Gender assessment of the refugee and migration crisis in Serbia and fYR Macedonia

Gender assessment of the refugee and migration crisis in Serbia and fYR Macedonia

Over one million men, women, and children travelled to Western Europe to claim asylum in 2015, with many transiting through Turkey, Greece, and the Western Baltics on their way north. Countries such as Serbia and fYR Macedonia, who had not seen a crisis of the like since the Yugoslav wars, had to quickly scale-up their support for refugees with the help of UN agencies and international organisations. To ensure that the particular needs of refugee women and girls were adequately understood and incorporated into the humanitarian response, UN Women conducted a gender assessment of UN, NGO, and governmental efforts in Serbia and fYR Macedonia. The results of that assessment are presented in this report, together with a comprehensive set of recommendations.

The methodology of the assessment consisted of both field research, including in-depth interviews with stakeholders and on-site observations from refugee reception and transit centres, and a literature review, Drawing on this data, the report provides an overview of the refugee and migration crisis in the region, and the risks facing women and girls in particular. The main section of the report then presents the findings of the assessment, outlining the present status of efforts and results, and providing detailed, sector-specific recommendations.

Overall, the assessment identified many positive examples of targeted efforts by government, the UN, and civil society actors to respond to the refugee crisis. These included the systematic use of sex- and age-disaggregated data, the use of mobile protection and specialised health teams, the targeted distribution of non-food items such as dignity kits and suitable clothing, mother- and child-friendly spaces and support, and in some cases the availability of women-only shelter and WASH facilities. However, stakeholders acknowledged the existence of gaps, and this assessment identified a number of shortcomings that could and should be addressed:

  • Registration processes can be improved so as to better identify the specific needs and vulnerabilities of women and children, and more effectively refer migrants on to the relevant protection services.
  • There is a lack of qualitative data, and uncertainty regarding how data is being used in planning and operations.
  • Broader government and UN coordination mechanisms have insufficient foci on gender and GBV.
  • The capacity of front-line actors to identify and respond to vulnerable groups requires involving local services and women’s organisations in efforts to improve the humanitarian response.
  • As yet, the following sectors do not have adequate provisions to ensure that migrants can equally access and benefit from services, or have limited or no services targeted specifically at women and girls: protection monitoring, GBV prevention and response, targeted psychological support, women-only spaces, and full-time gynecological services.

In light of these shortcomings, five primary recommendations are put forward in this publication: ensure that all response and contingency plans are in line with international humanitarian and human rights standards; ensure that all responses are evidence-based; strengthen coordinated action on the mainstreaming of gender-responsive programming and advocacy; increase national capacity to effectively respond to the specific needs and protection risks of migrant women and girls; and provide immediate and medium-term priority services, protection, and information in reception and transit centres.

The assessment closes with a look to the near future, highlighting that population movements and border restrictions in the region are both expected to increase. The authors urge the need for a highly adaptive and flexible humanitarian response, one capable of upholding the safety and dignity of women and children no matter how fluid the crisis gets. This necessitates concerted attention by all actors on the specific protection risks faced by women and girls, improving coordinated action on gender and GBV issues, and addressing the gaps identified in this assessment.

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