asylum seeking woman

Refugee Women Condemned to Destitution

Women for Refugee Women’s latest report is a devastating analysis of the destitution asylum-seeking and refugee women face in the UK. 

Harrowing accounts from 106 asylum-seeking and refugee women across England and Wales detail the misery and poverty the UK Government condemn them to after barring women from every kind of support possible.

Women for Refugee Women said: “The reduction in legal aid has led to huge difficulties in finding quality legal representation, and vulnerable women are often left to navigate a strange, complex and hostile system without assistance.”

refugee women protest conditions
Women for Refugee Women has long fought to amplify migrant and refugee women’s plight in the UK. [Image: Global Citizen].

A summary of the report finds that half of the women spoken with state violence by authorities in their home country was a common and key factor in why they had to flee. Forty-two per cent of the women report torture and nearly a third had experienced rape by a state official. Violence against the women was commonly perpetrated by relatives too with women stating that their governments in their country of origin consistently fail to protect them from such violence.

Forty-two per cent of the women report torture and nearly a third had experienced rape by a state official

Since being refused asylum and Leave to Remain in the UK, women report a continuation of violence and abuse on British soil. While being left destitute under the burden of ‘no recourse to public funds‘, a third of asylum-seeking women that Women for Refugee Women investigated had experienced rape and sexual violence as well as unwarranted relationships that continued the cycle of physical violence and abuse.

Starving and destitute women at the mercy of others for financial support are often targeted by unscrupulous sex traffickers and cash-in-hand work which can make them even more vulnerable to modern slavery. Language barriers, cultural barriers, few family members or friends and restricted access to housing and financial support makes it far too easy for abusers to scare and control women into situations that they can’t get out, which is exacerbated by the women’s isolation as many have nowhere and no one to turn to for help.

87 per cent of the women interviewed were forced to rely on charity for food. While charities supporting refugees and asylum seekers do a commendable job in providing warm clothes, food and shelter, it is unacceptable that a country like the UK with its vast wealth reduces victims of war and sexual violence to relying on overstretched charities.

It is unacceptable that a country like the UK with its vast wealth reduces victims of war and sexual violence to relying on overstretched charities

Over a third of women stated that the persecution they faced in their home countries was due to their sex. Since being in the UK trying to rebuild their lives, a shocking 95 per cent felt depressed and a third of women had attempted suicide due to worsening mental health conditions.

The report emphasizes that the Home Office must recognise “the impact of gender-based violence on women who seek asylum”.

The report recommends four key steps: improve access to support, allow individuals to work if a case has not been solved within six months, extend the time period for people granted leave to remain in receiving asylum support – as this allows for a smooth transition and limits the risk of destitution – and have clear and accessible support strategies in place for those refused asylum until they have a stable immigration status.

However, the depressing reality is that this Government repeatedly shows it cares very little about the welfare of vulnerable migrants. The latest immigration scandal hits with Caribbean born men being deported despite – as Jeremy Corbyn eloquently pointed out to the Prime Minister during Prime Minister’s Questions this week – the wild double standards of how the Government condemns working-class migrants of colour for a past wrongdoing, in comparison to the quick and absolute forgiveness afforded to wealthy white immigrants.

[Header image: Women for Refugee Women/The Guardian]

Written by
Xan Youles
Join the discussion