Safe from harm?

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Arriving in Scotland, many women fleeing persecution and conflict in their home countries would be forgiven for thinking they were safe from harm.

Sadly, the reality is that many female asylum seekers go on to experience destitution and exploitation.

The Red Cross Refugee Unit in Glasgow helps newly arrived and vulnerable women seeking asylum and on average we see 350 women and their children every year. Some of these women have experienced rape, violence and even torture so our staff and volunteers are specially trained to provide both emotional and practical support.

Women come to Glasgow from countries such as Iraq, Somalia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. They often arrive speaking very little English, so finding their way around, getting a doctor for their children, or legal advice on how to claim asylum can be really difficult. That’s where the Red Cross and other voluntary agencies step in, helping people get food, clothing, and accommodation.

A process of continual challenge

To make matters worse single adults and childless couples cannot submit a claim for asylum in Scotland. Instead they have to travel more than 400 miles to the nearest Asylum Screening Unit in Croydon with no financial or practical support.

But it’s at the end of the asylum process that the real problems can begin for these women. Some refused asylum seekers feel they cannot go home, and face homelessness and destitution instead.

The shocking truth

We’ve recently helped two pregnant women and two women with disabilities, all destitute in Glasgow. Those without accommodation either stay with friends, or drift from one place to another. One woman told us that she was trying to meet people on buses or in parks, just to find somewhere to sleep for the night, leaving her vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.

These shocking realities will continue until we have an asylum process designed to understand the needs of vulnerable women, and to support them through it. Then Scotland can claim to be true place of sanctuary for those fleeing from harm.

Find out more about the British Red Cross on their website


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