We need to ensure protection of women seeking asylum, say S&Ds

We need to ensure protection of women seeking asylum, say S&Ds, Mary Honeball, International Women's Day 2016, Asylum is not gender neutral, Marie Arena,

A growing number of women and children are travelling to Europe fleeing war and persecution. According to UNHCR, as of January 2016, the majority of those arriving in the EU are women and children. To mark International Women's Day 2016, the European Parliament in Strasbourg is calling for measures to ensure that the basic needs and human rights of women seeking asylum are addressed, including their protection from violence.

Labour Euro MP Mary Honeyball led a progressive majority to protect all women including the most vulnerable while conservative MEPs opposed basic human rights such as ending the detention of children and family reunification.

The resolution adopted today in the European Parliament sets out new comprehensive EU-wide gender guidelines as part of wider reforms to migration and asylum policy, and urgent action to improve safety and security.

Mary Honeyball, Labour Euro MP and author of the Parliament's resolution said:

"The needs of women refugees have far too often been overlooked. Asylum is not gender neutral and our laws and policies must reflect that. We need a holistic approach which takes account of gender at every stage of the asylum process.

"Violence is an everyday reality for women and girls fleeing conflict. But pressure on asylum systems should never excuse failure to protect women from violence nor should women seeking asylum experience any double standards; they should have the same rights as other victims of gender-based violence.

"This International Women's Day we are sending a very clear message that action must be taken to protect women and girls seeking protection in the EU."

S&D Group spokesperson on women's rights and gender equality Marie Arena added:

"Every measure and policy to improve the situation of refugees seeking entry to Europe must take women into account. These measures must acknowledge the trauma of their journey from their country of origin to Europe. The assistance provided to these refugees must be medical and psychological and should last throughout the asylum procedure, taking into account the specific needs of women.

"Women refugees must also have access, as soon as they arrive, to complete information about their rights, whether they concern the asylum procedure or reproductive health.

"Europe must improve the quality of entry offered to refugees, in particular to women and children. The arbitrary retention of women and children is unacceptable. One must also pay attention to the vulnerability of women when deciding to send a refugee back to a so-called safe country. A safe country for a man is not always a safe country for a woman."

The measures set out to improve the conditions of women seeking asylum include:

• To guarantee the right to request a female interviewer and interpreter
• deliver comprehensive and mandatory training for interviewers and interpreters on sexual violence
• provide trauma counselling for women who have experienced gender-based harm
• provide information about the asylum process, rights and entitlements specific to women seeking asylum.
• provide childcare during screening and asylum interviews
• inform women of their right to make an independent application for asylum