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Female refugees face physical assault, exploitation and sexual harassment on their journey through Europe

22 Jan 2016
[International Secretariat]
Region:
Topic: Refugees and Migrants

Governments and aid agencies are failing to provide even basic protections to women refugees traveling from Syria and Iraq. New research conducted by Amnesty International shows that women and girl refugees face violence, assault, exploitation and sexual harassment at every stage of their journey, including on European soil.

The organization interviewed 40 refugee women and girls in Germany and Norway last month who travelled from Turkey to Greece and then across the Balkans. All the women described feeling threatened and unsafe during the journey. Many reported that in almost all of the countries they passed through they experienced physical abuse and financial exploitation, being groped or pressured to have sex by smugglers, security staff or other refugees.

Women and girls travelling alone and those accompanied only by their children felt particularly under threat in transit areas and camps in Hungary, Croatia and Greece, where they were forced to sleep alongside hundreds of refugee men. In some instances women left the designated areas to sleep in the open on the beach because they felt safer there.

Women also reported having to use the same bathroom and shower facilities as men. One woman told Amnesty International that in a reception centre in Germany some refugee men would watch women as they went to the bathroom. Some women took extreme measures such as not eating or drinking to avoid having to go to the toilet where they felt unsafe.

“If this humanitarian crisis was unfolding anywhere else in the world we would expect immediate practical steps to be taken to protect groups most at risk of abuse, such as women travelling alone and female-headed families. At a minimum, this would include setting up single sex, well-lit toilet facilities and separate safe sleeping areas.

“While governments and those who provide services to refugees have started to put measures in place to help refugees, they must up their game. More steps need to be taken to ensure that refugee women, especially those most at risk, are identified and special processes and services are put in place to ensure that their basic rights, safety and security are protected.”

“Nobody should have to take these dangerous routes in the first place. The best way to avoid abuses and exploitation by smugglers is for European governments to allow safe and legal routes from the outset. For those who have no other choice, it is completely unacceptable that their passage across Europe exposes them to further humiliation, uncertainty and insecurity,” said Tirana Hassan.

18 January 2016
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL PRESS RELEASE

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