Women refugees - Most vulnerable and least protected
The perception of #refugees and #asylumseekers remains that of young, healthy, ‘war-equipped’ men who are often portrayed as a looming danger to #women(1). In 2021 alone, 2666 women sought asylum in Poland(2) and in 2020, women comprised 40% of asylum seekers(3). Out of thousands of women who have attempted to reach the EU via #Belarus and Poland in recent months, many have miscarried or succumbed to the cold. However, they are stranded at the PL-BL border territory, where access to medicine or bare necessities like #menstruation supplies is next to impossible.
Numerous women leave their homes to escape sexual violence, sex #trafficking, or forced marriages, only to be denied help. Along with the violent #pushbacks, there exist sexual assault and rape by border officers, the accusations of which have already been present at the PL-BL border(4).
For instance, in Feb 2021, an Afghan woman at the CRO-BIH border reported being sexually assaulted, forced to strip naked(6), and held at knifepoint by Croatian officers. In July, Greek police stripped a Turkish and an #Afghan refugee woman naked and sexually assaulted them(7). In the #UK, numerous women reported being assaulted by smugglers on their way to #Europe(8).
Sadly, the 1951 #Geneva Convention Protocol does not consider gender issues as a valid reason to seek asylum, wherein gender-based persecution is not mentioned. However, the protocol includes #race, #religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political activities as reasonable grounds for seeking asylum.
Europe claims to want to “protect the women,” - a point that has been often reiterated since the onset of the border situation a few years ago. But it will not be done by encouraging xenophobic attitudes concealed as concern for women’s safety while simultaneously preventing women from voicing their struggles.
Sadly, the situation is that women are seen as “the most #vulnerable” and still are the ones who remain least protected.