More than 50 per cent of women and children forcibly displaced are estimated to have experienced sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) during their migration journey.
Sexual and gender-based violence includes different forms of assault and abuse such as rape and sexual assault, emotional violence, and forced marriage and forced sex work. Men, boys and LGBTQIA+ people can also experience this violence.
A new report based on research in Scotland prepared by the SEREDA project highlights the nature and incidence of such violence experienced by forced migrants, who found refuge in Scotland.
Our research has highlighted the complex experiences of sexual and gender-based violence that forced migrants face often over many years at the hands of different perpetrators. Survivors of such violence need protection and support once in refuge in Scotland. More investment is needed into services that can ensure survivors’ safety, and recovery.”Professor Jenny Phillimore - University of Birmingham
The report calls for a multi-agency commitment to protect the rights of survivors of gender-based violence in Scotland.
Report recommendations include:
- Inclusion of sexual and gender-based violence in refugee integration strategies.
- Inclusion of lived-experience representatives in policy and practice development.
- Increased awareness about limits and opportunities the Scottish Government has in relation to the current constitutional settlement in Scotland.
- The development of multi-agency partnerships across Scotland like the Glasgow Violence Against Women Partnership, which has senior-level membership from statutory and voluntary agencies and enables proactive working and the identification of needs.
Researchers at the University of Birmingham led a team of experts in analysing systems in place in Scotland - focusing on different services, policies and practices that the Scottish Government and other organisations have developed. They interviewed survivors of sexual and gender-based violence about their experience of the migration and refugee processes, such as dealing with the Home Office.
In the report, survivors recount having to relive the abuse and violence they suffered during their journey, as they explain what happened to them to Home Office staff and other operators.
Professor Jenny Phillimore, from the University of Birmingham, said: “Our research has highlighted the complex experiences of sexual and gender-based violence that forced migrants face often over many years at the hands of different perpetrators. Survivors of such violence need protection and support once in refuge in Scotland. More investment is needed into services that can ensure survivors’ safety, and recovery.”
Launched in Edinburgh alongside JustRight Scotland with support from Queen Margaret University, the SEREDA project is a collaboration between the University of Birmingham, University of Melbourne, Bilkent University in Turkey and Uppsala University in Sweden.
Researchers found further violence and harm can occur even when women seeking asylum finally reach Scotland. This includes exacerbation of existing psychological trauma, continued exposure to intimate partner violence, or sexual and gender-based violence that starts after these women arrive in Scotland.
The report also reveals that some asylum seekers reported feeling unsafe in mixed gender asylum accommodation Other factors such as persecution because of their religious beliefs. Immigration detention, insecure visa status, barriers to accessing services and support, poverty, lack of housing and racism increased the vulnerability of forcibly displaced women and children.
Kirsty Thomson, Director at JustRight Scotland, said: “This report provides evidence to governments, border, immigration and asylum agencies that sexual and gender-based violence against forced migrants is a global challenge that demands urgent attention and new ways of working together to support people when they need it most. A multi-agency commitment in Scotland to working on how to best protect the rights of forced migrants subject to sexual and gender-based violence is necessary now more than ever.”