THE MOST VULNERABLE AMONGST THE REFUGEES

Refugees are not all young and strong men as recently claimed by US Republican candidate Donald Trump. According to recent UNHCR figures, last January a majority of refugees arriving in Europe were women and children.  Many others stay behind in massive refugee camps set up in neighbouring countries, where women and children are typically hit the hardest by poverty, unequal access to food, poor health and sanitary conditions and unsafety.

The Global Progressive Forum intends to highlight the dramatic situation of women, child and LGBTI refugees, who are the most vulnerable amongst asylum seekers. Here you can find the programme of the GPF Conference in Istanbul on the 18-19th of February 2016.

WOMEN

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF has withdrawn from the initial reception facility in Pozzallo, Italy, due to inadequate conditions.

People at the Dobova train station in Slovenia (1,000 per train) do not have access to toilets for several hours as facilities are locked on non-running trains. Thousands of asylum seekers have been waiting  for weeks in the airport hall of Berlin-Tempelhof  for showersto be installed.

The hasty onward transfer of refugees in Croatia leaves no opportunity for people to rest or for the authorities to identify those vulnerable and provide support (EU Agency for Fundamental Rights, December 2015).

Female refugees live in the same harsh conditions as male refugees, but on top of that they also face discrimination, sexual violence, human trafficking, and maternal and reproductive health problems. In fact, the harder the living conditions of refugees are, the more female refugees are at risk of further gender related discrimination and abuses.

While civil society organisations, international organisations and community, including the EU, are putting forward support and solutions for refugees, the gender dimension is often missing.

The EU and Turkey should earmark funds for tailored and sustainable solutions for women and by women.

CHILDREN

According to Europol, 10,000 children travelled  alone to Europe and have disappeared and there is evidence that some are being sexually exploited.

The EU and Turkey must  strengthen child protection and uphold their right to education.

In Bulgaria, asylum seeking children continue to be outside the education system, and in Germany, children wait forseveral months before accessing compulsory education (EU Agency for Fundamental Rights, December 2015).

An entire generation of child refugees is at risk of analphabetism and therefore remaining forever victim of their refugee  status . HRW reported that 400,000 refugee children in Turkey are not attending school: https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/11/08/turkey-400000-syrian-children-not-sc...

Refugees must rebuild their lives again. They need skills and training to help them adjust to their new circumstances, integrate into communities and thrive. Education is a basic human right for all children, and it is especially important that refugee children receive schooling because it creates a sense of security and hope, which is often lacking in refugee settings. In a refugee camp, education is the only hope.

Last year 26,000 unaccompanied minors arrived in Sweden (equal to 1,000 schools). Delays in appointing guardians to unaccompanied children have been reported. In Slovenia and Austria unaccompanied children have had to sign documents on applicable procedures even though they might not fully understand what they have signed.

LGBTI PEOPLE

There are already asylum standards (international and EU) which include the rights of LGBTI asylum seekers, but there is a lack of implementation on the specific situation relating to the current refugee crisis in the Middle East.

LGBTI refugees go through a complicated and long process when they leave their countries, applying for resettlement in the Middle East. It is very important to identify core recommendations to the EU and its Member States asylum authorities, as well as to the Turkish government.

The EU should speed up the screening of vulnerable refugees and guarantee the rights and not discriminate against LGBTI refugees, prioritizing the recognition of gender-specific persecution experiences, as well as gender mainstreaming in relocation and resettlement programmes.

Five urgent recommendations to the EU institutions, countries, regions and neighbouring countries:

  1. Screening and priority lanes for vulnerable applicants with special attention to single women, children, LGBTI people and people with disabilities.
  1. Urgently develop and implement a specific gender strategy for refugees encompassing sexual, health, safety, discrimination, cultural, and economic issues. Important that LGBTI people and women refugees are empowered and have an active role in this strategy. The granting of EU funds to Turkey should be linked to the development and implementation of such a strategy.
  1. Immediate asylum and protection to victims of sexual assaults and rejection of harassers' applications.
  1. Child protection: identify within 24 hours a mentor responsible for each unaccompanied child.
  1. Child education: compulsory integration into the school system of child refugees within two months from their arrival.