Refugee women speak out at Scottish Refugee Council annual conference

Refugee women join representatives of Scottish Refugee Council and UN Refugee Agency today [Thursday, 3 November] to speak out for their rights in the UK asylum system at the annual Scottish Refugee Council conference.

The conference, this year titled ‘Raising Refugee Women’s Voices’, takes place from 9am- 5pm at Hampden Stadium, Glasgow.

The conference calls for an overhaul of the asylum system to ensure women are believed and that they are treated sensitively throughout the process. It will also reveal the particular barriers women face if they receive refugee status; in getting jobs, bringing up children, and rebuilding their lives.

Muleya Mundemba, a member of the Refugee Women’s Strategy Group, which was set up with the support of Scottish Refugee Council to stand up against the issues affecting them, said: ‘Britain’s asylum process is extremely complex and distressing, and women are often short-changed by it. All we want is to find safety from persecution, but this is a system that is stacked up against us from the word go.

‘The UK government needs to work much harder to make sure the rights of women are recognised throughout the entire asylum process. We acknowledge that the Scottish Government has made some steps towards helping refugee women integrate, such as in education and health, but more needs to be done.’

John Wilkes, Chief Executive of Scottish Refugee Council, said: ‘Statistics show that women wait longer to hear whether they will get protection here in the UK, and that far fewer are believed by the UK Border Agency than men when they first make their claim.

‘Add to that the trauma of rape and sexual violence that a large proportion of women have been through both in their home countries and on their way to safety, and you can see there’s a lot of work to do to make things better for women refugees.’

‘We’ll be urging the UK Government to include improvements for women in its pledge to the UNHCR Ministerial Level Meeting in Geneva later this year, held to mark 60 years of the Refugee Convention.’

Joining the list of keynote speakers will be Frances Nicholson, Senior Regional Legal Officer for the UNHCR in Brussels and Emma Churchill, Director of Asylum for the UK Border Agency. The chair of the event is Dr Rowena Arshad OBE, Head of the Institute for Education, Community & Society at the University of Edinburgh and director of the Centre for Education for Racial Equality in Scotland (CERES).

For more information or interviews please contact Clare Harris, Media and Communications Officer, on 0141 223 7927, 07850 930418 or email media@scottishrefugeecouncil.org.uk

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Notes to editors

  • The Scottish Refugee Council autumn conference is a public event taking place on Thursday November 3 from 9am – 4.30pm at Hampden Park, Letherby Drive, Glasgow G42 9BA.
  • The Refugee Women’s Strategy Group is a group of refugee and asylum-seeking women, supported by Scottish Refugee Council, whose aim is to ensure that refugee women’s voices are heard. The group’s successes include the introduction of childcare for women being interviewed at the Home Office in Glasgow.
  • Recent Scottish Refugee Council research shows that women spend more time in the asylum process than men; of participants surveyed, 47% of women had spent more than two years awaiting the result of their claim, compared to 22% of men.
  • According to a recent study by UK charity Asylum Aid, 42% of negative asylum decisions received by women were overturned when subjected to independent scrutiny in the immigration tribunal; far higher than the average for both genders (28%)
  • Scottish Refugee Council provides help and advice to those who have fled human rights abuses or other persecution in their homeland and now seek refuge in Scotland. We are a membership organisation that works independently and in partnership with others to provide support to refugees from arrival to settlement and integration into Scottish society. We campaign to ensure that the UK Government meets its international, legal and humanitarian obligations and to raise awareness of refugee issues. For more information see www.scottishrefugeecouncil.org.uk