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  • No Safety for Women Along the Refugee Migration Route

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    The risk of violence for women, girls and other vulnerable groups is present at every stage of the European refugee migration; and at every point where risk could be mitigated, the opportunity to do so is squandered, according to an assessment by the Women’s Refugee Commission.

     

    As part of a multi-stage assessment of the specific needs of women and girls in the flow of refugees through Europe, the Women’s Refugee Commission recently visited Serbia and Slovenia and found:

    1) Virtually no protection from or response to gender-based violence (GBV) as part of humanitarian assistance.
    2) No basic services for women and girls in transit centers, including sexual and reproductive health care.
    3) Lack of interpreters, especially female interpreters, hindering access to services and leaving women and girls vulnerable to smugglers and other opportunists.
    4) Lack of meaningful legal options for asylum or other relief along the route.

    “Across the migration route the humanitarian response has failed to adequately meet the needs of women and girls,” said Sarah Costa, Executive Director of the Women’s Refugee Commission. “From their arrival in Europe, they face heightened risks of violence and exploitation and lack of services such as reproductive health. This situation is exacerbated by hastily designed transit centers and lack of access to asylum in countries that could and should provide a permanent safe haven.”

    The Women’s Refugee Commission calls for immediate deployment of GBV experts along the route and female Arabic and Farsi translators. In addition, the governments of Europe must quickly open the route to local and national women’s organizations to develop cross-border case management of services for survivors of rape and other attacks.

    Finally, many European countries, Serbia and Slovenia included, have resisted efforts to support long-term resettlement inside their own borders, and instead seem to embrace the role of “transit country.” Rather than treating refugees as a problem, the Serbian and Slovenian governments should, in collaboration with EU and other European countries, implement long-term solutions for refugee resettlement.

    “Government officials say they are overwhelmed by the speed of the refugees' migration, but too often use this as an excuse for the lack of GBV-specific services,” said Costa. “This simply can’t go on. There is a philosophical commitment within the humanitarian community to protect women and girls. There are guidelines and policies. What is missing is the will to do it.”