Women’s Refugee Rights

Content

 

More than 65 million people worldwide are fleeing their countries of origin. Around one half of them are women and girls. The majority of female refugees flee within their countries or to neighboring countries. Comparatively few women reach Europe.

In 2015 around one million people fled to Germany. As of the UNHCR 20% of them were female refugees. The main countries of origin in 2015 were Syria (with more than one third), Albania, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq. More than half of the refugees are under the age of 27.

In 2016 the German Federal Government has considerably tightened up the asylum law. According to the asylum package II family, reunification for subsidiary protected people has been put on hold for two years. At the same time, the decision-making practice of the Federal Agency of Migration and Refugees has changed. The number of people coming from Syria is increasing as well as the number of Syrians who are receiving only subsidiary protection. Before that they were receiving the status as a refugee according to section 3 of the German asylum law. In most cases it is a male family member who flees to Germany at first in the hope to get female and minor family members on a save route to Germany afterwards. The current decision-making practice of the Federal Agency of Migration and Refugees will force even more women and children to take the dangerous route to Germany on their own.

Women just like men are forcibly displaced from their homes because of war, terror, crisis, poverty, discrimination or because they fear religious as well as political motivated persecution. However, women and girls also flee because they face human rights violations in their home countries merely because they are women. These kinds of violations can be e.g. female genital mutilation, early or forced marriage.

Female refugees, especially women on their own (with or without children), are highly vulnerable to gender-specific violence while they are on the run. TERRE DES FEMMES demands that serious attention must be paid to women’s and girl’s specific needs for protection during all stages of their flight.

 

Geneva Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees

As of the Convention (pdf-file) the term „refugee“ shall apply to any person who is outside of the country of his or her nationality and is unable or unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of that country, because this person has well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.

Pursuant to the Convention (Article 1), also a person not having a nationality, who is outside the country of his or her former habitual residence as a result of such events and is unable or, owing to such fear, unwilling to return to his or her former habitual, is classified as "refugee". .

The Convention is a treaty between states and provides a legal basis for the protection of refugees within the asylum process. Amongst others following rights for refugees are specified:

  • Protection against discrimination and against unequal handling due to race, religion or country of origin (Art. 3)
  • Freedom of religion (Art. 4)
  • Free access to the courts of law (Art. 16)
  • Issuing of identity papers (Art. 27) and travel documents (Art. 28) to any refugee
  • Protection against an expel to the frontiers of territories where his or her life or freedom would be threatened on account of his or her race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion (Art. 33)

History of the Geneva Convention and the Protocol (more Information)

 

Gender-specific reasons for flight

Women as well as men are fleeing their country of origin because of war, terror, poverty, discrimination or religious or political persecution.

Additionally women and girls have to face gender-specific reasons for seeking asylum.

Gender-specific persecution can be divided into three types:

  1. Political motivated persecution or persecution because of a certain ethnic or religious belonging. During this form of persecution gender-based violence is practiced. Under this type fall e.g. diversion and enslavement of and sexualized violence on Yezidi women through militant groups of the so-called Islamic State in Iraq.
  2. Gender-specific persecution as a mean to enforce societal and state norms and moral ideas. Forced abortion or stoning can be seen as examples of this type.
  3. Gender-specific persecution as an expression of the societal understanding of the subordinate role of women in society, which is explicitly or implicitly accepted by the state. This kind of persecution can be e.g. female genital mutilation, forced and early marriages as well as trafficking in women and girls.

Legal situation

Since 2005 non-governmental and gender-specific persecution is a recognized reason for asylum in Germany on account of the immigration law.

Section 3a2(6) of the German Asylum Law explicitly accepts acts of persecution “which are of a gender-specific nature”. Furthermore, Section 3c of the same law also acknowledges persecution executed by non-state agents, if agents of the state, parties or organizations which control the state or parts of the national territory as well as agents of international organizations, demonstrate to be unable or unwilling to offer protection from persecution.

Recognition of gender-specific asylum

Sadly, the legal basis contrasts with the actual practical acceptance of gender-specific reasons for asylum. In most cases, women who claim gender-specific persecution within their asylum process, are only granted prohibition of deportation according to Section 60 Paragraph 7 of the Residence Act, instead of receiving a residence permit.

 

Our Commitment

Ever since women’s refugee rights have been an important part of our work at TERRE DES FEMMES. Since 2016 TERRE DES FEMMES has a new independent department called “Women’s Refugee Rights”.

We stand up for the human rights and the protection of refugee girls and women in Europe and in Germany. We furthermore seek to support refugee women by their societal integration in Germany.

A three year run empowerment project CONNECT financially supported by the ‘Aktion Mensch’ has started within the framework of the new department. CONNECT is thought of as a companionship program with newcomer women in Berlin. The project’s greater goal is to accompany newcomer women settling in Germany and support their participation in society as a whole.

 

Contact Information

Heads of department are Anna Hellmann and Rahel Volz.

If you have substantial questions please send us an email to flucht@frauenrechte.de

You can also reach us by letter under following address:

TERRE DES FEMMES
Referat Flucht und Frauenrechte
Brunnenstraße 128
13355 Berlin

We are also contactable over phone: +49 (0)30 40 50 46 99-0.

 

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