In the aftermath of yesterday’s terror attacks in Brussels, Caritas Europa mourns the unnecessary loss of lives and prays for the prompt recovery of the injured as well as of the families and friends who lost a beloved one.
Caritas Europa opposes the blind hatred of a few lost and confused people with a message of love, solidarity, mercy and peace. The acts of yesterday, which litter the beauty of faith, will not restrain us from continuing to work towards our vision of a fair, open and inclusive society that cares for the dignity of everyone. A society that fosters what we all have in common and that respects and protects the singularities that make us different and unique.
The violence we are facing is the same that pushes millions of people to escape their countries and desperately attempt to reach our shores by any means. Building walls, closing borders and mass-deporting people in need of safety are just a few of the shameful and ineffective reactions that Europe has been able to present until now. These false solutions will not solve anything. On the contrary, they might exacerbate the sentiment of hatred towards Europe and what it represents.
Caritas Europa encourages decision-makers to protect the life, the dignity and the rights of all those who are trying to arrive to Europe in order to escape terror and misery in their homelands.
Msgr. Luc van Looy President of Caritas Europa
It’s time to hear the stories of refugee women when shaping asylum and integration policies!
“I left Eritrea together with 64 men, women and children, most of whom were relatives, in December 2012. Our journey took more than 11 months, we walked through 5 countries. I was kidnapped three times by desert gunman and gang raped. I narrowly survived the sinking of a smugglers’ flimsy fishing boat, swimming through waters clogged with the bodies of more than 350 drowned passengers to reach shore. Only 3 of us survived the journey and finally reached Sweden.”
M., refugee from Eritrea
Source: Caritas Sweden
The process of uprooting and resettling in a different country encompasses a variety of practical and emotional issues. On International Women’s Day, the particular plight of migrant and refugee women deserves special attention. It’s important for policy makers to hear the stories migrant and refugee women have to tell.
Historically, women have assumed a leading role when deciding to migrate, whether in response to forced or voluntary migration; whether acting autonomously, as the main providers for their families, or jointly with their partners and children. Yet, the number of women and girls on the move toward Europe has increased dramatically in the last years. According to UNHCR sources, since the beginning of 2016, women and children account for 55% of those reaching Greece to seek asylum in the EU.
Often referred to as the “feminisation of migration”, this population is as large as it is diverse. Some have been forced to leave their homes because of brutality, persecution, and/or poverty; some are fleeing for their lives in search of asylum; some are reuniting with family members; some are seeking economic opportunities due to an overall deterioration in economic and social resources, some are forced into situations of overwhelming insecurity. Many encounter difficulties, particularly as they feel pressure to provide financially for their children; and some have become victims of human trafficking, prostitution, or other forms of exploitation.
Despite their courage to move and to hope for a better situation for themselves and their families, these women and girls are often confronted with multiple challenges en route to Europe, in places of refuge, as well as upon arrival, as they adapt to the integration demands made of them. The diverse ways in which they are received in Europe affects the opportunities they have and, by extension, how they adapt and integrate into the receiving society where they live.
While integration and asylum policies remain a national-level responsibility for individual EU countries, they have become increasingly more important at the supranational level, where efforts to respond to the so-called migration and refugee “crisis” are being prioritized. In this regard, it is imperative that EU Member States start taking into account the specific situation of women and girls in all their policies, particularly in migration, asylum and integration policies, since these policies – including social and labour market policies – clearly affect their chances for success and self-sufficiency.
To ensure, for instance, that women and girls enjoy equal access to asylum, EU Member States need to ensure that female interpreters and interviewers are available for female asylum seekers. Responsible staff should be trained to understand the specific situation of asylum seeking women and girls. Survivors of traumatic events, such as war and violence often feel a loss of safety, sometimes leading to lasting mental traumas. This is also known to influence a refugee woman’s sense of ease in the receiving society, impacting feelings of anxiety of the unknown, unfamiliarity with the receiving society language, surroundings, institutions, resources. Women and girls often suffer from specific violence, such as sexual violence, female genital mutilation or domestic violence, which can be more difficult to prove than other forms of violence when applying for asylum in Europe. Privacy of asylum interviews should be guaranteed to ensure that women can explain their story completely. For this, child care facilities in reception centres are needed to enable women to conduct the asylum interview without being accompanied by their children. Women and girls must be informed about their right, and in particular about the possibility to apply for asylum on their own.
EU Member States must also ensure that women and girls seeking asylum benefit from safe reception conditions. Families should also be enabled to stay together. Otherwise, women and men should be housed separately, and women should have access to private bathing and sanitation facilities. This would contribute to protecting women and girls from violence, including sexual violence, in reception centres.
Despite existing societal structures and stereotypes that women are more vulnerable than men, many women, however, show the opposite is true. They are able to position themselves anew in receiving society contexts, especially when propelled into the workforce. For this, the recognition of their qualifications and skills, including soft skills and informal education is needed. Women and girls must likewise have access to education, language courses and healthcare, in particular psychosocial support when relevant. Adequate and safe housing is also one of the first means by which women and girls can achieve successful integration. Ambitious and effective anti-discrimination policies sensitive to existing inequalities between men and women, between the rich and poor, and across age generations are also greatly needed.
And lastly, in order to protect women and girls from trafficking, survival sex, forced marriage, and other forms of violence, Member States and the European Union should ratify and implement the Istanbul Convention, the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence. Just as importantly, EU institutions should develop safe and legal routes to Europe, taking into account the specific situation of women and girls when doing so.
Shannon Pfohman, Head of Policy and Advocacy Caritas Europa
Caritas Cares 2015 National Reports
This series of reports describes the main poverty and social inclusion-related challenges European Union Member States are facing today. The reports provide recommendations for policy-makers that are based on an analysis of Caritas Europa member organisations’ experiences on the ground.
Please follow the lionk in order to be able to read Caritas Cares Cyprus report for 2015: http://www.caritas.eu/about-caritas-europa/publications.
“Yes it’s cold for the refugees in Lesbos.
Helping Syrian refugees earlier tonight –
My heart breaks several times a day. Sometimes I turn away almost in tears. Last night I walked between two lines of refugees sitting and standing in the freezing cold deciding in my head to which child (some were crying from the cold and hunger ) I would bring a blanket to, as we had a limited number and I had to keep in mind the information I was given that late in the evening refugees were to arrive who would need the blankets. When I brought the blankets out to hand them to the “chosen ones” naturally other children and parents started pulling them and others pleaded. Needless to say it was very rough emotionally for me. However when I asked a translator to explain why I chose those children (crying and the lightest dress) and that I could not give out more because of the new refugees arriving who would be soaked, they all went silent and were understanding. Their reaction was very moving.
Please also find below the link for an article based on mifgrants and refugees that are arriving in Greece as it was prepared by Caritas Europa.