MEPs back Labour report calling for EU asylum policies to be more gender sensitive

The European Parliament voted today for a Labour MEP's report calling for urgent action to ensure EU asylum policies are more gender sensitive.

Recommendations include greater safety and security for the most vulnerable refugees; the use of female interviewers, translators and interpreters; childcare during screening and asylum interviews; trauma counselling for women who have experienced gender-based violence; legal assistance for women in reception centres; and an end to the detention of children, pregnant women and rape victims.

The report was passed by 388 votes to 150.

Report author Mary Honeyball MEP, Labour's European Parliament spokesperson on women's rights and gender equality, said:

"The needs of women refugees have far too often been overlooked. Asylum is not gender neutral and our laws and policies must reflect that, taking account of gender at every stage of the asylum process.

"Violence is an everyday reality for women and girls fleeing conflict. But pressure on asylum systems should never excuse failure to protect women from violence nor should women seeking asylum experience any double standards - they should have the same rights as other victims of gender-based violence.

"Women refugees in the European Union are in an exceptionally vulnerable situation. They have fled persecution in their home countries, undertaking a perilous journey in order to reach a place of safety, across land and sea, in boats, on foot, through baking heat and raging storms, fleeing bombs, bullets and torture.

"On arrival at reception centres these already vulnerable women, who may be victims of sexual violence, trafficking or other violent crimes, face additional barriers which exacerbate their already vulnerable positions.

"This International Women's Day we are sending a very clear message that action must be taken to protect women and girls seeking safety in the EU.

"We now need Europe's governments to urgently implement the report's measures to improve the safety and security of women refugees and asylum seekers, and ensure all asylum policies and procedures are gender sensitive."