A powerful group of MPs has published a report highlighting the Government’s failure to include women seeking asylum in its efforts to tackle violence against women.
The Joint Committee on Human Rights has expressed concern that domestic policy on violence against women and girls is lagging behind Britain’s efforts abroad and specifically underlines the need to ensure that women in the asylum system are better protected from violence.
The Committee said:
We find it worrying that current Home Office policies leave people destitute during the asylum and immigration process and that this in itself leads to women being at a greater risk of being a victim of violence.
We agree: it is unacceptable that problems with the asylum support system leave women exposed to further violence.
One area which needs urgent examination is a woman’s ability to access safe accommodation. Many women live safely with their families but those who find themselves in a violent relationship or exploitative situation in the UK don’t have the same access to safe accommodation as other women in Britain.
Applications for accommodation often take weeks to be processed, and in the mean time, some women are left with the unacceptable choice of sleeping on the street, engaging in dangerous survival strategies such as transactional sex or returning home to a violent partner.
Even when women are eventually accommodated, they are often forced to live alongside men they don’t know.
Refugee Council Advocacy Manager Anna Musgrave said: “This report underlines the sad irony at the heart of Britain’s efforts to protect women and girls from violence.
“The Government is quite rightly pouring money into efforts to tackle sexual violence in conflict zones overseas, but when a small number of those same women arrive in Britain seeking protection, their safety is put at further risk by Britain’s disjointed asylum policies which leaves them vulnerable to destitution.
“Home Office policies need urgent revision to ensure that women’s safety comes first, regardless of their immigration status.”