Asylum Women - Double Difficulties
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All refugees have basic needs but women refugees have need of special protection. Women often seek asylum from persecution that is unique to them. They need protection against abuses such as rape, forced marriages, honour killings, female genital mutilation, exploitation, trafficking and domestic violence. These events are often undocumented and can relate to cultural and religious practices.
The European Campaign for Women Asylum Seekers run by The European Women’s Lobby (EWL) is working with others to demand that gender-based persecution be recognised as a legitimate cause for claiming asylum in all of the EU Member States.
Currently there are no special provisions in the Danish legislation regarding the processing of claims submitted by female applicants despite the European Union directive that sets out the minimum rules governing the conditions in which refugee status is granted. Among other issues, it recognised gender-specific forms of persecution. It calls for all countries to comply with the directive by October 2006.Certain countries have an arrangement to opt out, which is the case with respect to Danish immigration laws.
Women’s issues are often considered insufficient reasons to grant refugee status. "The Danish legislation does not include any special provisions for women seeking asylum. In the law, there are only special provisions for unaccompanied minors," explained Eva Singer from the Danish Immigration Service to New Times.
In 2006 the United Nations Population Fund stated: "officials tend to favour a narrow definition of what constitutes a refugee. This means they are sometimes reluctant to recognize gender-related persecution as grounds for asylum……some argue that violence against women is of too personal a nature to amount to persecution; others fear that all applicants seeking asylum on the basis of discrimination or assault would have to be approved if women were considered a particular social group".
In 2004 the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) issued a Country Report on Denmark which stated that "if asylum is granted to women it is most likely in the form of subsidiary protection instead of status according to the Geneva convention". "The appeal board sees gender-related persecution as a ‘private’ conflict and ….refers women to seek protection with their national authorities."This is despite the fact in many countries women may not get protection from authorities even if gender-based violations are outlawed in their country.
In a report to the Danish Government in 2002, the UNHCR commented: "We would like to stress that the act of rape in particular is considered as an international crime and it is not understandable why victims of such a crime would be specifically excluded from international protection and the scope of Section 7 (2) of the Aliens Act."The publication ‘New Issues in Refugee Research’ UNHCR 2004, states that the Danish Refugee Council has advised that the authorities are restrictive in cases where an asylum seeker fears persecution to a particular social group. It also states that there appears to be an inconsistent approach to assessing gender related persecution.
Statistics from January 2000 to February 2003 show that the Danish Refugee Board decided 168 cases concerning fear of persecution due to ‘membership of a particular social group’ out of which 41 were granted de facto refugee status,14 convention refugee status and the rest received a negative answer.There have been several cases that reveal that a women’s safety is often neglected during the decision-making process and that it is usually uncertain that a women will be safe when returned to her home country. This has been acknowledged in the document, "Hidden Injustice: Denmark’s insufficient recognition of Gender based motives, 2006" that shows that gender-related issues of asylum seekers are under presented in the policies of the government.
The immigration rules here in Denmark make it hard to be an asylum seeker but it’s doubly hard to be a woman asylum seeker. "Many women come here to find support and protection driven by specific, gender-based violence. It appears that they are not getting all the protection they need," said Jehan Farah, an asylum seeker.
S was lucky, she escaped from her father. S was a young, 20 year old asylum seeker from Iran. Her father wanted to marry her against her will to one of his business associates. She persuaded her father to let her came to Denmark for a holiday to visit her sister, and while here she applied for asylum. Her application was refused and S desperately sought advice. Lonely and frightened, she confessed to being a lesbian, which is forbidden in her homeland. She was guided to Landsforeningen for Bøsse og Lesbiske (LBL) (Gay and Lesbian association) who befriended her, gave her support and legal advice. Eventually, S went underground and finally got to Norway, where she has been given asylum on the grounds of her sexuality.
Linda and Sally Eid may not have been so lucky. Sally and Linda were born in Dubai to a Muslim father and a Christian mother. The father wanted the girls to be brought up as strict Muslims. At the ages of 15 and 20 respectively, the father wanted to marry his daughters off to his business associates, so the mother brought the two girls to Denmark, where they sought asylum.
Linda and Sally asked for protection in Denmark, amongst other things, because their father had threatened to kill them because they refused to be forced into marriage and because they had converted from Islam to Christianity. However, on 12th March 2005 after staying in Denmark for five years, Linda and Sally were forcibly deported to be handed over to their father in Syria. Neither of them has been heard of since. You can read their full story on