No safety for refugee women on the European route: report from the Balkans

No safety for refugee women on the European route: report from the Balkans

As part of a multi-stage assessment of the protection needs of women and girls in the flow of refugees through Europe, the Women’s Refugee Commission recently visited Serbia  and  Slovenia. They found  that  there  is  virtually  no  consideration  of  gender-based violence (GBV) along the route to ensure safe environments, identify survivors and  ensure  that  services  are  provided  to  them.  Refugee  women  and  girls  are  often  unable  to  access  basic  services  in  transit  centers,  including  sexual  and  reproductive  health  care.  The  lack  of  clear  information  and  inability  to  access  interpreters, especially female interpreters, hinders women and girls from accessing services and leaves  them  vulnerable  to  smugglers  and  other  opportunists.  Government  officials  are inadequately equipped to manage this mobile, vulnerable population. Civil society organizations  with  relevant  gender  expertise  are typically  excluded  from  the  places  where  they  could  be  most  helpful. 

Finally,  the  protection  risks  that  women  and  girls  face  in  all  humanitarian  crises  are  exacerbated  here  by  the  lack  of  meaningful  legal options to seek asylum or other relief along the route. There is an urgent need for the Serbian and Slovenian governments, in collaboration and coordination with other countries, the European Union (EU) and the UN refugee agency  (UNHCR),  to  take  control  of  a  hastily  developed  and  chaotic  humanitarian  response  and  put  in  place  the  policies,  programs,  services  and  personnel  that  will  protect  women  and  girls  from  a  myriad  of  risks  from  the  moment  they  arrive  and  through the journey to a safe resettlement.

This short (19 page) report provides an overivew of the issues as well as a set of useful recommendations for Serbian and Slovenian governement to address these issue.

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