Rights for women seeking asylum

Rights for women seeking asylum


Written by: Sian Samad

A new CD for women seeking asylum contains a large amount of information on women’s rights and valuable tips for getting through the process.

‘Are you a woman seeking asylum in the UK?’ was produced by Asylum Aid as part of its campaign to bring greater awareness of the Home Office’s Gender Guidance Policy adopted in March 2004. Asylum Aid believes that women have needs that are different from those of male asylum seekers which are not being met. This is, in part, due to the way that persecution is understood under the Refugee Convention. Immigration officers often do not believe that things women are subjected to in their home countries – rape and other human rights abuses, lack of state protection – actually constitute persecution because they are ‘commonplace’. Because women are often involved in low-level political activity, as opposed to the more prominent activity of men, the fact that they, too, are at risk is also something that is not accepted but has to be fought for.

A research project from Asylum Aid entitled ‘Lip Service or Implementation?’ led to a three-strand strategy to help counter the situation by raising awareness of the Home Office’s Gender Guidance Policy. It was aimed at reaching both women seeking or wanting to seek asylum and legal representatives who need to know how women’s rights can be implemented. The first strand in the strategy was to open a dialogue with the Home Office, the second was to reach legal representatives in order to remind asylum caseworkers to implement the guidelines that are so crucial. The third strand, in which the CD was used, was aimed at helping present and prospective women asylum seekers to understand their rights.

The CD contains six tracks that deal with different aspects of the Home Office’s Gender Guidance Policy. Track 1 is an interview between Cathy Aitchison and Debora Singer, co-ordinator of the Refugee Women’s Resource Project at Asylum Aid. It highlights the commonplace problems that occur when women seek asylum in the UK and summarises why it is important that the Gender Guidance Policy be implemented. The interview also reveals the range of facilities now available for women asylum seekers – such as female caseworkers, interviewers and interpreters – all of whom can actually make a distinct difference to the ways in which women disclose information in asylum cases.

Tracks 2 to 4 of the CD reveal women’s experiences of persecution back home, their journeys to a safe haven and the obstacles that they encountered when seeking asylum in the UK. Track 5, with short clips from several women giving their reasons for seeking asylum, provides examples of the types of persecution on the basis of which women can claim asylum according to the Gender Guidance policy. Track 6, in the form of a conversation between two friends, one of whom is seeking asylum, tries to answer some of the most frequently asked questions that women may have before attending their interviews and explains how officers should conduct interviews. Issues covered include the right to female interpreters and interviewers, the options open to the claimant for breaking, stopping or postponing the interview, the inclusion on a claim of detailed country background information, the importance for women to make asylum claims separately from their husbands’ as well as more down to earth advice about arranging childcare during a Home Office interview.

The CD conveys a large body of very useful information in a concise and understandable manner. Issues that women commonly face as a result of immigration practices or during the asylum process are also addressed. It is an invaluable resource for women seeking or wanting to seek asylum in the UK who want to know more about the rights afforded to them.

Related links

Asylum Aid

Download the Home Office’s Gender issues in the asylum claim (pdf file, 144kb)

The CD, Are you a woman seeking asylum in the UK?, was recorded and produced by Women's Radio Group as part of Refugee Week Radio 2006. The Home Office's gender guidance policy (Asylum Policy Instruction (API) on Gender issues in the asylum claim) can be obtained from the Home Office's website via the link below. The CD can be obtained free from Asylum Aid by emailing: women@asylumaid.org.uk.

The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors.

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