New and comprehensive EU-wide gender measures, which would make women seeking asylum, often travelling with young children and other dependants, feel safer and more comfortable on arrival in reception centres, should be adopted as part of broader reforms on migration and asylum policy, says the text adopted by Women's rights and Gender equality Committee on Thursday.
MEPs also think that gender-based violence, such as rape, sexual violence, FGM, forced marriage, domestic violence, should be a valid reason to seeking asylum in the EU.
"This report aims to highlight the exceptionally vulnerable situation of women refugees in the European Union. They have fled persecution in their home countries only to undertake a perilous journey in order to reach a place of safety. On arrival at reception centres these already vulnerable women, who may be victims of sexual violence, trafficking or other violent crimes, face additional barriers which further increases their already vulnerable positions", said rapporteur Mary Honeyball (S&D, U.K).
Gender sensitive asylum procedure
Asylum policies and procedures, including the assessment of asylum claims, need to be gender sensitive, while individual and gendered forms of violence should be valid reasons for seeking asylum in the EU, says the committee. Violence-related asylum claims should in fact be accepted to protect women from secondary victimisation. MEPs also stress the need for LGBTI sensitive reception as violence against LGBTI is common in reception facilities.
"Pressure on the asylum reception systems should never excuse failure to protect women from violence nor should women seeking asylum experience any double standards; they should have the same rights as other victims of gender-based violence", says rapporteur.
The report calls for a number of measures to ensure that women’s needs are met throughout the asylum process, such as:
• Gender-specific training for staff including comprehensive training on sexual violence, trafficking and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)
• Gender-segregated sleeping and sanitation facilities
• The right to request female interviewers and interpreters
• Access to gender-sensitive health services including prenatal and postnatal care, and trauma Counselling for women who have experienced gender base violence
• Providing childcare during screening and asylum interviews
• Access to high quality legal advice
• Informing women of their right to make an independent application for asylum
• Right of women to lodge a claim for asylum independent of their spouse as a key to women empowerment.
Further, MEPs believe that any list of safe countries of origin should not result in less favourable procedural treatment for women whose claims for asylum are based on fear or experience of gender based violence.
No detention for pregnant women
MEPs are calling for an end of detention of children, pregnant women seeking asylum, and of survivors of rape and sexual violence and trafficking.
Better integration of refugees through:
• Facilitation to labour market
• Language classes and education
• Childcare and family reunification
• Recognition of qualifications obtained abroad.
Finally, to improve the security and safety of women refugees, safe and legal routes to the EU must be made available in order to avoid smuggling and legislation and policies relating to irregular migration should not prevent access to EU asylum procedure.
Note to editors
Women and children account around 35% of refugees. 900 000 people crossed Mediterranean between the start of 2015 and November.