By Aleksandra Godziejewska, Head of Mission CARE Greece & Howard Mollett, Senior Policy Advisory, CARE UK
Will the UN Global Compact on Refugees leave women and girls behind? Findings from new CARE research in Greece on safe and legal routes for refugees from a women’s rights perspective
This week diplomats in Geneva meet to take stock in negotiations towards a new UN ‘Global Compact on Refugees’ at the UNHCR High Commissioner’s Dialogue on Protection Challenges (12th-13th December).
The Dialogue comes at a time of unprecedented forced displacement. Over recent months, we’ve seen the US administration pull out of the sister framework to this one – a proposed ‘Compact’ on migrants, and the EU refugee relocation scheme ended having largely failed to encourage other EU member states to share the responsibility for hosting refugees that came to Greece and Italy.
Every aspect of the current political failure to protect and assist refugees has specific impacts on displaced women and girls. Recommendations on the Compact have rightly highlighted the gaps and weaknesses in aid efforts to address their needs. But women and girls fleeing violence and persecution are also being failed by the legal protection that is, or is not, provided to them.
To coincide with the Dialogue, CARE publishes new research from Greece and elsewhere which highlights how the failure to provide safe and legal routes for refugees, in particular family reunion, has gendered impacts on women and girls left stranded in countries of transit.
Please go to ‘Left Behind – How the world is failing women and girls on refugee family reunion’ to read the full report.
However some of its key findings include:
So as diplomats, UN officials and activists negotiate the UN Global Compact on Refugees, we call on them to ensure it delivers on legal protection for refugee women and girls. The full report offers more detailed points, but we highlight two key ones of global relevance here:
1. Safeguard and expand opportunities for refugee family reunion. For women and girls to benefit from this, governments need to interpret ‘the family’ to include a wider range of family members with links of care and dependency, not just spouses and small children.
2. Open up other legal routes for refugees to reach a place of safety, such as student and work visas, and scale up global refugee resettlement efforts with criteria based on need for protection, rather than nationality, faith or other arbitrary factors. Asylum and refugee policies should be reformed to bring greater clarity and consistency in how cases of gender-related persecution are addressed.
We are now in a situation where in Europe – the wealthiest continent in the world – aid workers are asked to provide adult-nappies to women and girls in refugee camps because they are afraid of sexual violence and harassment if they walk alone to the bathroom at night. Sadly, when we look to other major displacement crises, this failure to protect is not exceptional. All this said, the research for ‘Left Behind’ was undertaken in partnership with Melissa, the Network of Migrant Women in Greece. Refugee women shouldn’t just be seen or treated as victims or passive beneficiaries, as they too often are. They have dignity, resources and their own ideas on how to better address forced displacement. The UN Global Compact on Refugees needs to change this picture, and it needs to listen to them.
For more on our work in Greece, click here.«All Stories and Blogs