Forced migration, Sexual and Gender-based Violence and COVID-19

The advent of the COVID-19 crisis has the potential to compound the effects of the ongoing refugee-crisis for the most vulnerable social groups. Forced migrant survivors of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) are one of such vulnerable groups, with many trapped in violent relationships, living precarious lives and experiencing severe distress.

Given the existing vulnerabilities and inequalities, forced migrant survivors of SGBV are likely to be disproportionally affected by the pandemic. Conversations with research partners and anecdotal information show that the forced migrant survivors experience an array of adverse and compounding effects on their everyday life as a result of self-isolation, social distancing and changes in services delivery. Systematically documenting and capturing the intersectional COVID-19 impacts on forced migrants and service delivery is essential in order to provide robust evidence to advocate for urgent changes in policy and practice.

The Institute for Research into Superdiversity (IRiS) at the University of Birmingham and Refugee Women Connect have teamed up to fill the knowledge gap with an impact study and record the short and long-term consequences of the pandemic on forced migrant SGBV survivors. The COVID-19 impact study involves short telephone interviews with the organisations working with SGBV forced migrant survivors and interviewing forced migrant survivors across five countries (UK, Turkey, Sweden, Australia and Tunisia). This project builds on the existing SEREDA project, which researches forced migrants’ experiences of violence, harassment and abuse across all stages of their journeys. 

Project Objectives

This study aims to inform policy and practice about how to ameliorate the multiple effects of COVID-19 on forced migrant sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) survivors and the organisations that support them. The study objectives include:

  • To identify the immediate and longer-term effects of COVID-19 on forced migrant survivors, including the impacts of self-isolation or inability to self-isolate;
  • To examine the consequences of loss of support, livelihoods and social networks on survivors and COVID-19-related forced migrants’ needs;
  • To document physical, psychological and public health risks associated with the effects;
  • To explore the impacts of the COVID-19 restrictions experienced by service providers on the nature of support available to forced migrant survivors;
  • To identify mechanisms and strategies for mitigating the effects of the virus for forced migrant survivors and the organisations that work with them.

Research Team

Sereda team, including:

  • Prof. Jenny Phillimore, University of Birmingham, IRiS
  • Prof. Hannah Bradby, Uppsala University
  • Dr Cathy Vaughan, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Saime Ozcurumez, University of Bilkent
  • Dr Selin Akyüz, University of Bilkent
  • Hoayda Darkal, University of Birmingham, IRiS
  • Jeanine Hourani, University of Melbourne
  • Sandra Pertek, University of Birmingham, IRiS

Partners and Funders

Partner: Refugee Women Connect

Refugee Women Connect, previously known as MRANG, is a women-only charity set up to support women asylum-seekers, refugees and survivors of trafficking. We work together to build a safe life in the UK for all women in the asylum seeker and refugee community.

Funding: ESRC Impact Acceleration, Urgency Fund

The ESRC Impact Acceleration Account was awarded to the University of Birmingham to support the generation and development of impact from social sciences research. The Urgency Fund is designed to enable research staff to respond quickly to urgent, rare or unforeseen events (or the consequences from such events), or to take advantage of time-limited opportunities with the potential for all types of non-academic impact across all sectors. 

Find out more

Contact us

Sandra Pertek 
Twitter: @SIMPertek

Professor Jenny Phillimore
Twitter: @japhillimore