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Jean Lambert London's Green MEP

New research highlights grave concerns over poor treatment of women asylum seekers in Europe

Green MEP for London, Jean Lambert has today hosted a special reception at the European Parliament to launch a new report with UK charity Asylum Aid, which finds vast and worrying inconsistencies in the way nine different EU Member States handle asylum applications by women [1].

The report, ‘Gender-related asylum claims in Europe’ published in conjunction with European partners in Spain, Italy, France and Hungary finds that asylum policy and practice across Europe often falls well below acceptable standards, and that a high quality harmonised European asylum system remains as out of reach as ever [2].

The research, based on interviews with women who have claimed asylum in the EU since 2008, concludes that:

  • Fewer than half of the nine EU Member States had gender guidelines to help make asylum decisions on gender-related cases
  • Some States do not publish gender-disaggregated asylum statistics, despite binding legal obligations
  • Even where positive policy is in place, this is often overlooked in practice.

During 2010, over 257,000 asylum applications were made across the EU, 35 per cent of which were made by women or girls.  For thousands of these women, the experience of attempting to claim asylum was one hallmarked by crippling shame, anxiety and confusion due to a lack of gender sensitivity and a mismatch of inconsistent national policies.

Jean, a long-time campaigner for asylum rights, believes that asylum seekers forced to flee gender-based persecution and seek protection in Europe must have access to a fair and dignified asylum system, wherever they make their claim.

In October 2011, Jean successfully steered a package of amendments to the Qualifications Directive – one of the EU’s keystone asylum policies – through the legislative process. The revised Directive now gives greater protection to women seeking refuge from gender related persecution, such as Female Genital Mutilation, forced abortion and rape in situations of conflict or war: Member States are now also required to fully consider gender related aspects when assessing asylum claims.

Speaking at the launch, Jean said: “This authoritative and timely report from the GenSen Project goes to prove what many of us have suspected for so long; that national asylum systems across Europe are continuing to let women down.

“Progress has been made towards the recognition of gender in asylum policies and legislation, the challenge now lies in these commitments being implemented through the adoption of concrete and strong measures which incorporate an understanding of the unique experience of women.

“The onus falls to the Commission and Member States to take serious note of the report’s recommendations, and to take positive steps towards making these measures a reality.  To fail is to repeat the denial of fundamental human rights – the very reason these women seek international protection in the first place.”

Debora Singer MBE, Policy and Research Manager at Asylum Aid, said: “Asylum seekers fleeing from gender-related violence are among the most vulnerable people in Europe.  When someone has escaped rape or sexual violence or forced marriage and turns to us for help, the least we should offer is a fair and safe asylum system.

“The research shows how far this remains out of reach.  Our focus now must be on using the research to make a fairer system a reality across Europe.”

Notes to Editors

Asylum Aid provides free legal advice and representation to asylum seekers and campaigns for their fair treatment in the UK.  The Women’s Project at Asylum Aid provides legal advice specifically for women asylum seekers, backed up by a programme of research, advocacy, outreach and training.