Take action for refugee women

A refugee family fleeing from fighting in Mosul, Iraq

We do not believe in building walls and closing borders to refugees.

Women across the globe make up millions of the refugees and displaced people fleeing war and insecurity, often taking perilous journeys with children or even while pregnant. CARE believes the UK government can and should do more to protect vulnerable refugees.

What is the problem?

Right now there are 65.3 million people around the world forced from their homes by unspeakable hardships, horrors and terror. They desperately need our protection but global leadership on refugees has never felt more under threat.

In March 2017, #March4Women supporters called on the UK government to do more to assist people fleeing crises around the world, to host vulnerable refugees in the UK, and to show global leadership on this issue.

Update on our #March4Women refugee action

Thank you for your phenomenal support! At least 617 of the total 650 Members of the British Parliament were contacted by #March4Women supporters raising our concerns and asking them to press the Government to take action.

CARE was able to follow-up with several of these MPs to explore next steps. Helen Hayes, MP for Dulwich and West Norwood, tabled two specific questions to Government: How many vulnerable adult women refugees, including GBV survivors, pregnant women, or women with newly born children, have been identified for family reunion with extended family in the UK? And what steps has the Government taken to support such women to process their claim to be reunited with their families here?

In the new Parliament following the June 2017 general election, CARE will continue urging MPs to hold the UK Government to account to contribute its ‘fair share’ amongst European nations to hosting refugees fleeing from war-zones like Syria, Afghanistan and elsewhere, and to do all it can to protect and assist refugees globally.

Why are displaced women and girls vulnerable?

Women and girl refugees face specific threats, including sexual violence and trafficking. Pregnant women also face increased risks: 60% of preventable maternal deaths and 53% of under-five fatalities take place in countries affected by conflict, forced displacement or natural disaster.

How is the world responding?

Governments around the world have signed up to a range of international agreements but their actions fall short of the commitments made. Rich countries need to support the poorer countries around the world that host the vast majority of refugees; and they need to share some of the responsibility for hosting refugees too. In practice, this is not happening. A volunteer in a refugee women’s centre in Athens told us:

It is like European governments are trying to deliberately trap these poor refugees in misery, hunger and unsafe conditions to make them lose all hope. It is a shame on the world’s supposedly civilised continent that we treat the world’s most vulnerable people this way.

What is the UK government doing?

The UK government’s response to the refugee crisis has emphasised the UK’s contribution to funding global aid efforts to support refugees elsewhere, notably in countries neighbouring Syria (Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey). In doing so, the responsibility of the UK to also host refugees has been downplayed, and the legal opportunities for refugees to reach the UK – including those with family here – have become ever more constrained.

CARE believes there are three key areas of UK government policy which demand attention and action:

  • Extending the Dubs Amendment to offer a place of sanctuary in the UK to unaccompanied minors stranded across Europe.

The Dubs Amendment was passed as part of a new 2016 Immigration Act which calls for the UK to offer a home to unaccompanied refugee children who have arrived in Europe (eg at the so-called Jungle refugee camp in Calais). Government action under the Dubs Amendment has so far been inadequate: Lord Dubs himself stated,

It is a disgrace. A piece of legislation was passed with enormous public support, and the government has done nothing discernible about it.

  • Scaling up opportunities for vulnerable refugee adults and children to be reunited with their families in the UK under the EU Dublin Regulation.

This is an EU agreement on how responsibilities are shared (or not shared) in relation to asylum seekers across different EU member states (and associated countries). Yet the UK government has so far shown little willingness to reunite refugees who are pregnant or have new-borns with their family in the UK.

  • Scaling up other safe and legal routes for refugees outside of the EU globally to reach the UK, including – but not limited to – the Syrian refugee resettlement programme.

The vast majority of refugees are located not in the EU, but elsewhere globally. The UK government’s Syrian Vulnerable Person Resettlement Programme aims to resettle 20,000 Syrian refugees by 2020. To date around 5,000 Syrian refugees have been accepted onto this programme.

We believe the government should dedicate political will and budget commitment for the long term to resettle 6-7,000 refugees annually from the world’s most desperate displaced communities. This is less than 3 percent of the UK’s annual net immigration figure – and less than 0.0001 percent of the global figure of displaced people who have been forced to flee from their homes by conflict and insecurity.

Read more in our briefing paper Sharing the responsibility: The UK’s contribution to hosting refugees