
    The women were asked what they felt about being refused asylum: 97% said they were depressed; 93% were scared; 63% said they had thought about killing themselves.

Despite positive rhetoric from this government regarding the need to improve women’s experiences in the asylum process, the findings of this report highlight that there is still much to be done to ensure that women fleeing persecution get a fair hearing and can find protection when they need it. It is now time for the government to turn the rhetoric into reality, and to this end the report made the following recommendations:

  • Improve the quality of asylum decision-making – Ministers should show leadership on the importance of breaking down the culture of disbelief in the Home Office – Training and guidance should be put in place for judges on immigration tribunals on the nature and impact of gender-related persecution
  • Ensure access to free quality legal advice and representation for all asylum seekers
  • End the destitution of those refused asylum – Grant 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 – Provide welfare support for all asylum seekers who need it, up until the point of return or integration
  • 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.

The full report can be found here.