Sexual and gender-based violence against refugee women: a hidden aspect of the refugee "crisis"

The current refugee “crisis” in Europe has created multiple forms of vulnerability and insecurity for refugee women including various forms of sexual and gender-based violence. Increasing numbers of women, either alone or with family, are attempting to reach Europe to seek protection from conflict and violence in their countries, but these women are subject to violence during their journey and/or on arrival in a destination country. The lack of adequate accommodation or reception facilities for refugees and migrants in Europe, as well as the closure of borders which has increased the need for smugglers to help them reach Europe, acts to exacerbate the violence and insecurity.

This article is based on qualitative research conducted in Serbia (Belgrade), Greece (Kos) and France (Paris and Calais) between June 2015 and January 2016. Since 2015, the proportion of women travelling alone or accompanied by their children (especially from Afghanistan and Syria) has increased significantly: UNCHR estimated that amongst the arrivals in the EU in 2015, 20% were women. In all research sites, both men and women refugees were interviewed to examine the stages and the experiences during their journeys and after their arrival in the destination country. The interviews were carried out with key informants, including representatives of UNHCR, national and international NGOs and local migrant/solidarity associations.

The analysis of the interviews carried out with refugees and key informants, highlighted the existence of a high number of various forms of GBV. The data collected shows that many women during the journey were victims of violence, rape or trafficking. For many of these women, the violence experienced during the journey is a continuation of the violence suffered in the country of origin.

To find out more about the research analysis and details on the contents of interviews, click on the link below to read the article.

Reprod Health Matters
Publication type
Newsletter / Review / Bulletin
Countries this relates to
European Union
Children on the move
Gender based violence