Female Refugees in Europe

Reaching Europe represents the realization of a seemingly impossible dream for the millions of refugees fleeing conflict throughout the world. This dream can turn out to be less ideal than they may have hoped.

Refugee camps throughout Europe are plagued with violence. While this violence affects all refugees living in camps, the primary victims are women (CWC-DATA-3).

Reports of sexual violence against female refugees in Europe have revealed the breadth of this social ill. While exact percentages differ between reports, as many as 70 percent of female migrants have suffered sexual violence since entering Europe. [1] Acts of sexual violence range from sexual harassment to rape.

The various reports that investigated this topic have consistently revealed two major factors that enable sexual violence against female migrants.

The first factor is inadequate accommodations for refugees. With the lack of a unified response in the European Union to the refugee crisis, some countries like Germany and Greece shoulder a disproportionate responsibility in hosting refugees. Refugee camps in these countries have become oversaturated, and infrastructure lags demand.

Having so many people living in such close quarters creates a lack of privacy that can be extremely dangerous for women. Families are often forced to share a room or bathroom with others they do not know. Oftentimes there are not enough facilities to have gender-separate bathrooms in communal reception centers. This lack of privacy creates opportunities for men to take advantage of women.

The second major factor is a lack of specific protocol for how to avoid rape within refugee camps and what to do when it occurs. Betty Ngari, an advocate for female refugees in Germany, remarked, “From experience, we know there is no real security for asylum-seeking women, because whenever they are attacked, either physically or sexually harassed, nobody knows what to do. There’s no clear policy.” [2]

While women with official refugee status are legally entitled to the same rights and privileges of women in their host country, often in practice they are denied these rights simply because of a lack of understanding of proper procedure. There are several cases in Germany of women being denied admission to women’s shelters in the wake of domestic violence because of their refugee status. [3]

Most refugee camps in Europe are run by private companies, creating problems with accountability. The host country’s government expects these private companies to provide security for the refugees within the camps, while the companies consider the government primarily responsible. [4]  The result is a bubble of impunity surrounding refugee camps. Women are left powerless to prosecute their perpetrators.

Both factors contributing to the high amount of sexual assault against female refugees in Europe are easily controlled. Women can achieve greater privacy and encounter less violence through creating more gender-separate facilities in camps. By creating specific policies on how to handle and combat sexual violence, these women who fled war and chaos can finally have peace.

List of Variables:


Does the country have a significant influx of refugees? Are there special issues concerning female refugees?

—by TPJ


[1] Robbers, Gianna, Lazdane Gunta and Sethi Dinesh. “Sexual Violence Against Refugee Women on the Move to and Within Europe”. WHO. 2016. Accessed 20 Septemner 2017. http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0018/319311/9-Sexual-violence-refugee-women.pdf?ua=1.

[2] Moore, Jina. “When You’re a Refugee and Your Husband Beats You, You’re Basically on Your Own”. Buzfeed News. 29 October 2015. Accessed 21 September 2017. https://www.buzzfeed.com/jinamoore/when-youre-a-refugee-and-your-husband-beats-you-youre-basica?utm_term=.kbP8NDjmQd#.mvVxmGMeWy.

[3] Ibid

[4] Ibid

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